Spinal cord injury and sexual function - Bard Care

The impact of spinal cord injury on sexual function

Sex is one of many natural processes that gets disrupted by SCI. During the initial healing phase, reflex sexual arousal can be absent, and a number of women with SCI can experience a pause in their normal menstrual cycle1. In addition to the innumerable physical and psychological difficulties SCI can have, sexuality can often appear low down on the priority list. 

With time, however, most women will want to reconnect with their sexuality, regardless of the level of their spinal cord injury. Yet, it’s important to understand that every spinal cord injury is unique, and that the nature and level of the injury may influence reflexogenic arousal, psychogenic arousal, or both2. For instance, reflexogenic arousal refers to the vaginal lubrication that occurs in response to genital stimulation, as a reflex through the spinal cord — without involvement of the brain. In contrast, psychogenic arousal refers to vaginal lubrication occurring as a result of thoughts and fantasies.

Should either of these method prove troublesome for you, a simple waterbased lubricant such as KYjelly is a good solution to difficulties with arousal — making penetration easier and preventing trauma to the genitalia. All women with spinal cord injuries, regardless of level or completeness, are able to experience orgasm. However, some may find it more difficult to achieve than others, and it may feel slightly different, too. If this is the case, it’s important to know that the physical aspect of sex has never been the sole focus of female sexualty; emotional connection plays a just as important role. Women with SCI are not only capable of giving and receiving pleasure, they are still able to experience intimacy, and actively participate in romantic and sexual relationships.

One of the simplest ways to get around any potential hurdles is to simply talk with your partner, making sure you’re both completely at ease and comfortable; easing any stress levels you may have.
For more knowledge on the impact SCI can have on sexual function, our Learn section is a great place to start. Or you can call up and we can out you through to one of our Bard nurses.