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13-05-2012 | Psychology | Article

Timing intercourse to match ovulation stressful for men


Free abstract

MedWire News: Timing sexual intercourse to coincide with ovulation can cause erectile dysfunction (ED), report researchers.

In some cases, the stress caused by timed intercourse (TI) can even cause men to seek extramarital sex (EMS), they say.

Timed intercourse during the fertile window of a woman's menstrual cycle has been widely adopted and frequently prescribed by fertility specialists to assist couples who are trying to conceive. However, according to the statement by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE, 2004), TI which is planned to coincide with ovulation causes stress.

"Several studies have generally found a negative relationship between psychological stress or anxiety and sexual functioning," note Tae Yoon (CHA University, Seoul, South Korea) and colleagues. "Specifically, corticosteroids (cortisol in humans) can interfere with the functioning of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis."

As reported in the Journal of Andrology, the researchers investigated the effects of TI-induced stress on sexual dysfunction and behavior in 439 men who were attending fertility centers after being unsuccessful at achieving natural conception for more than 12 months.

The men, who were previously free of any ED or ejaculatory dysfunction, underwent semen and hormone analysis on first evaluation and were asked to return 4 weeks later to determine pregnancy status if no menstrual cycle had started. If menstruation had begun, the couples were asked to visit within 2 days to determine the next TI schedule.

At the follow-up visit, the men were assessed by a counselor to investigate the occurrence of ED, masturbation, and incidence of EMS throughout the course of TI.

The researchers report that a total of 188 (42.8%) and 47 (10.7%) men experienced ED and EMS, respectively.

As the number of TI episodes increased, so did the numbers of men who experienced ED and EMS. The desire to avoid TI also increased, and all 47 men who reported EMS experienced ED with their partners.

The team also found that men who reported ED when facing TI had significantly lower levels of luteinizing hormone (LH), testosterone, and estrogen than those who did not.

"Cortisol may reduce the levels of [testosterone] by suppressing production," write Yoon et al. "Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that physical stress can interfere with LH levels."

The researchers say they support the hypothesis that the stress incurred by the thought of 'obligatory coitus' or compulsory sexual behavior, causes sexual dysfunction in men.

"Physicians and clinicians should acknowledge the potential harmful effect of TI on men," they conclude.

By Sally Robertson

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