Multiple Sclerosis and Sex: Physical Complications - dummies

Multiple Sclerosis and Sex: Physical Complications

By Rosalind Kalb, Barbara Giesser, Kathleen Costello

Understanding how multiple sclerosis (MS) effects your body can help you learn to work around your symptoms and continue having a healthy sex life. When everything goes smoothly, sex can feel pretty easy and automatic — you don’t have to do much work because your body basically takes over.

For example, when your body or mind is stimulated in a sexual way, your body responds: if you’re male, you get an erection, and if you’re female, you get vaginal lubrication and engorgement. The sexual excitement builds to the point of orgasm and everything is hunky-dory.

However, when MS lesions damage the nerves that carry messages between your brain, spinal cord, and whatever parts you happen to consider your erogenous zones, the messages get short-circuited. And when the messages get short-circuited, the following changes can happen:

  • Things that used to turn you on may not do it for you anymore.

  • Your mind may have sexy thoughts and feelings, but your penis or vagina or nipples may not do their usual thing.

  • You may not enjoy being touched or stroked on the same parts of your body that you used to.

  • Your body may feel aroused and ready to go but peter out along the way.

  • Everything may be just fine except that you can’t seem to reach orgasm (very, very frustrating after all that excitement and effort).

Other MS symptoms can get in the way of your sex life too. Here are some examples:

  • If you’re overwhelmed by MS fatigue, just getting through the day may be a chore and may leave you with little energy for sex.

  • Stiffness in your legs may make all those kinky positions you used to love virtually impossible.

  • Sensory changes may cause parts of your body to respond to touch differently than they used to so that something that used to feel oh-so-good now feels irritating or even painful.

  • If your bladder is giving you a lot of grief, you (not to mention your partner) may be so worried about accidents that you’re unable to relax and enjoy yourself.

  • Depression can certainly put a damper on sexual feelings.

  • Even cognitive changes can get in the way. If you’re having trouble maintaining focus or you’re easily distracted, you may find maintaining sexual arousal difficult (which is why guys are told to think about baseball scores when they’re trying to postpone ejaculation as long as possible).

In addition to the MS symptoms themselves, some of the medications you may be taking to manage those symptoms can also get in the way. For example, consider the following:

  • Antidepressant medications can interfere with arousal and orgasm.

  • Antispasticity medications, as well as the medications to treat pain, dizziness, and tremor, can make you too tired to care.

  • Bladder medications can dry you up in more ways than one (dry mouth and vaginal dryness are common side effects).

  • The beta-interferon medications can cause flu-like symptoms that make you just want to crawl into bed (alone) for a day or so.