By Dr. Ashley Hocutt PT, DPT
Ok, so now that I have your attention, let's talk about sex from a woman's perspective. More specifically, sex from a mom's perspective.
As a mom you may notice a shift in your sexuality. You may be wondering where your desire went, why you aren't aroused the way you used to be, or why somedays you have no interest in sex whatsoever. Your body has morphed into a new shape and you may not feel as comfortable. Whether you had a vaginal or Cesarean delivery, you may notice that your "lady bits" have changed. You may not have the same sensations or even responses to sensations. Touch that used to feel good and elicit arousal may now cause no response or even pain. This is confusing and frustrating. You may worry your lady bits don't feel the same for your partner. Learning to navigate your new postpartum self is challenging and stressful.
Not to mention, our days are jam packed with kid stuff. They have to be fed, bathed, driven places, entertained, educated and loved. Our mind and energy is wrapped around the care of our children. We know physically, mentally and emotionally we feel different as a mom, but don't necessarily have the time or resources to comprehend how this affects our health, let alone sex life. More importantly, what can we do about it.
So how does this energy shift into motherhood dampen our sex life? In her book "Come as You Are," Emily Nagoski goes into great detail about arousal, desire, sexual response and orgasm. I highly recommend you get a copy of her book and read it. She explains the concept of sexual accelerators (turn ONS) and sexual brakes (turn OFFS). Sexual arousal requires activating the accelerator with your foot off the brakes (turning off the OFFS). If a brick is holding down the brakes of your car, you can push as hard as you want on the accelerator and the car just won't budge, well maybe it will creep forward a little, but it sure won't go far. For arousal to occur, you have to have the OFFS turned off and the ONS turned on. So think to yourself, what turns you on? What turns you off? Postpartum, the OFFS list may be longer even though the ONS list has remained the same. Hence, more sexual brakes that must be deactivated for the sexual accelerators to matter and arousal to occur.
Here are some tid bits to tell your partner:
1. Its not just about the turn ONS, I have turn OFFS too!
2. Stop putting so much energy towards my ONS and shift gears to my OFFS. Instead of grabbing my butt while I clean the dishes, take the sponge in your own hands. Wash, rinse, dry and repeat! (the dishes of course!) I can feel the OFFS lessening just thinking about it.
3. Women like reassurance that they still turn you on...say it out loud.
4. You both need to explore what kind of touch feels good, it may be different than the pre-children era.
5. If time is of the essence, vibrators are fun and help with stimulation. Women often need much more than just penetration (that's a whole other blog in itself).
6. Moms may need some extra lubrication, especially new or breastfeeding moms due to lower estrogen levels (Note: don't use oil based with latex condoms, don't use silicone lube with silicone vibrators)
So mom's, the sexuality shift is multifactorial. It is related to new stresses, a "new body", new sensations and a new ratio for arousal (more OFFS:ONS). The more you can educate yourself on the science of sex, your body, and how it functions, the better chance you have at transforming your sex life. It is possible, you may need guidance and that is why I blogged about it.
Here are some of my favorite resources for sexual health enlightenment:
~ "Come as You Are" by Emily Nagoski
~ "Women's Anatomy of Arousal" by Sheri Winston
~ Reviving Your Sex Life After Childbirth by Kathie Wallace
~ Talli Rosenbaum has some great incite on her website
Please note, if you are having any pain with intercourse, seek out a health care provider. It is important to rule out any infection or other pelvic organ dysfunction. Once that is ruled out and you still just don't feel right down there, pelvic health PT can help. They are trained to assess your pelvic floor muscles inside and out for tender points, muscle strength and function. They can educate you on sexual positions for comfort, help release tender points through your pelvic floor that may be causing the pain. I also recommend seeking out the assistance of a sex therapist. They may be psychologists, psychiatrist, social workers, marriage/family counselors with advanced training in sexual health and wellness. They can teach you ways to explore other forms of intimacy and pleasure with your partner while you heal. It really takes a team approach to get all the stars aligned and reach the goal of full sexual pleasure. Bring back the fun and erotic ecstasy!
To contact Dr. Ashley Hocutt: