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My wife has MS and doesn't want to have sex anymore. Why not and what can I do?

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Updated June 25, 2014

Question: My wife has MS and doesn't want to have sex anymore. Why not and what can I do?
You and your wife may have already had to make many adjustments to your lives because of her MS. She may have had to limit or stop working, she may need help keeping up with housework or she may not be able to participate in many outdoor activities in the summer. Although neither of you may have linked it directly to MS, it may seem like she has lost interest in sex or not enjoy it as much, which can be a “silent symptom” of MS.
Answer:

Sex is a complicated process that relies on the central nervous system to generate arousal and sexual response. In MS, damage to nerve pathways caused by demyelination can affect an individual’s sexual arousal and response. Fatigue, pain and numbness can also create sexual problems for people living with MS, or it can also be a side effect of many medications. An estimated 72 percent of women with MS experience some degree of sexual dysfunction at some point.

Your wife might be upset by this, or she may have mentally and emotionally adjusted to the symptom by deciding she prefers to snuggle and hold hands, anyway. However, a healthy marriage should be a partnership, with decisions made jointly. This is not the time for either partner to get angry, frustrated or upset. Rather, it is an opportunity to discuss the situation openly and honestly, as difficult as this might be. If you are not satisfied with the amount or quality of sex that you are having, let your wife know that you love her and want to be intimate with her. Make her feel desirable and let her know that you will be patient as you work together to find solutions to make sure that you are both satisfied.

Sexual Problems in Women

Women with MS may experience a range of sexual problems, including:
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Loss of libido (interest in sex)
  • Difficulty having orgasms
  • Reduced sensation in the vaginal area
  • Exaggerated sensitivity of the vagina
  • Fatigue
  • Pain and/or muscle spasms causing sexual positions to be difficult
  • Difficulty with the movements/positions involved in sex due to pain or muscle spasms

Therapies and Treatment

There is a wide range of therapies and treatments to assist women experiencing sexual dysfunction. Some of these involve simple things you can do at home, while others involve seeing a doctor or taking a medication.
  • Things To Try At Home
    • Vaginal Lubricants: These gels can be purchased over-the-counter and can help vaginal dryness. AstroGlide is a favorite of many people. Be sure to use an ample amount for best effect.
    • Vibrators: These devices can help if impaired sensation or slow arousal is a problem. They can be purchased online at several places if you are too nervous or embarrassed to go to a “specialty” shop.
    • Oral and Manual Stimulation: These alternatives to penetrative sex can provide means to stimulate either partner.
    • Experiment With Timing: If fatigue is a big problem, try having sex at different times of the day.

  • Medications and Medical Treatments
    • Muscle Relaxants and Pain Medication: These medications can be used to help spasms and pain that may interfere with sex.

Sources:

National MS Soceity. Sexuality, From The MS Information Sourcebook.

Tanya Radford. MS and Intimacy. National Multiple Sclerosis Society

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