Adjusting to life after a spinal cord injury takes time and patience. Depending on the severity of the injury, physical and emotional intimacy is likely to be impacted by sexual dysfunction after SCI. Spinal cord injury survivors may struggle with body image issues, confidence, and/or a lack of desire or interest in participating in sexual activities.
But with education, rehabilitation and perseverance, many SCI survivors are able to enjoy active and rewarding sex lives, and even have children.
For both men and women, sexual sensation after spinal cord injury is likely to be affected, as some of the nerves responsible for providing pleasurable feelings may not be functioning as they did pre-injury. While some people notice reduced or absent sexual sensations in specific areas, others experience heightened sensations in new areas – such as the neck, earlobes, or other parts of skin. Many SCI survivors are still able to achieve climax.
A sex therapist specializing in traumatic injury survivors can help couples communicate better, and explore new ways of pleasuring one another.
Female Sexual Function With SCI
Female sexual function with SCI is less likely to be affected than a male’s, and may involve adjusting to some physiological changes (including changes to menstrual cycle and natural lubrication). However women are usually able to lead happy, healthy sex lives, get pregnant and have children.
Despite the SCI, women are still sexual beings with sexual desires, and there is nothing stopping them from finding love and being sexually active.
The United Spinal Association has a wealth of information on sexuality for women with spinal cord injury.
Male Sexual Function With SCI
The increased awareness of male sexual function with SCI has resulted in many promising advancements and resources helping men regain control of their sexuality and lead satisfying and fulfilling sex lives.
For men, sexual function with spinal cord injury may be impacted by erectile dysfunction – for which there are now many options including oral medications, therapy, injections or implants. Men wanting to have children can ask their doctor or specialist about procedures which assist with sperm creation and ejaculation.
You can find detailed information on these types of procedures and more at The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago page on male sexual function with spinal cord injury.
Professional Counseling For Spinal Cord Injury Survivors
As a spinal cord injury survivor, you may find it difficult to talk about sexuality and intimacy with people who don’t understand what you’re going through.
But you are not alone. There are many resources, support groups, counselors and sex therapists that can help you find a way to express and maintain your sexuality in a safe and confidential environment. Ask your doctor for a recommendation, or explore the links below.
Information on Sexual Function With Spinal Cord Injury:
- The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation – Sexual Health
- The Craig Hospital – Sexual Function For Men After Spinal Cord Injury
- The Craig Hospital – Sexual Function For Women After Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal Cord Injury Support and Research: