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Sunday, April 15, 2012

MS.. lets talk about sex.. you know you want to!

I want to address a subject some may have trouble discussing with their doctors, perhaps even with their significant other.. and maybe even facing themselves.  What I am talking about is sex.  We are all sexual beings and having the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis should not be the end of this part of our lives.  Sex and intimacy may need to be redefined, but it can still be enjoyed to its full potential.
Before I began this post, I did some research and the truth is that most of the reading I did made sex sound a bit bleak and depressing, but it doesn't need to be this way.  The important thing is to maintain an open line of communication with our partner, which is always easier if we are already in a relationship, so for those of us who are single, it's a bit more complicated and stressful.  Here is what I found on WebMD:

It is not surprising that many people with multiple sclerosis report a decline in sexual desire. What with the fatiguemuscle spasms, andbladder control problems, who would want to think about sex? But, there are steps that can be taken to improve sexual function and intimacy, despite MS.

How Does Multiple Sclerosis Impact Sexual Function?

Changes in sexual function can occur as a result of the neurologic and psychological affects of multiple sclerosis.

Neurologic Impact of Multiple Sclerosis on Sex

Sexual arousal begins in the central nervous system, as the brain sends messages to the sexual organs along the nerve pathway in the spinal cord. MS-related changes to these nerve pathways can directly or indirectly impair sexual functioning. For example, the following symptoms can occur as a direct result of myelin breakdown in the spinal cord or brain:
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Altered genital sensations (numbness, pain, increased sensitivity)
  • Difficulty or inability to maintain erection
  • Decreased vaginal lubrication
  • Decreased vaginal muscle tone
  • Ejaculation difficulty
  • Problems having an orgasm
The following symptoms can arise as a consequence of MS physical changes or treatments:
  • Fatigue can suppress sexual desire
  • Spasticity can interfere with sexual positioning or cause pain
  • Sensory changes can make physical contact uncomfortable.
  • Pain

Psychological Impact of Multiple Sclerosis on Sex

A loss of interest in sexual contact or intimacy may arise as a result of psychological or social issues associated with multiple sclerosis, such as:
  • Depression
  • Performance anxiety
  • Changes in self-image or body image as a result of disability

What Can Be Done to Improve Sex With Multiple Sclerosis?

Talk to your partner about your sexual issues and multiple sclerosis. The most important way of dealing with sexual difficulties is to discuss your feelings with your loved one. When MS begins affecting your sexual desire, talk to your partner. Confiding in your partner deepens intimacy and may help resolve concerns relating to sexual intimacy.
Being that I was not completely satisfied with this explanation, I kept searching and found more information on disaboom.com.  I am only including part of the post since it is quite lengthy:
So how do couples reclaim their sex lives?
a. Communicate. Talk about your sexual concerns and how you’re being affected sexually and in general by MS. Being open and honest about the situation is the first step to resolving matters.
b. Talk to you doctor about the side effects of your medications, as well as medications, like muscle relaxants and pain medications, that can allow for sex more readily.
c. Empty your bladder and bowels prior to sex.
d. Expand your sexual repertoire and definition of sex. Have towels handy should there be an accident.
e. Pursue the “spooning” side position for penetrative sex since it is typically the best option. Alternatively, when the opportunity presents itself, consider sex in water, like a pool, for more freedom in movement.
f. Use vaginal lubricants to alleviate dryness during lovemaking.
g. In situations where arousal is slow or there’s a decrease in sensations, use a vibrator.
h. Try to have sex at different times of day if fatigue is a factor.
i. Practice pelvic floor muscle exercises, known as Kegel exercises, on a regular basis to strengthen your sexual core.
j. Seek sex counseling or therapy for more information and guidance.
k. Turn to MS organizations for more support, especially via messages boards and discussion forums where individuals affected with MS, and their partners, can exchange ideas on realizing better, easier sex.
l. Don’t underestimate the power of your mind. Continue to be active with what mentally stimulates you in boosting your arousal. Think sexy! Continue to woo each other romantically or erotically in setting the stage for sex and appealing to all of your senses.
m. Let your lover know regularly that you still find him or her sexy. Flirt! Reinforcing that your partner is a sexual being will help your lover to believe just that.
More than anything, don’t underestimate the power of turning to your partner for support and reassurance. It may be your ultimate source of tension relief and have you feeling closer than you ever have before.
But now I have to say how sex is for me.  For the most part, I do not fit into the "norm" of what is explained above.  Yes, there are times when arousal is a problem or my orgasms are very elusive and I just want to scream in hopes to get there, but this is not very often.  I can honestly say that the best side effect of having MS has been the quality of orgasms!  How insane is that?  I cannot say it was this way prior to the MS since I wasn't active until a few years after my diagnosis, but what I do know is that more often than not, the way my body responds to the softest intimate touch is mind-blowing.  So for anyone who was recently diagnosed and is afraid that their sex life will suffer, that may not be the case, as it has not been for me.  And remember, I've had MS for at least 21 years.  Not everyone fits the mold so there is always hope!
In case you need to do things in a different sort of way, life gives everyone challenges, including sexually.  Men in their 40's (perhaps even younger) take Viagra or other medications such as this for erectile dysfunction.  Women have trouble with lubrication or arousal.  And it has nothing to do with MS.  It happens and life goes on.  When my body does not want to respond, I no longer become upset but hope that the next time will be better and if it's not, the world did not end.  And the truth is, the more we stress over it, the more our bodies will not react the way we want them to.  We need to learn to not think and let go of fear and try to enjoy the moment.  It's sex!  Sex is meant to be enjoyed between two people so as difficult as it may be at times, try to dig deep inside yourself and find that sexy part of you and share it with someone special.  Why should you do this?  Simple.  You are worth it!

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