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Living With a Spinal Cord Injury - Intimacy and Fertility

Treating sexual problems

Always talk to a doctor familiar with SCIs before using any medicines or devices. Discuss the location of your injury, possible side effects, and any other medical conditions you have.

You also need to watch for autonomic dysreflexia, which causes sudden very high blood pressure. If not treated promptly and correctly, it may lead to seizures, stroke, and even death. These complications are rare, but it is important to know the symptoms and watch for them.

Men who can't get an erection can use the treatments for erection problems (erectile dysfunction). These include:

For information on the treatment of erection problems, see the topic Erection Problems.

Women who have problems being aroused and have little or no vaginal lubrication may use:

  • Sildenafil (Viagra), a medicine used to treat erectile dysfunction in men. It can also help women become aroused.
  • A vibrator.
  • A water-based lubricant, such as Astroglide or K-Y Jelly. Do not use oil-based lubricants.

Both men and women can use sensual exercises that you do with your partner to find areas of your body that react to stimulation.

Fertility in men

Most men with SCIs have poor sperm quality and have trouble ejaculating. To have children, men with SCIs can use penile stimulation to obtain sperm for assistive reproductive technologies. Vibrators are available that are specially made to induce ejaculation in men with SCIs.

Vibrators can damage your skin. Use them carefully if you don't have feeling in your penis.

If vibrator stimulation isn't successful, rectal probe electroejaculation (RPE) is an option. In this procedure, your doctor inserts an electrical probe into the rectum to stimulate ejaculation.

Fertility in women

An SCI usually won't affect a woman's ability to get pregnant. You may have a brief pause in your menstrual cycle after an SCI. But after your period returns, you will probably be able to get pregnant.

If you are sexually active after your injury, make sure to use birth control if you don't want to get pregnant.

If you do want to get pregnant, make sure to be aware of the special medical, psychological, and social issues involved in an SCI pregnancy. Work with doctors who understand these issues. Common concerns and complications during pregnancy include:1


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 07, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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