It might seem that increased free time and the absence of social commitments mean there is no better time for couples to try and conceive. In fact, quite the opposite is proving to be true, as recent analysis of ONS data by PWC found that the UK could be seeing a ‘baby bust’ in 2021, with 569,000 babies likely to be born this year compared to a figure of 720,000 a decade ago.
This drop in couples deciding to start a family can be attributed to a range of factors, such as high stress levels, reluctance to visit hospitals and financial strain. Even those who have still decided to press on with plans to have a baby have come up against another issue – being locked down in the same space with their partner 24/7. This has made it difficult to keep the intimacy alive, which is an important part of ensuring your baby-making adventure remains exciting and passionate, as well as strengthening your connection with your partner.
Fertility Family has spoken to Trudy Hannington, Senior Psychosexual Therapist and former Chair of the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists (COSRT), for expert insight into maintaining a healthy sex life with your partner when trying for a baby.
Why are ‘trying’ couples losing the romance in lockdown?
Trying for a baby should be a really exciting time but, unfortunately for some, that isn’t always the case. As a sex therapist I have seen so many couples struggling to hold on to their relationship as a result of finding it difficult to conceive. What starts out as fun and exciting can become a chore if you don’t conceive straight away.
For most couples being with your partner 24/7 for months on end can be a real passion killer; nowhere to go and nothing to do does not inspire desire to be sexual, but there are lots of things you can do to remedy that.
Put these expert insights into practice and see where they take you!
1. Feeling the stress of the situation?
Stress is a definite no-no when you are trying to conceive.
Stress boosts levels of stress hormones – glucocorticoids such as cortisol – that inhibit the body’s main sex hormone, a gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH), and subsequently suppresses sperm count, ovulation and sexual activity.
Stress also causes low libido, sleep disturbance, poor diet and can trigger bad habits, such as excessive alcohol, smoking, recreational drugs and binge eating or, in some cases, not eating at all.
What can be done to help?
Write a list of all the things that are making you feel stressed and work out which ones can go. Also, introduce some basic relaxation exercises, meditation and mindfulness. Yoga can be particularly beneficial, as not only does it help with stress but there are some great sexual positions to learn!
2. A lockdown lack of body confidence?
There are ways that both the woman who will be carrying the baby, and her partner, can help prepare the body for getting pregnant – and these can help with desire too. Looking after your body with regular exercise, eating healthy, cutting down on alcohol or stopping altogether will really help it to be in the best state for pregnancy. Strike the right balance: being overweight or obese reduces fertility, yet conversely, being underweight can affect ovulation.
What can be done to help?
Experts suggest 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week is really good for conceiving and when you are already pregnant.
- Barre, Pilates and yoga are particularly good if you are trying to get pregnant as they build strength, balance, endurance and muscle tone.
- Jogging or brisk walking is particularly good exercise and can be done free, and in lockdown.
- Exercising together can often bring you closer, promoting intimacy. Go for walks, hold hands, and talk about all the good things you are hopeful about for the future.
3. Feel like you’ve ‘lost the attraction’?
However long you have been with your partner for, this doesn’t mean you should stop taking care of yourself and making an effort for your loved one.
Grooming is so important for both men and women, it’s what helps maintain our attraction to each other. Many couples stop kissing when they’ve been together a while. Kissing doesn’t just feel good, it also releases oxytocin and dopamine, the hormones that make you feel affection and euphoria. Kissing also releases serotonin, another feel-good chemical, as well as lowering cortisol levels so you feel more relaxed and less stressed.
4. Keeping your relationship alive: Date nights!
You can still find ways to break away from the typical daily routine to create special memories, even in lockdown.
- Dinner for two? Even in lockdown we may not be able to dress up and go out for dinner but we can do it at home. Create the atmosphere of a restaurant, set the table, light the candles, use the fancy crockery and cook food that doesn’t take lots of work.
- Take a relaxing bath or refreshing shower and use your nice products that have been sitting on the bathroom shelf. Agree to make an effort and dress up for each other like you would have done at the start of your relationship, put your nice underwear on so that you feel sexier. You wouldn’t turn up for a first date in your joggers or your dressing gown!
- What about a movie night? Turn all the lights off, choose a film (maybe something a little sexy), bring down the duvet and get naked under the covers on your sofa together. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination!
- Keeping sex fun is so important
Having sex just because your schedule requires you to, instead of because you want to, can be a real passion killer. Trying for a baby doenssn’t equate to neglecting the fun parts of having sex!
Try to keep sex alive and fun, otherwise desire will reduce and performance anxiety will take over. Maybe buy a few sexy games or a 50 Shades of Grey fun box. Your baby will never know he or she was conceived on a night involving games and toys.
What can be done to help?
Consider a night off from penetrative sex and really put some energy into foreplay. This is often forgotten or put on the back burner when trying for a baby.
Spend some quality time exploring each other’s bodies with sensual touching. Stroking, kissing and teasing the other person; find out where they like to be touched and how they like to touch. The more relaxed you get, the more aroused you will get.
5. Remember to communicate with your partner
Communication is key if you are worried about conceiving, or it is taking longer than you expected. Share your worries without the pressure or the competition of who feels worse. There is often guilt, worry and blame which can play out in resentments, agitation, frustration and arguments. It is important to give each other time to share those thoughts and feelings so that you can be supportive of one another.
Support and additional information
If you have been trying to conceive for more than a year and you have been having sex regularly, then see your GP for help. For further information on fertility problems and options for treatment, as well as relationship advice, see the links below:
- Fertility Network UK is the number one charity for anyone experiencing fertility problems in the UK. They run a range of local online support groups.
- The British Infertility Counselling Association (BICA) offers a range of specialist counselling services.
- HFEA, the government regulator, provides free, clear and impartial information on UK fertility clinics, IVF and other types of fertility treatment, and donation.
- Relate is a charity that offers relationship support services including advice on marriage, LGBT issues, divorce and parenting.
- Tommy’s funds pioneering pregnancy research and provides support for those on their pregnancy journey.
- College for Sex and Relationship Therapists