Losing An Erection During Sex? Here’s Why & What To Do

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At some point, most men will lose their erection midway through sex, or even before. In fact, this unfortunate situation can occur during any moment of sexual intimacy, from foreplay to oral sex and intercourse. 

It is important for men to understand that losing an erection happens to virtually everyone at some point, and that the occurrence is usually nothing to worry about. However, if you find that you’re frequently losing your erection after entering your partner, or shortly after the onset of achieving rigidity, there could be an underlying reason. 

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is nothing to be embarrassed about – men all over the world suffer from symptoms, to various degrees, as they navigate sexual engagements with their partners.

This article will examine the reasons that can make it difficult to get hard and stay hard, and outline steps you can take to ensure these situations remain ‘firmly’ in the past.

 

What causes a loss of erection during sex?

There are many physical, mental and emotional triggers that can cause a man to lose an erection, or impede the ability to maintain one for the duration of desired sexual activity. Losing an erection quickly can be a sign of an underlying issue. Some of the more common contributing factors include: 
 

Tiredness

Chronic fatigue affects virtually all aspects of male performance. Sex requires physical and mental energy – when the body isn’t getting sufficient rest, it avoids the activities that are least crucial. Low testosterone levels, elevated stress and anxiety can cause tiredness that contributes to erectile dysfunction.
 

Performance anxiety

The desire to please a new partner can result in the creation of personal sexual expectations that are unrealistic. If a man feels as though he can’t perform to the level he feels his partner is expecting, this anxiety can become augmented, resulting in physical symptoms such as ED or premature ejaculation.
 

Unhealthy lifestyle

Excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to an increase in the production of angiotensin– a hormone responsible for narrowing the blood vessels, which reduces blood flow to the penis. Drugs, unhealthy foods and a lack of exercise contribute to the sub-optimal performance of many biological processes, not the least of which is the blood flow to the penis that is essential to maintaining an erection.
 

Body weight

Excess body weight is linked to low testosterone levels that can contribute to ED. Studies indicate that an increase of 4 inches in waist size can lead to a 75% chance of having low testosterone levels.
 

Stress

The production of cortisol is a factor in the chronic stress that limits sexual performance. Released following the peak of an adrenaline rush, elevated cortisol levels can lead to prolonged, chronic stress that can affect the healthy blood flow needed to achieve and maintain an erection.
 

Medication

An estimated 25% of all ED is a side effect of drugs, according to the Harvard Special Health Report Erectile Dysfunction: How medication, lifestyle changes, and other therapies can help you conquer this vexing problem. Some medications linked to ED include antidepressants, anti-ulcer drugs, diuretics and some anti-cancer drugs.
 

Medical conditions

Certain medical conditions can contribute to the onset of erectile dysfunction. These include type 2 diabetes, heart and blood vessel disease, multiple sclerosis and Peyronie’s disease. 

 

What a sudden loss of erection usually means

Although erectile dysfunction can happen at any moment, the reasons that contribute to its onset may have developed over time. Anxiety and the pressure to perform can trigger the onset of sudden ED, and can contribute to difficulties in maintaining a firm erection. If you are still getting an erection in the morning, this suggests that your body is physically capable of getting an erection, and that mental barriers may be the reason for a sudden loss of erection.

If the condition persists over a prolonged period of time, compounding factors like anxiety, nerves, pressure or stress can exacerbate the symptoms, increasing the frequency of ED instances and further damaging self-esteem. Although lifestyle factors and medical conditions can be responsible for the emergence of erectile dysfunction issues, it is often the more mental and psychological factors that prevent the condition from resolving itself.

The combination of these mental hurdles and conditions – especially in combination with medication such as antihypertensives and sedatives – can leave a man affected with ED symptoms longer than it may otherwise last. Practising meditation, engaging in an exercise program and attempting to lower stress levels may go a long way toward offsetting these and other ailments.

If you feel as though you’re suffering from performance anxiety, ED or you are losing your erection after a few minutes, abstaining from depressants such as alcohol and illicit drugs can aid in recovery efforts. 

 

How to stop losing an erection

It is important to recognise that losing an erection now and then is normal. Tiredness, stress and other things on your mind can make it difficult to keep an erection, and most of the time, things will go back to normal the next time you try. 

Losing an erection turns into ED when it becomes noticeable and is happening on a regular basis. Eliminating any ‘one-off’ considerations – such as the influence of excessive alcohol consumption on the ability to achieve an erection – aids in uncovering the underlying reasons behind an inability to perform.
Age is one of most important factors in the development of ED – the National Library of Health reports that noted ED occurrences increase to varying degrees between the ages of 18-69. The older men get, the more likely they are to discover the ability to maintain a rock-hard erection isn’t quite what it once was.

Fortunately, there are measures a man can take to mitigate the loss of erectile power. 


Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Here are some of the lifestyle changes, routine adoptions and daily activities that can aid your chances at maintaining an erection mid-way through sex, or just after entering: 
 

  • Eat good food. Diet plays a pivotal role in our physical and mental health. Consuming foods rich in nutrients and antioxidants can help combat anxiety and increase your libido. The Mediterranean diet, for example, decreases cardiovascular disease. Many studies link cardiovascular disease and ED, as they share endothelial dysfunction. Consuming a diet rich in plant-based foods – whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices – can improve the blood vessels' ability to relax and widen blood flow. Fish, dairy, seafood and poultry are rich in nutrients and can be included in moderation.
     
  • Exercise. Establishing and executing an exercise regimen can increase metabolic function, improve cardiovascular health and reduce body fat. Regular physical activity releases serotonin in the body, a hormone that aids in mood regulation and is commonly known as the ‘happy hormone.’ Additionally, exercises that target the pelvic floor muscles can aid in the body’s ability to maintain a firm erection.
     
  • Stop smoking. Smoking damages blood vessels, and can result in poor arterial blood supply to the penis. Quitting smoking can have a positive effect on both vascular and sexual health.
     
  • Limit alcohol consumption. Similar to smoking, excessive drinking limits the blood flow capacity of the body, which can result in the emergence of ED symptoms. Famously dubbed ‘whisky dick,’ the association between heavy alcohol consumption and impotence is due to the release of a peptide hormone called angiotensin II that causes vasoconstriction and an increase in blood pressure.
     
  • Avoid porn. Pornography gives an unrealistic perception of what sex is like. Porn often offers idealistic depictions of sexual encounters that can compound feelings of inadequacy, negative body image or thoughts of ‘not measuring up’. 
     
  • Engage in foreplay. Easing into sexual encounters by engaging in foreplay can help overcome the anxiety symptoms associated with sexual performance anxiety (SPA). Slowly ramping up to sex can help ease the mind by focusing the excitement that comes with gradual arousal triggered by manual touch.
     
  • Manage long-term conditions. High cholesterol can negatively impact the quality of an erection. LDL cholesterol is the type that can lead to medical problems. It can stick to the inside of arteries, leading to a build-up of atheroma, a fatty substance that narrows the arteries and makes it difficult for blood to pass through. There is a strong link between diabetes and ED, due to nerve and blood vessel damage caused by the disease. Unmanaged chronic disease is one of the leading cases for a man to not get erect. Keeping these conditions under control, or even reversing them if it’s early enough, can hep you to stop losing an erection.  

 

Speak to your doctor about medication you are taking

Certain medications you are taking may cause or exacerbate the symptoms of ED. If you feel as though the prescriptions you are taking are beginning to contribute to the loss of your erection, consult your doctor – they may be able to suggest alternatives that do not have the same residual effect. 
 

Lose weight

Obesity can often lead to hypertension and inflammation of the blood vessels. The result of this inflammation is plaque build-up which commonly affects blood flow to the penis. Having excess visceral body fat disrupts hormone balance and causes testosterone levels to plummet, contributing to a lower sex drive that can compound impotence symptoms. A National Library of Health (NIH) study concluded weight loss intervention was helpful in maintaining erectile function for a cohort of older overweight/obese diabetic men.


Counselling

The National Health Service (NHS) indicates that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a structured, time-limited and problem-focused form of psychotherapy that can be utilised in order to aid in the psychological and mental factors that contribute to erectile dysfunction and sexual performance anxiety.
Helping men recognise that ED is a common occurrence – and one that can usually be overcome – is accomplished through highly-personalised treatment protocols. Men who become comfortable discussing their symptoms and facing the underlying causes may overcome the fear of humiliation or negative self-image that can accelerate ED symptoms.
 

Medication

There are treatment options available to help you achieve and maintain an erection. Many popular and easily acquired medications are available to combat the physical symptoms of ED, by encouraging blood flow to the penis. It is important to recognise that these treatments will not combat the mental or psychological effects of sexual performance anxiety, however, they may be used in combination with counselling or other therapies, to help restore confidence in the bedroom. Many men are able to overcome their ED symptoms, and only use medication when and if flare-ups return.

The most popular ED medications include: 

  • Viagra. Sometimes referred to by the generic name of sildenafil or ‘the blue pill,’ Viagra works by enhancing blood flow to the penis. It takes around 60 minutes to work, and the effects can last for 3-4 hours.
     
  • Cialis.  Another common treatment for erectile dysfunction, Cialis is also known by the generic name tadalafil.  Doses are available in 2.5 & 5mg prescriptions called Cialis Daily, which are taken every day and have a continuous effect. Alternatively, 10mg, 20mg quantities are available which can be taken 30 minutes before required. The effects can last up to 36 hours, which is why it is commonly referred to as ‘the weekend pill’.
     
  • Levitra. It is commonly referred to as vardenafil, and available in 5mg, 10mg and 20mg strength. It is taken around 25 minutes before sexual activity, with effects lasting up to 5 hours.

 

Penis pumps

Also known as vacuum pumps, penis pumps help you to get and keep an erection firm enough for sex. Unlike other ED treatments, these devices do not require the consumption of medication in order to attain a firm erection, although they are commonly used in tandem with Viagra or Cialis. By drawing blood into the penis by means of a vacuum, these devices offer assistance for men seeking a firmer erection.
 

Cock rings

Cock rings – also known as constricting bands or penis rings – improve the quality and duration of an erection by keeping blood in the penis for an extended period of time. When applied to the base of the penis, cock rings effectively restrict or trap blood into the male member, resulting in a harder erection. They can be worn safely for up to 30 minutes, but should be removed after this time to avoid nerve damage.

 

Can condoms make you lose an erection?

Because the penis experiences less sensation when wrapped in a condom, using a thinner latex version can increase sensation in the penis, reducing the risk of losing an erection during intercourse. Thicker condoms can greatly reduce the sensitivity of the penis, affecting the ability to feel pleasure that is required for maintaining an erection.

If you feel as though the protection you are using is contributing to the quality of your erection, experiment with different condoms until you find one that suits best. It is always recommended to use protection in order to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), particularly if engaging in sexual activity with a new partner.

 

Don’t be discouraged

Remember, virtually all men will struggle with the ability to maintain an erection at some point in their lives. This is a perfectly normal occurrence – one that can usually be overcome by making healthy lifestyle choices and with the aid of a few of the protocols outlined above. 

Overcoming sexual performance anxiety can be difficult at first, but once you’ve identified the triggers that exacerbate the condition, you can begin to work on methods to overcome it. 

If you can’t keep an erection, or you are struggling to get one a regular basis, you should speak to your doctor or pharmacist. You may find that addressing underlying issues, will help your sex life.


Whilst all of our content is written and reviewed by healthcare professionals, it is not intended to be substituted for or used as medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please speak to your doctor.