IVF couples have been warned not to abandon sex just because it is possible to have a baby without it.
A sexual dysfunction specialist will tell a congress of fertility experts tomorrow that by the time many couples seek IVF treatment their once healthy sex life is often "drastically impaired" thanks to a long-term focus on sex to conceive.
Sex has become rigid, structured, and all the fun is gone, so by the time we see them there is sometimes absolutely no sex happening at all, said Dr Hayley Matic, a psychologist at Melbourne IVF.
"We in the industry need to make a big push to remind people: 'Don't forget about sex, it's not just about having a baby you know'."
Dr Matic will tell the Fertility Society of Australia national conference in Hobart that international studies have proven those who have a healthy sex life live longer, are less likely to have a heart attack, and they also get other spiritual, emotional and psychological benefits from the closeness.
Couples trying for a child initially experience a "sexual rush of excitement from the desire to procreate", but when they fail to conceive the effect can be negative, she said.
It becomes all about trying for a child, all about timing, and that's not very sexy, Dr Matic said.
"And when they come to us (IVF clinics) we give them the power of having a child without having to have sex any more and so some abandon it all together."
She said in many cases the lack of sex could even be contributing to the fertility problems, but despite this link, sexual health and impairments are very rarely discussed.
And whether couples leave the clinic with or without a baby, their sex life is very often damaged. In severe cases, the man or woman can develop serious sexual distress which affects both people and has a damaging ripple effect on all aspects of their life.
Dr Matic called on fertility counsellors to discuss and promote sex with their clients and remind them to take a broader view of the benefits of healthy sexual activity.
"And couples, even those going into conception planning, should remember that sex really isn't just about having a baby."
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