Problems of sexual function after spinal cord injury.

Sex is a legitimate and fundamental need in humans. Substantial changes to both the autonomic and somatic nervous system occur after spinal cord injury, and result in altered sexual function and fertility potential. This chapter provides a clinical overview of the main sexual and reproductive concerns and priorities men and women face after spinal cord injury. Besides genital functioning, other autonomic functions affect sexuality, such as bladder and bowel function, cardiovascular control and temperature regulation. These interlinked autonomic functions are presented in their impact on sexuality. The mind-body interaction and spinal feedback loops are discussed. It is proposed that human sexuality after spinal cord injury can be a model for investigating integrated autonomic function. Recent research on the measurement of cardiovascular parameters during vibrostimulation and ejaculation demonstrates the discordance between objective and subjective signs of autonomic dysreflexia. It is hoped that health care professionals and researchers will become motivated to attend to the unmet sexual health care needs of this population.