We are all, more or less, preoccupied with our intimate lives. Regardless of our condition, this aspect of our living has a great impact on our general satisfaction or dissatisfaction with our lives.
In various stages of life, as well as when we suffer from medical problems like the ones that are our primary focus, the dynamics of our intimate lives changes. We are well aware of a strong influence our intimate lives have on our psycho-physical well-being, hence we are seriously considering and focusing our activities on issues related to it.
We have a tendency to neglect our intimate lives, put them on hold, as though they are not something we can enjoy any more. Unfortunately, quite often people who are close to us support this decision although they do not understand and are not thoroughly informed about our medical condition. The way we perceive our bodies is one of the most important factors in the way we relate to ourselves. The same goes for the way other people perceive us. Physical appearance is closely connected to the way most of the people understand human attractiveness.
In such circumstances, it is not easy to revive intimate lives overnight and to continue where we stopped.
Frequently asked questions
That is why, if you are wondering whether you are the only one tackling questions of intimacy or if you would like to learn practical and useful information that could revive your intimate life, we would like to go through some questions together with you…
Chances are that there will be changes in this area of your life. However, you should remember that key factors here are an open communication with your partner and your willingness to explore and find out together what you enjoy the most. If you desire to have a fulfilling intimate life and enjoy sex again, experiment and explore. We are sure that you can have a satisfying sexual life.
We advise you to consult your doctor to see what you can do to improve your intimacy.
A lot of people with spinal-cord injuries learn to enjoy sex and to satisfy their partners. Simultaneously, they discover new pleasures and new ways of pleasing their partners. About half of the people with a fresh spinal injury can have an orgasm which is really important for the way they perceive themselves. Psychologically, what we feel and think about sex has a great impact on our sexual desire. The same is true where people with spinal injuries are concerned.
This means that it is up to us to explore what we like and stimulate our bodies in whichever way we want. Of course, this process takes time. Consequently, when we are engaged in intimate relations, we do not think about our injuries, medical aids or our sexual performance and the way it departs from the widely accepted perception or from everything we learned in the past about what is enjoyable and how to get there.
We should live in the present moment and accept that what is enjoyable for us at this very moment is the only thing that matters. However, it is also important to tune our bodies to new ways of sexual stimulation and vibrations. Those new experiences and levels of pleasure leave many people speechless. Sexual pleasure does not necessarily have to be focused on our intimate parts. On the contrary, after we learn what is best for us in given circumstances, our sexual lives can be versatile and rich.
There are various types and levels of the spinal-cord injury. This is why we can generally say that the higher the level of the injury on the spinal cord (T12 and higher), the more likely that our ability to feel sexual stimulation with physical touch will not be compromised. The lower the level of the injury (T5 and lower), the more likely that our ability to feel sexual arousal with psychogenic stimulation will be intact. However, it often happens that people discover and develop new erogenous zones.
After the injury, the muscles and feelings below the level of injury can be affected. Because the nerves that control sexual function are located at the bottom of the spinal cord, so sexual function is usually influenced by the injury to some extent. In women, this can be reflected in the inability to naturally lubricate, and in men, inability to achieve an erection. The relationship between injury level and sexual function is tight, so if we are diagnosed with T12 or higher, we can expect the following: reflex lubrication and reflection are possible as opposed to arousing psychogenic stimuli and ejaculating.
T12 injury and below: absence of reflex lubrication and erection, potential erection and lubrication to psychogenic stimulants, possible ejaculations, orgasms and feelings in the genital area.
If it is an incomplete spinal injury, there is no direct causal realatuion that applies to all persons between the injury and the affected sexual function, so what works for us should be found.
A study of Marc L. Sipski (1995) revealed that a high percentage of women with a spinal-cord injury can have an orgasm regardless of the level of the injury on the spine. Furthermore, the study has not found any definite indicators predicting with 100 percent certainty whether or not a woman with a certain level of the injury on the spine will be able to have an orgasm. Similarly, the study showed that women with a stronger sexual drive that felt better in their bodies and knew more about sex experienced orgasms.
Studies have revealed similar findings where men are concerned. This confirms that many people with spinal-cord injuries have accepted that it is important to feel OK in the body and to experiment in order to find ways to reach a climax.
M: Firstly, pharmaceutical companies offer products that increase blood supply to the penis and consequently normalize the erectile function.
Other options for the erectile function are penile injections, vacuum pumps that draw blood into the penis, and vibrators that stimulate the prostate to reach erection.
Consult your doctor before making a decision.
Ž: There are no patented drugs recommendable for normalizing the sexual function of women with SCI. Since we know that there are women that can have an orgasm and others that feel sexual sensations in their genitals, we recommend techniques similar to those used before the injury – manual stimulation or vibrators.
A universal answer to the first question is that you can practice any position that both you and your partner enjoy and in which you feel safe and protected – physically and emotionally. Experiment and explore so that you can find out what works for you. While experimenting, do not be afraid of errors and failures because they are a natural part of any learning process.
It is highly probable that a little bit of playing will have a positive impact on the whole experience. This approach can spice up your life and at the same time bring you closer. Furthermore, such a degree of intimacy will help you relax and consequently enable you to climax and feel satisfied.
Where practical advice is concerned, you should know that studies confirm that many people enjoy lying down simply because this position does not demand as much physical strength for maintaining balance and enables free movement. If a person has spasms, that can be an advantage as they can facilitate movement. If spasms are intense, you will have to find a position in which they will not interfere with the sexual rhythm.
Our partners are sometimes afraid that they will unintentionally hurt us during a sexual intercourse. Tell them that there is no need to be afraid and explain that you feel fine. Also, tell them that you will let them know if something is not enjoyable. This is a way to build trust and to feel more liberated to act spontaneously.
Regular draining of the bowel and the bladder can minimize chances of any accidental leakage during an intercourse. Also, you should minimize the intake of fluids and pay attention to what you drink (avoid coffee, tea and alcohol). Furthermore, avoid ample meals.
Before we get to know how our body reacts to sexual stimulation, we should talk about it with our partners so that he/she can be supportive and understanding. This is a way to boost self-confidence and to relax. And we know that self-confidence and our ability to relax are preconditions for a pleasurable sexual intercourse.
If you suffer from a faecal or urinary incontinence, consult your medical team to help you define your regimen so that you can plan your sexual activities in advance and do everything you can to minimize the potential for such accidental leakages.
In spite of the injury, it is important for us to feel good about ourselves so that we still feel appealing to our partners. After the injury and the phase of questioning and acceptance, we will need some time (on our own) to boost our confidence relating to our appearance. It would be good to use that time to discover what we like and to use that information as an advantage in our new mode of intimacy. It would be also good to accept that new mode as a new phase. Communication and fun, as well as humour, will play a key role in building a healthy and pleasurable relationship. These elements are preconditions for a more laid-back atmosphere necessary for nurturing intimacy and mutual attraction.
If we remind ourselves that the beauty is in the eye of a beholder, we should first learn to love and like ourselves. Consequently, our partners will be attracted to us. We should not allow for the injury to mess up all aspects of our lives. This situation will also be a great indicator of the quality of our relationships, since often sexuality (or a lack of it) is not related to a lack of attraction, but is an indicator that something else has gone awry in our relationship that calls for attention. Thanks to building mutual trust and closeness, it is highly probable that you will reach another level of relationship. Many stories confirm that.
After suffering a spinal-cord injury, women can expect a period of amenorrhea that usually lasts for six months. After normalization of the menstrual cycle, they can become pregnant. If there is no normalization of a menstrual cycle after six months, they should consult the doctor who will explain and suggest available treatment options.
Two key factors define fertility of a man: (1) inability to ejaculate as a consequence of the spinal-cord injury and (ii) a decreased sperm motility. However, the same as with women, there are available options that can help you become a father. You should consult a fertility expert to get the answers. This means that the first step towards parenthood is to talk to your partner about available options after consulting your doctor.