Tips for Better Sex for Women with Multiple Sclerosis

Women With MS Can Do a Lot to Keep Romance Alive

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Women with multiple sclerosis (MS) have a disease in which the immune system eats away at the protective covering of their nerves, affecting their brain and spinal cord. If you're a woman with multiple sclerosis (MS), you may remember a time when things were easier. You could sprint across a parking lot on a hot summer day, keep up with complex conversations, or hit the ground running every morning and keep moving at that same, steady pace all day.

Sex was probably like that, too. It was something you just did, without having to think about it too hard. But sex can become more difficult when you have MS. Maybe you already know this. If so, you aren’t alone.

About 75 percent of women with MS have problems with sex. Some causes for this include fatigue, loss of sensation, spasticity (a feeling of muscle tightness or stiffness), reduced genital sensation, and loss of libido (sex drive).

How Does MS Affect Sex?

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 your sexual arousal and response. Fatigue, pain or muscle spasms affecting sexual positions, reduced sex drive, and numbness can also create sexual problems or be side effects of medications.

Tips for Making the Most of Your Sex Life With MS

Sex is an important part of a healthy adult life, even when a medical problem such as MS makes it more difficult.

Here are some selected tips to help you make sex a pleasure rather than hard work:

Talk With Your Partner. Open communication is essential for satisfying sex. Talk with your partner about any sexual difficulties you experience because of your MS or any other problem. Work together to find creative solutions – but don’t make it “work.” To the extent you can, make it fun!

Also, make sure that you and your partner know what feels good to the other and what doesn’t. Be aware that these things may change with time as certain areas of your body become numb or oversensitive.

Use Lubrication. Many women with MS have trouble achieving an adequate level of vaginal lubrication. This is easily helped with the use of a water-based vaginal lubricant. At first, applying a lubricant for sex may seem awkward. But you and your partner will become used to it. (You can even incorporate it into foreplay!)

Experiment with Positions and Times for Sex. As you may know, pain, weakness, or spasticity can interfere with sex. Experiment with different sexual positions to discover which ones are most comfortable and satisfying. Also, try having sex at different times during the day and night. You may find that some MS symptoms are less severe at certain times.

Reassure Your Partner That You Still Feel Sexual Desire. You may find yourself needing more help from your partner to have sex than you did in the past so that he assumes some of the role of a caregiver.

It's important to let your partner know that, despite these changing roles, your romantic feelings haven’t changed.

Take Care of Your Health. It’s no secret that poor health can interfere with sex. If you have a health condition besides MS, be sure to treat and manage it, too. Follow your doctor’s orders. In addition, losing excess weight, exercising, and eating well will improve both your overall and sexual health.

Feel Beautiful. As you experience the effects of MS, you may feel less sexually attractive. A negative view of your attractiveness can interfere with your sexual desire. To avoid this, ignore negative messages and stereotypes from the media. Instead, embrace and admire your body for what it can do.

Expand Your Ideas of What Sex Is About. There's a lot more to sex than just intercourse. Hugging, kissing, and other forms of intimacy are essential elements of your sex life. Even simply talking to your partner may be a bridge to intimacy, especially if the subject isn’t health related.

Vibrators and Masturbation. Even if you don’t have a partner, sex and orgasms bring both emotional and physical benefits. You shouldn't feel guilty about masturbation or using a vibrator. In addition to the pleasurable sensations they provide, vibrators and other devices can help you continue to feel like an attractive, sexual person.

Time Your Medications So They Don’t Interfere With Sex. Certain medications can impair sexual functioning. For instance:

  • If you take an anticholinergic for bladder control, taking it 30 minutes before sex can help minimize bladder contractions.
  • If you take an antidepressant, it may reduce your sex drive. Talk to your doctor if you think this might be happening.
  • If you self-inject (or have your partner inject you with) one of the disease-modifying medications, coordinate the timing of your injection so it’s less likely to affect your interest in sexual activity. Injections may cause stress or other unpleasant side-effects. (On the other hand, you may feel such a sense of pride and relief after an injection that it could be a great time for sex!)

On the other hand, taking a medication for fatigue one hour before sex can put you at your peak energy level at just the right moment.

Talk to Your Doctor

Expect that you will have to make adjustments in your life with MS, including your sexual habits, as time goes on. If you're having sexual difficulties, talk to your doctor. He or she can help these adaptations go more smoothly.


Holland NJ, Halper J. “Multiple sclerosis: a self-care guide to wellness.” Demos Publishing (2005).

Shadday A. “MS and your feelings.” Hunter House Publishers (2006).

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