Sex and relationships

MS can change sex and sexual relationships in various ways. This page looks briefly at the main issues faced by people with MS. For more detail on these, download our booklet Sex, intimacy and relationships.

Partners and relationships

People with MS and their partners often report that living with the condition creates both physical and emotional barriers – and that their relationships suffer as a consequence.

For some couples, worries about MS and uncertainty about the future can cause a breakdown in communication and intimacy. There might be times when one or both of you feel confused or rejected, angry or isolated. There could be a rebalance in the relationship. Sometimes you might need encouragement and support just when your partner is least able to give it.

Read more about how to deal with the impact of MS on relationships

Changes in desire

Young couple out for a walk

If you feel like you’re no longer interested in sex, you’re not alone. Lack of desire can be a direct result of MS. But it can also be the result of living with the condition. For example, adjusting to a diagnosis, or to new symptoms, can lead to a period of sadness or grief, which can affect sexual desire.

How you feel about your MS can also affect your libido. If you feel embarrassed about your MS, or because of particular symptoms, or if you feel less attractive because of your MS, this can affect your desire for sex.

Of course, it’s not just having MS that can affect things. Stress, having children, the menopause – these could all have an influence. Sexual desire and activity change throughout most people’s lives, and change with age.

MS and sexual function

MS can directly cause sexual difficulties. Sexual arousal, response and orgasm require messages to be sent between the brain and sexual organs via the spinal cord. If there is nerve damage in the parts of the brain and spinal cord involved, this can cause problems for both men and women

MS symptoms, and some of the medications prescribed for them, can sometimes have an indirect impact on sex and intimacy.

Find out how to manage the impact of MS symptoms on sex

Single people and sex 

Even if you are not in a relationship, you are still a sexual being and may have concerns about the influence MS has on the way you express yourself sexually.

Your concerns may relate to the effect of MS symptoms on masturbation, the likelihood of difficulties should you start a new sexual relationship, problems with meeting people and dating, or anger and sadness about the break-up of a previous relationship.

Find out about managing sexual issues.

What's new?