Sex and Multiple Sclerosis
The vast majority of people with MS experience changes in their sex life. The reasons for these changes are not just physical – you may feel worried about yourself, your MS or your relationship, which may be spoiling your pleasure. This leaflet outlines some of the problems people with MS tend to encounter, and some strategies to get around them.
Sex and MS
MS brings about a loss of myelin from the nerves, which in turn slows down the transmission of messages from the body to the brain. This, combined with stress and anxiety, can bring about a number of problems. In women they include: Less interest in sex; lack of vaginal lubrication; difficulties in achieving orgasm; numb or over sensitive genitals; limited mobility; spasms; incontinence; exhaustion.
In men the effects can include: Less interest in sex; difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection; ejaculating too quickly or not at all; numbness of genitals; limited mobility; spasms; incontinence; exhaustion.
“I don’t know how much of the problem was MS, and how much was the voice in my head telling that I wasn’t sexy anymore. A lot’s changed since then.”
If you are in a relationship, it is vital that you talk about your feelings with your partner. If you don’t tell each other how you feel and what you are worried about, anger, guilt, resentment and worry itself can build up. If you have never talked about sex much before, you might find it hard to start now, but give it a shot as being frank is usually much easier than it seems. If you are single it may still help to talk to someone – remember sex need not be serious – talking about sex with a friend can also be fun.
Tips for talking
A sense of humour helps. Life isn’t as simple as in the movies, and when things go wrong it’s best if we can laugh about it. Even if you are feeling stressed by the situation, try not to criticise your partner. Instead be positive and say things like “I really love it when you do that, and next time I would like to...”
Try to talk about sex when you are both in a good mood, and not always when things have gone wrong. Avoid talking about it if either of you are really tired, had too much to drink or in a rush.
“Once I brought up the subject, he said he’d been thinking about it quite a bit too.”
Tips for thinking
How you feel about sex is entirely based on how you think about it. You don’t have to think of sex as penetration. Oral sex, massage and mutual Masturbation can be just as exciting and fulfilling. Experiment with your partner, and instead of thinking about what sex is supposed to be like, think about what you and your partner like doing. Focus on giving and receiving pleasure.
People have sex for lots of different reasons: to feel close and relax; get reassurance that you love and fancy each other; to demonstrate your love and bonding; to reproduce; to get and give satisfaction. All of these things can happen without having sex. If you are in a relationship, and feel that you simply don’t want to have sex for a while, talk about it – they may feel the same way. But don’t give up on sex. A saucy remark, a flattering comment, keeps it on the simmer.
Tips for having orgasms
If MS is making your body numb in the places you once felt pleasure and orgasm, there are three ways to get round this. One is to use erotic fantasy to become aroused. Partners who share their fantasies and act them out, where possible, usually find this really enhances their sex life. The second is to explore touching and stroking and stimulating other parts of your body, You can Stroke the bits which feel lovely - which is called sensory amplification. Or you can stimulate the erogenous zones, such as the nipples, ear lobes, prostate gland (up the male rectum) or female G-Spot (front wall of the vagina) with a finger or vibrator. The third is to increase the physical stimulation with a powerful vibrator (wherever it feels good). Combining all three of these ideas would be ideal but everyone is different. Relax and experiment to find out what works for you.
There is a booklet available:
Sexuality and MS by Canadian sex educator, zoologist, and sexual health activist, Michael Barrett abd published by the MS Society of Canada. Downloadable free of charge from:
Talking to professionals
Sexual pleasure and desire are subjects that health professionals rarely raise. Research suggests that most doctors think that the patient will bring up the subject of sex if they have any concerns. There is help available, and if your doctor doesn’t mention it, you should ask. If you find it difficult, give this leaflet to your specialist or doctor. Good luck.
Any questions on personal issues like these can be asked on our Sex and Disability Helpline:
Post: Tuppy Owens, BCM Box Lovely, London WC1N 3XX
Email: Email Helpline
Phone: 07770 884 985 : The Helpline is open weekdays 11am to 7pm