Women's sexual health and reproductive function after SCI

Academic Article


  • Sexual function and to a lesser extent reproduction are often disrupted in women with spinal cord injuries (SCI), who must be educated to better understand their sexual and reproductive health. Women with SCI are sexually active; they can use psychogenic or reflexogenic stimulation to obtain sexual pleasure and orgasm. Treatment should consider a holistic approach using autonomic standards to describe remaining sexual function and to assess both genital function and psychosocial factors. Assessment of genital function should include thoracolumbar dermatomes, vulvar sensitivity (touch, pressure, vibration), and sacral reflexes. Selfexploration should include not only clitoral stimulation, but also stimulation of the vagina (G spot), cervix, and nipples conveyed by different innervation sources. Treatments may consider PDE5 inhibitors and flibanserin on an individual basis, and secondary consequences of SCI should address concerns with spasticity, pain, incontinence, and side effects of medications. Psychosocial issues must be addressed as possible contributors to sexual dysfunctions (eg, lower self-esteem, past sexual history, depression, dating habits). Pregnancy is possible for women with SCI; younger age at the time of injury and at the time of pregnancy being significant predictors of successful pregnancy, along with marital status, motor score, mobility, and occupational scores. Pregnancy may decrease the level of functioning (eg, self-care, ambulation, upper-extremity tasks), may involve complications (eg, decubitus ulcers, weight gain, urological complications), and must be monitored for postural hypotension and autonomic dysreflexia. Taking into consideration the physical and psychosocial determinants of sexuality and childbearing allows women with SCI to achieve positive sexual and reproductive health.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Courtois F; Alexander M; McLain ABJ
  • Start Page

  • 20
  • End Page

  • 30
  • Volume

  • 23
  • Issue

  • 1