The impact of infertility on sexuality: A literature review

Australas Med J. 2011;4(11):620-7. doi: 10.4066/AMJ.20111055. Epub 2011 Nov 30.


Background: Most studies address medical treatment of infertility and psychosocial outcomes caused by infertility-related stress, but few studies examine the infertility's impact on sexuality.

Aim: A literature review was conducted to answer the questions: 1) How is sexual self concept impacted in infertile individuals and their partners? 2) Does infertility have a negative impact on sexual relationships? 3) Is sexual function affected by infertility? In answering these questions, we may develop a better understanding of sexuality in the context of infertility, and thus better inform infertility management. Ultimately the aim is to improve the quality of life for infertile couples.

Method: A literature search was conducted for publications from 1990 to 2011 via the electronic databases PubMed, PsycInfo and Scopus, which focused on sexuality in infertile subjects or couples.

Results: In this review, all studies were descriptive quantitative studies which mapped the different aspects of sexuality in the context of infertility. The results suggested that infertility and its treatment approaches for fertilisation could lead to changes in sexual self-esteem, sexual relationship and sexual function.

Conclusion: The literature substantiated that many infertile subjects experienced trouble in various aspects of sexuality. However, further research should examine the reciprocal relations between sexual self concept, sexual relationship and sexual function in the context of infertility. How these changes affect the partners of infertile subjects should also be addressed.

Keywords: Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART); IVF; Infertility; sexuality.