The key is to communicate
with your partner openly
and to gradually discover
what works for you both.
Intimate life occupies every person to a greater or lesser extent and has a significant impact on the overall satisfaction with one's life. In case of a spinal cord injury, the dynamics of your intimacy also change. With new developments, many questions arise, to which we have prepared anwers for you. We want to make it easier for you to understand the changes you are going through and and encourage you to “revive” your intimate life after the injury.
Will I be able to have a sex life again?
It is possible that this element of intimacy will be different from the period before the injury. It is important that you communicate openly with your partner on the subject and gradually discover what works for you both.
If you focus on experimenting in the zone of your comfort and intimacy, you will certainly not fail in finding pleasure. It is also good to consider the possibilities of improving intimate life with your doctor and to be open to receiving useful advice.
How can I enjoy a sexual relationship if I have no sensations in the genital area?
Many people with a spinal injury learn how to enjoy themselves or satisfy their partner while discovering pleasure through giving pleasure to others.
Psychologically observed, what you feel and think greatly affects the degree of your sexual desire — the same as before the injury.
Focus on the sense of pleasure and stimulate your body in a way that makes you feel comfortable. New discoveries will come with time. It is important that in intimate moments you do not think about the injury and regard your sexuality as it was that it was before — for you the right way is the one that works now.
The pleasure in intimate life does not have to be exclusively directed to the genital areas. You can enjoy various aspects of sex life when you discover what works best in your case.
Will I be able to achieve an orgasm?
In general, we can say that the higher the level of injury (T12 or higher) the higher the probability that your ability of reflex arousal through physical contact will not be changed.
About half of the people with a spinal cord injury are able to have an orgasm, in which self-perception plays a vital role.
In most cases, a lower the level of injury (T5 and below) means that your ability to become excited through psychogenic stimulators will not be changed. Apart from that, it is often possible to develop and detect new erogenous zones.
A study by Marca L. Sipski (1995) found that a large percentage of women with a spinal injury achieved orgasm regardless of the neurological degree of the injury. It also showed that orgasms were experienced by women with a greater sexual potential and a greater knowledge of their own body and sexuality.
Similar discoveries are also related to men, which confirms the experience of many people that it is important to know your body, to experiment in finding ways of achieving satisfaction and pleasure in intimate activities.
What medical aids are available to men and women after the SCI?
For men, the first option is to take pharmaceutical drugs that increase blood flow to the penis in order to achieve erectile function.
Other options available to achieve an erection are injections into the penis muscle, vacuum pumps that attract blood into the penis, and prostate-stimulating vibrators that achieve an erection.
It is certainly best to consult a doctor before choosing the type of medication or other aid.
To date, there are no patented drugs that would are recommended for women with a spinal injury. Since some women may experience orgasms, while others have sensations in the genital area, similar stimulation techniques can be used as before injury, for example manual stimulation or vibrators.
Which positions can I try?
The universal answer is that you can use those positions in which you and your partner feel comfortable and safe. In this context, experimenting is necessary to find positions that work for you.
In doing so, you should not be afraid of possible mistakes or failures in achieving pleasure in a particular position, as these are natural steps in learning and discovering what works for you in the new circumstances.
From a practical point of view, many people find satisfaction lying down, as it requires less strength to maintain balance and allows a greater level of free movement. If you have spasms, you can use them as assistance in moving, and if they are strong, you need to find a position in which it will not disturb the sexual rhythm.
What if my partner is worried about hurting me?
Sometimes partners are worried about inadvertently hurting you during sex. Assure them that you are feeling good and explain that if a problem arises, you will let them know. In this way, you can build trust in your relationship further and bring in a breath of freedom to make more room for spontaneity.
What if I have an accident with bladder or bowel emptying?
A regular bowel and bladder emptying routine can minimise the chances of such accidents during intimate acts. It is also useful to be mindful of the kind of drinks you have before an intercourse — especially when it comes to coffee, tea and alcohol. Before an intercourse, it is also advisable to avoid abundant meals.
Before you find out how your body reacts on stimuli, share your concerns with your partner. Mutual understanding will allow you to feel better, more confident and relaxed.
If you have digestive or urinary incontinence, consult your doctor to help you determine your regimen so that you can plan your sexual activities better and thereby reduce the risk of accidents.
Will I be able to become a parent?
For women it is normal to experience a shorter break in their menstrual cycle, after the injury — up to about 6 months. After establishing a regular cycle, the possibility of getting pregnant is not compromised.
If a normal cycle is not established within 6 months, it is advisable to consult your doctor. They will suggest and explain treatment options for you.
In men, there are two main factors that affect fertility. The first is the inability of ejaculation as a result of a spinal injury. The other one is sperm mobility, which is generally lower.
However, just like in women, there are options available to men which can help them become fathers. You can find out more about them by consulting a fertility expert.
How does a spinal injury affect sexual function?
After an injury, muscles and sensations below the injury level may be affected. Since the nerves that control sexual function are located at the bottom of the spinal cord, the sexual function is usually affected by the injury.
The extent to which the injury will affect the sexual function depends on the level of the injury and on whether it is complete or incomplete.
If we are talking about an incomplete spinal injury, there is no direct relationship between the injury and the affected sexual function that applies to everyone. The key is to find what works best for you.
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