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Trying to Conceive and Erectile Dysfunction: Three Things You Can Do When the Sex Isn't Working

25/02/2015 14:40 GMT | Updated 24/04/2015 10:59 BST

When a couple experiences erectile dysfunction from time to time it's embarrassing and frustrating. When it goes on for longer and becomes a chronic problem it's extremely stressful and can have a negative impact on the relationship. But when it happens while a couple are trying to conceive, the stress caused to both partners is massive.

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© Wavebreakmediamicro | Dreamstime.com - Anxious Woman Sleeping In Bed Photo

I have worked with many couples affected in this way. The pressure placed on them to have sex at certain times of the month just gets too much and he can't get an erection, or maintain one, or ejaculate when he wants to. She is usually beside herself with stress after months of trying. She doesn't want to place undue pressure on him but she knows she is only fertile for a short window each month and the plain fact is that they have to have sex at the right time. He wants nothing more than to be able to do the deed, but the more he tries, the worse it gets. The disappointment for both when the sex fails is heartbreaking and often leads to conflict.

There are three things I suggest if you are in the same boat:

1. Try to take the focus off baby-making sex for one month by deciding to have sex only for the sheer fun of it. No ovulation predictor kits or charts allowed. In the months that follow, don't tell him when you're fertile. See if you can seduce him and make the sex happen when it needs to without making it a red letter day. I know this won't work for all couples and I am usually in favour of full and frank disclosure - after all, you are making this baby together. But sometimes it really does help the guy, even if he knows in the back of his mind you have an ulterior motive.

2. You could try an erection enhancing drug like Viagra, but proceed with caution. Maybe use it for a limited time only, just to enable him to get back in the saddle as it were. Sometimes a few successful attempts at sex can go a long way towards restoring confidence that everything works OK after all. This one comes with a warning though, because there is conflicting research about whether or not drugs like Viagra can have an adverse effect on sperm. Some studies show no detrimental effect but research done at Queen's University, Belfast shows that the acrosome reaction in sperm can be adversely affected, which may hinder the sperm's ability to fertilise the egg.

3. You could try 'self insemination'. Many men are still able to ejaculate through masturbation even though penetrative sex is impossible. Couples are often hugely relieved when I suggest to them that they take the stress out of the situation by collecting some sperm this way and then placing it inside the vagina. You can use a cheap 5 ml oral medicine syringe from a chemist or the Stork Conception Kit. This has been designed with self insemination specially in mind and has the advantage of a little cap that holds the semen close to the cervix for a few hours afterwards. It may not be the most romantic way in the world to conceive, but it offers a way forward for couples whose only other alternative may be IVF.

NB Dee Armstrong has no association whatsoever with the company that makes The Stork Home Conception Kit