What does this mean?
Sexual function in humans is controlled by parts of the central nervous system (CNS), particularly the brain and spinal cord. Interruption to the CNS through injury to the spinal cord will therefore have some effect on sexual function. The extent to which sexual function is impaired, however, depends on a variety of factors including the level of injury, the severity of damage to the spinal cord, and whether the individual is male or female.
The impact of Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) on procreation is more severe for men than for women. The majority of men with spinal cord injuries have poor sperm quality, a ejaculatory dysfunction and are unable to have erections, making reproduction via sexual intercourse virtually impossible.
In women with spinal cord injury, sexual dysfunction relate to excitement phase (vaginal lubrication), orgasm and possible painful conditions in people with incomplete injury.
.Unlike men with spinal cord injuries, the ability of women with spinal cord injuries to conceive is thought to be unchanged, but generally, women who have higher and more complete neurological injuries were the least likely to become pregnant compared with those with the lowest degree of neurologic impairment. This may reflect the fact that women are avoiding having children because of the overall difficulties they may have caring for themselves after an spinal cord injury.
What does this mean?
When a person suffers a spinal cord injury, information travelling along the spinal nerves below the level of injury will be either completely or partially cut off from the brain, resulting in Quadriplegia (Tetraplegia) or Paraplegia.
The body will still be trying to send messages from below the level of injury to the brain known as sensory messages, and the brain will still be trying to send messages downwards to the muscles in the body, known as motor messages.
These messages however, will be blocked by the damage in the spinal cord at the level of injury. Nerves joining the spinal cord above the level of injury will be unaffected and continue to work as normal.
Quadriplegia / Tetraplegia: is when a person has a spinal cord injury above the first thoracic vertebra, paralysis usually affects the cervical spinal nerves resulting in paralysis of all four limbs. In addition to the arms and legs being paralysed, the abdominal and chest muscles will also be affected resulting in weakened breathing and the inability to properly cough and clear the chest. People with this type of paralysis are referred to as Quadriplegic or Tetraplegic.
Paraplegia: is when the level of spinal cord injury occurs below the first thoracic spinal nerve. The degree at which the person is paralysed can vary from the impairment of leg movement, to complete paralysis of the legs and abdomen up to the nipple line. Paraplegics have full use of their arms and hands.