In a study of young adults aged 20 to 24 with Cerebral Palsy 35% of people revealed they would like more information about the impact Cerebral Palsy could have on their sexuality and fertility. A further 26% said they’d like to know more about treatment options, and 14% said they like to know how to discuss their sexuality with a partner.
Having Cerebral Palsy certainly doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy an active sex life or go on to have a family if that’s what you choose to do.
If you’re experiencing problems or you’re worried about any aspect of your sex life, relationship or your ability to have a family, it’s important to talk to someone about your worries. Talk to GP or health professional just as you would with a concern over any other area of your life, there are nearly always solutions. As well as practical help, your GP may also be able to refer you on to a specialist such as a gynaecologist, physiotherapist, sex therapist or relationship counsellor. Or learn more about support in your local area.
Potential physical problems
As with all other aspects of life, everyone’s experience of Cerebral Palsy is different. You may experience no physical limitations at all, or an aspect of your condition may mean you have to make some adjustments so that your relationship with your partner is the best it can be.
Not everyone experiences problems, but here are some you may encounter:
- Spasticity, difficulties with positioning
- Stiffness of joint and muscles
- Problems with energy and fatigue
- Balance problems or loss of strength
- Problems with pelvic floor tone
Talk to your GP about what solution is right for you, for example Women with Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (PFD) (extremely tight or weak muscles) can be successfully treated with Botox injections through referral to a gynaecologist.
Or perhaps learn more about the tools and devices which can enhance your sexual mobility? The good news is that sex is a form of exercise and has beneficial effects on both spasticity and stiffness, not to mention the positive effect overall relaxation has on the body.
Changing how you feel
Finding a new partner and maintaining a healthy relationship is never easy, but you may feel your Cerebral Palsy gives you one more challenge to overcome. Talking builds trust in any relationship. So, it’s important to recognise that if you’re feeling worried or anxious it’s ok to feel that way, and you owe it to yourself to look for solutions. Sexual Health Scotland has some good advice here on how to start the conversation about sex with a partner. Or, you may find it useful to talk to someone from your local family planning clinic. Don’t forget your GP is also there to help connect you to specialists who might be able to offer practical help. It’s worth it, as being open and honest with any partner will only bring you closer.
Cerebral Palsy and pregnancy
Your CP needn’t hold you back if your dream is to have a family. If you are concerned about becoming pregnant or any aspect of being a parent the best thing to do is to speak with your GP. An Occupational therapist for instance can help you prepare for the baby’s arrival. Breaking down baby care activities into tasks that you feel comfortable with and can practice before your bundle of joy arrives. More information can be found on the Disability, Pregnancy and Parenthood website.
Sexual Health Scotland. Information and advice about sex and relationships plus search local help in your area.
The Outsider Club. Peer to peer online support and dating club. The organisation also runs a sex and disability helpline.
Baby care activities for parents with disabilities (Download the article.)
Originally published by the Royal College of Occupational Therapists in Occupational Therapy News, its official monthly magazine: Ho, Bicky (2017) 'Baby care activities for parents with disabilities', OTnews, 25(9): 28-29