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Birth Stories, Education

Birth Stories: Welcome Earthside James Tiberius

James Tiberius from Fiona Rogerson on Vimeo.

JT’s pregnancy was straightforward and healthy – it was a bit of a journey for me, just in the basis that I’m used to connecting spiritually to my babies very early in pregnancy, yet little James and I never felt that connection while he was within me.

I spent the 9 months consciously acknowledging him, chatting with him, and connecting to him in every physical way I could – with the hopes that we might find some sort of spiritual connection – it never happened until tranisition 🙂

This pregnancy was another step for me to claim my power as a birthing woman. I had never gone into labour without some sort of assistance – my first son was induced – a hospital d-elivery – about as far from a birth as I could travel.

My second, home water birthed babe was gently encouraged with a stretch and sweep.

I knew I wasn’t broken, and was determined to prove it. Thursday evening, of the 19th of August, I had an overwhelming urge go go for a run. So, pregnant belly in hand, at about midnight, in all of my enormous glory I ran around our block. Then had a shower, and snuggled up in bed with my beautiful family.

I was awoken Friday morning at around about six with some familiar sensations – nice, strong, rushes. I turned over, trying to sleep, but was so excited that perhaps, just perhaps I HAD gone into labour all by myself.

Half an hour or so later, I snuck out of bed, hopped in the shower, and texted my three best friends to let them know today was the day, and to light their candles. I also called my gorgeous photographer friend Fee, so she could organise care for her little one.

The boys woke up, and life went on as usual in our house, with me plodding around in the loungeroom and leaning over my fitball when I needed it.

Then time for me stopped – I have no real idea of how long things took – Fee arrived, and bless her heart started playing with the boys and entertaining them. I had a shower, or two… insisted the pool got filled, and called my midwife.

Labour for the next however long was a little scary for me- it felt different to my previous labour, and I found I Couldn’t just settle into it. I knew if I went to the loo it would get bigger, but was so terrified of the sensations, I put it off for as long as I could.

Finally something twigged, I found my courage, went to the loo (yes it got bigger) and my waters broke, allowing James to finally move down.

Off the loo, into the loungeroom, the most powerful sensations I’ve ever felt. There was fear again, fear of the pain, then the realisation that holy cow, I needed to push. With the support of my gorgeous husband, and my beautiful midwife I clambered into the pool.

Time stood still, I gently birthed James‘ head- lent back, and his shoulders and body slid into his daddy’s waiting arms.

I did it… I went into labour alone.
I birthed my baby and caught him.

I spent a few days post birth being annoyed at myself for the fear I felt – but now in perspective, it’s all been part of my journey with James, and a new step in motherhood for me.

So this proud mama welcomes her delicious new son to the world (Yes he’s named after Kirk 😛 Yes, I could have chosen a better captain, but James stuck as we welcomed him earthside)

 

Fertility, Pregnancy & Birth

My Story: Post Partum Depression

If you’ve read Finn’s birth story, you might think that it was the perfect start to a new human’s life. A blissed out mother, a perfect baby, and the beginning of a new chapter in an unrolling story.

This is my story. It’s pretty dark. But it’s real, and it’s me. I’m one of the lucky ones, and my story has a happy ending.

When we blog or share content on social media, we quite often only share the highlight reel. The polished, sanitised parts of the story that present our best angles.

I would have loved nothing more than to have you all believe that I was the perfect, attached parent, home birthing hippy mama,  with free range, happy home educated children, fermenting goods in her kitchen, organic produce in her yard and a flock of chickens with names like “Mariposa” and “Eva”.

I had all of those things, it’s true. There was  even a pear tree. No partridge though.

I also struggled daily with post partum depression.

With hindsight, I can see all of the signs. I can see in my post partum midwife visits, the beginnings of the creeping darkness that would soon drag me under. I could see the vague cries for help, that if ONLY I had made clearer, more succinct, I would have had accessed mental health care earlier.

I can see the ridiculously high expectations I  had set for myself, and the slow cracks that began to appear in my personal relationships eroded, expanded, and grew.

If I’m really honest, those cracks had appeared much earlier on, and had widened into deep, black, echoing chasms by the time Finn had arrived. But like many mothers struggling with post partum depression, I didn’t want to admit that my perfect babies, my perfect life, my perfect happily forever after was anything but happy.

 

I didn’t want to admit that my perfect babies, my perfect life, my perfect happily forever after was anything but happy.

The recovery from Finn’s birth was challenging. I had pain, so much pain, and because I was struggling so much, I was isolated from my family and most of my original support network.

I felt that I was a burden to the people closest to me, and hated asking for help  -but then found myself in such dire straits that my requests for help came in screaming gasps. I reached out sporadically to friends to help me with the symptoms, not the cause. Please help me clean my house, repair my washing line, fold my clothes.. practical help, but not what I needed.

Descending into the chasm

My depression manifested with anxiety and panic attacks, meltdowns and violent episodes. I occasionally heard voices, and panicked that people were coming to take my babies away.

On a few occasions, I reached out for help then quickly withdrew my request. I wish with all my heart that the people who loved me had seen the reality, and insisted I was hospitalised – but sadly. like many mothers, I could put on a reasonably convincing “I’ll be okay” face.

There are a few times that stand out for me that I really should have accepted help:

The time I banged my head against the wall until the blood ran thick down my face…

The time I ripped handfuls of hair from my scalp until it bled, and never grew back…

The time my husband had to stop me from hanging myself…

The time I found out I was pregnant again, with a tiny infant baby and already drowning in the fog of new motherhood, and chose to terminate the pregnancy choosing my life over theirs. (I’m sorry. I’m so sorry tiny life. I don’t regret my decision, but I never forget you)

(I’m sorry. I’m so sorry tiny life. I don’t regret my decision, but I never forget you)

Failing at motherhood

There’s a stigma around post partum depression and we don’t fucking talk about it. I wanted the Johnson and Johnson life. The smiling, cuddling, clean babies with gorgeous clothes (ironed, thank you) and planned activities. No-one ever presents a remotely realistic picture of motherhood, and it’s hard when you fail so spectacularly to be the ideal mother.

I achieved ANYTHING but the Johnson & Johnson’s image.

I wasn’t smiling, or cuddly (I think I cuddled the boys, I hope with all of my heart that I gave them enough cuddles)

There weren’t angelic cherubs or peaceful cups of  tea sat in sunlight streamed windows.

There was a darkness that encompassed everything.  A cliff edge that I tried to negotiate daily, hoping desperately not to fall down.

I wasn’t smiling, or cuddly (I think I cuddled the boys, I hope with all of my heart that I gave them enough cuddles)

There weren’t angelic cherubs or peaceful cups of  tea sat in sunlight streamed windows.

There was a darkness that encompassed everything.  A cliff edge that I tried to negotiate daily, hoping desperately not to fall down.

And I kept falling. Over and over, day by day, I’d set out with the intentions of coping and then I’d tumble into shouting, screaming, hurting myself meltdowns, wishing that I could just close my eyes, and never have them open because it was just all too much.

The thing about post partum depression is that there IS hope and help available. But it’s hard admitting that you’re failing (interesting word, failing) and not okay. Mothers are held to such high account in our society. We cannot ever appear to fail.

I admitted to my midwife that I thought I had post natal depression – I even asked for forms to go to the mother and baby unit.

What I didn’t tell her was the suicide attempts, the self harm, the raging, painful meltdowns.. I told her that I didn’t think I was okay.

I did the same with my doctor. I told her I was struggling, but all mothers do, right?!  (There was no Edinburgh form filled out, they took me at face value)

My community nurse was more interested in my ability to breastfeed, than whether or not I was coping. (Fourth baby, thank you. I’ve got this down, now get out of my house so I can nap)

My friends tried and cared, but eventually I managed to push them away too.

I broke.

Spectacularly. Horrifyingly. Entirely.

The beginning of healing

My story is one with a happier ending. And it happened mostly by chance. One day, the fog felt less, and I began to access care.

I sought counselling. I began the process of seeking medication (in my misguided view, the best option for me was a naturopath… but it was SOMETHING, I wish I’d sought real medical care, and expedited my healing.) and I started to realise that I could get through the day one minute at a time.

I started to take the kids to the park.

I started to run.

And my life began to feel lighter, day by day.

My marriage began to heal. My relationship with friends and family began to heal. I reinvented myself, changed my name, moved interstate and began a dramatic new life with a huge focus on my own healing and well being.

I sought a mental health care plan and began learning more about post partum mental illness.  I exercised more, I took care of my body and brain, I ate nutritious food, regularly.

I connected with new friends and began building a network, drawing people back into my life and letting them back into my world.

And now I feel whole again. I still dance along the cliff, but I’m less scared of tumbling into the chasm. It’s always there like a faithful companion, dark, sometimes alluring, but ever present.  But if I look ahead, there are trees, adventures and blue skies.

And now I feel whole again. I still dance along the cliff, but I’m less scared of tumbling into the chasm. It’s always there like a faithful companion, dark, sometimes alluring, but ever present.  But if I look ahead, there are trees, adventures and blue skies.

 

Resources:

If you think you’re sinking and not swimming, or just want some resources to help you cope – check out  www.cope.org.au

Lifeline has counsellors available around the clock on 13 11 14 https://www.lifeline.org.au/

You are important, you are worth it, you are loved.

Birth Stories, Fertility, Pregnancy & Birth

Birth Stories: Oliver’s Arrival

On coolish February day Oliver was born.

Various versions of this story have appeared on the web and in books since 2009, and it’s finally come home to roost in Polkadotsi, with it’s mother.

My labour started in the wee hours of the morning (1am) when I could no longer ignore the fact I was having more than just niggles in my tummy. I spent a couple of hours, pacing around, trying to sleep, and getting in the bath to ease of the pain a bit.

At around 2.30am  I felt I needed a bit more support, so I woke up my husband, and he called our doula, Lisa. By the time Lisa arrived, with each contraction, I was bent over our dresser, wiggling my hips, and trying to remember to breathe slowly. Her presence was so calming, and all of a sudden, I felt ready to relax into the labour, and just accept it as it came.

There is something soothing about warm hands on your back and shoulders, as your body prepares to work hard.

Adam, my husband had been in the living room re-pumping up the birth pool, as it had deflated over the weeks we’d preemptively had it up. Lisa suggested we went for a walk, so in the chill of 3.30am, perhaps the one cold night in February, Adam and I went for a walk around the block. I moved through the contractions, by clinging to Adam, and breathing deeply into his shoulder. We came home pretty quickly because it was so chilly, and I couldn’t stop shivering!

I spent the next couple of hours, leaning over the couch, while Lisa and Adam rubbed my back and grounded my breathing.

The contractions started to amp up a bit, and we decided it was time to call our community midwife, At this stage, I was resting on a fitball, with warm towels, and getting up and squat-bouncing through contractions. The whole scene reminded me of a dog walking while it pooped,

I tried this for as long as I could, determined to stay upright for as long as I could until I couldn’t bear it any longer. Lisa suggested I hop into the pool, and aaaahhhhhhhhhhh warm water and bliss.

The contractions were nice and strong by then, and I wiggled, and bounced my way through them, breathing, as best as I could. Holding onto Adam and Lisa’s hands. I was feeling edgy by this stage, and scared that I wasn’t making progress. But the reassurance of my beautiful husband and doula kept me grounded.

Our student midwife arrived, and snuck in to chair mid-contraction I barely noticed her presence. And shortly after that, our wonderful midwife arrived.

The contractions began to take my full attention, and I grunted, groaned, mooed, and generally made a lot of noise through them. I discovered how much I adore chomping on frozen ribenas, and in between contractions munched on them.

Fast forward a few hours more (mightn’t have been, I didn’t have clocks, and had asked not to be told) Just as I was about to give up, thinking it was all too hard!! My lovely midwife told me to reach down and birth my baby.

Sure enough, I reached down, and to my delight, was Ollie, not far from being born! The next few contractions brought on the overwhelming need to push, and the strongest sensations I’ve ever felt. It was agony, but for a purpose, and all of a sudden it felt so close!

What seemed like a lifetime later, the final push arrived, and my little son slid into the world, I turned around, and saw his beautiful eyes open in the water, and scooped him up into my arms.

In that moment, I re-fell in love with my husband, and our first son, and have discovered a whole new capacity to love my new Ollie

We snuggled up with each other in the lovely warm pool and waited for his cord to stop pulsing.

We clamped his cord and Ollie snuggled with his Daddy while I had a shower, and had a few grazes stitched by my midwives.

There are a million moments in my birth, that I keep reflecting on, and recollecting how blessed and privileged I was to be able to have such a wonderful experience.

I was surrounded by empowering, and supportive people, who believed in me. My beautiful husband was just a pillar of strength and encouragement. And I discovered a side of myself that I had always hoped had existed, but now I know for sure.

Education, Fertility, Pregnancy & Birth

We Need To Talk About Prolapse

We need to talk about prolapse!

Sometimes the weakening of our pelvic floor during and after pregnancy  is enough to cause a prolapse, which is when the internal organs fall through the connective tissue of your pelvic floor. This can be a bladder prolapse, a rectal prolapse, a uterine prolapse, or an intestinal prolapse.

Prolapse can also be caused by menopause, pelvic surgery, pressure in the abdomen (like a bad bout of coughing) and even congenital weakness.

Symptoms of a prolapse include:

  • A dragging sensation or feeling that something is falling down, or feeling like something is falling out,
  • A heavy or aching vagina or pelvic region,
  • Lump or bulge in the vagina or vaginal entrance,
  • Stress incontinence, or feeling like you can’t quite empty your bladder,
  • Feeling like you can’t quite empty your bowel,
  • Dull backache,
  • Pain or a feeling of obstruction during sex

If you’re feeling a feeling of heaviness, or that your insides are coming outside – it’s essential to get your pelvis checked by your OBGYN and or a pelvic health physiotherapist. Prolapse isn’t a life sentence, and there is plenty that can be done to improve your symptoms.

Treatment For Prolapse

Treatment for your prolapse can include physical therapy, overseen by a pelvic health physiotherapist.

Your doctor might also recommend lifestyle changes, like a new approach to your fitness, perhaps weight loss. Women with prolapse need to exercise differently, and may find their symptoms improve if they reduce the pressure on the pelvic region.

Other treatments might include supporting the vaginal wall with a pessary, or surgery.

Some really useful websites for women are:

Women Health

The Continence Foundation

Better Health Victoria

Pregnancy Sex
Education, Fertility, Pregnancy & Birth, Sex Ed, Your Body

We Need To Talk About Sex During Pregnancy

Sex in the first trimester Is It Safe?

As a sexologist I’m very often asked about the safety of having sex during pregnancy – well here’s the good news – doing the nasty when you’ve got a bun in the oven is not only hot, it’s perfectly safe.  If you feel well and sexy – it’s a jolly good idea to have a roll in the hay.

Penetrative sex and orgasm during the first trimester are not linked to miscarriage or vaginal infections. Indeed, in a low risk, uncomplicated pregnancy getting juicy will actually reduce the risk of miscarriage and premature birth, by decreasing stress and enhancing emotional well being.

Often you and your partner(s) will worry that the baby will be harmed whilst you bump and grind – but don’t worry your unborn babe is well cushioned by the amniotic sac and the strong uterine muscles.  A penis (even one of porn star proportions – you lucky lady you!) or toy  will not penetrate deep enough to get past the muscles of the cervix, which is sealed up with a thick, mucous plug to keep out any nasties.

Changes to Your Mojo

However, it is important to be aware that during pregnancy there may be wide variations in you and your partner(s) sexual arousal, desire and response. For some pregnant women desire and intimacy may be affected in the first trimester by body image concerns, nausea, fatigue, urgency to urinate, anxiety and hormonal fluctuations.  For others these hormonal changes and lack of concerns about contraception can make them randier than a jack rabbit in a barrel full of jellied eels.

Follen Swanny and Tender Tits

There can be physiological changes that occur during pregnancy that may have you begging for more or closing the bedroom door. For instance, during pregnancy sex can cause genital engorgement (the classic Two Ronnies’ follen swanny), where you may experience heightened sensations that have you screaming YES!YES!YES! at the slightest touch of your sensitive clitoris or screaming NO!NO!NO! if anyone so much as breaths on it.  Not only can your clitoris become more sensitive, but so can your  breasts and nipples – and you partner(s) may tread a fine (and dangerous) line between  pleasure and pain.

Horny Hormones

Bonding, sexual pleasure and orgasm will also release hormones (prostaglandins and oxytocins) that can cause abdominal tightenings or hardenings of the uterus, which although perfectly normal can be a cause of concern for some. However, this is a perfectly normal response and these hormones can be both good for you and your baby – you’ll all be feeling the luuurvve.

Communicate, Communicate and Communicate

However, it’s very important  to listen to your body  – communicate and be open and honest with your partner(s) at this time. It may be that you control penetration and depth/vigour of thrusting or try new positions that are more comfortable, such as lying sideways, being positioned on the edge of the bed with your partner between your legs, spooning, sitting on their lap or being on top. Non-penetrative sex or ‘outercourse‘ may be more suitable or pleasurable at this time (foreplay, oral sex and masturbation). And don’t forget there are so many other ways to be intimate – ‘togetherness’ and mutual reassurance can be maintained through time spent together, cuddling, massage, a relaxing bath or shower, a shared walk, meal or movie night together.

You partner(s) va-va voom may also not be firing up for them during pregnancy if they are fearful of hurting you or the baby, worried about your health or that of the unborn’s, apprehensive about parenthood and its financial burdens or even self-conscious about getting down and dirty in the presence of the bump.  It’s just as important at this time for them to communicate their needs, desires and wants about intimacy.

Bans on Bonking

Obviously, there are times when doing the two-backed beast may not be recommended. Here are a few:

  • If your partner(s) has an active genital herpes lesion
  • If you have a low lying placenta or the placenta is partially/fully covering the cervix (placenta previa)
  • If you have a cervical dysfunction , weakness or it is opening prematurely
  • If you have a history of premature/pre-term labour
  • If you are experiencing unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • If you are experiencing moderate/ severe abdominal cramping
  • If you have a history of miscarriage and having sex would cause you distress or worry
  • If you are carrying multiple babies and have been advised against sex by your caregiver
  • If your waters (amniotic fluid) are leaking or have broken

 

Safer Sex – And Some Thoughts on Anal and Oral

Even when pregnant there are times when condoms/dental dams should still be used:

  • If your partner(s) have an STI (especially herpes)
  • If you are not in a mutually monogamous relationship
  • If you have a new partner and do not know their STI status
  • If you have a vaginal infection (e.g. thrush)Care should also be taken when engaging in oral sex in that there should be no blowing in the vagina during pregnancy (but seriously who does that?! – no judgement, but you may want to perfect your techniques).

There should also be an awareness of the attending risks that come with anal sex – just like at any other time a penis/toy/fingers should not be placed into the anus and then into the vagina as this may cause a vaginal infection. Also during pregnancy some women are prone to developing haemorrhoids, which can be painful, bleed or rupture during anal penetration- so you may want to abstain from engaging in ‘up the bum’ fun during this time.

 

 

Image credit: Mitrofan

Trampoline worthy pelvic floor
Featured, Fertility, Pregnancy & Birth, Orgasms, Your Body

Kick It With The Kegels: Better Orgasms With A Toned Up Pelvic Floor

So you’ve been scratching your head for months now, wondering just what the @#7*! is this ‘core’ that your hot, bouncy Pilates instructor has been enthusing about …so buckle up kids and let’s find out a little bit more about the pelvic floor! Your pelvic floor (PF) is the group of muscles that supports your spine, bladder and bowel and, for women, it also holds in some important lady bits, like the uterus (womb). That’s right; both men and women have a big, fat PF. Awesome!

But, what’s even more awesome about your PF, is that if you spend time maintaining and developing that area, not only is it important to your body alignment , ‘structural integrity’ (captain) and ability to hold your wee,  but it can also lead to some mind blowing orgasms! Now we’re talking.

A good PF can boost sexual sensations, improve men’s erectile function (help you get it up and keep it up) and give you greater orgasmic control, potential and strength.  Wow!

So, now I have your attention, what’s the key to a PF as taut and supple as that trampoline that post-natal mums eye off so nervously??

It’s simple. Get your Kegels on and boost that booty!

Kick It With The Kegels

You’ve probably heard of Kegels or pelvic floor exercises, but are unsure about how to do them.  Here’s a simple how-to:

1)      Find your PF muscles.

This is easy and you should only need to do it the once. Go for a wee and stop your pee mid- flow.  Ta-da! You’ve just used your PF muscles.

(Don’t make a habit of using your PF muscles to stop your wee though, as this can weaken you PF and even cause infections)

2)      Now squeeze. And hold. Then reeelease.

Squeeze those PF muscles you’ve just identified, hold them and then release. Make sure you release all the way. Oh and breeeeatthhheeee.

3)      Repeat.

If you’re still unsure go and see a physiotherapist and they will help you to identify and exercise those pesky PF’s in no time at all.

There are also all sorts of devices that can help out too.

Boost Your Booty

If you’re going to work on the pelvic floor you are also going to have to work on your butt! And who doesn’t love a pert behind?  Strong glutes (butt muscles) will stretch the PF from a dilapidated hammock to a springy-sproingy trampoline of luuurrrveee.

Here’s how:

1)      Squat.

The squat is just about the most natural way to plump those pillows. Just check out any toddler and watch them get down to it, voila, there you have it – the most prefect squat position. No need for any fancy pants gym equipment or weights.  And as an added sexy bonus, squatting opens up the hips and groin too – awesome for that weekend Karma Sutra ‘sesh’ of spine-tingling, pretzel-like sex positions you’ve got planned!

2)      Stair climbing.

Skip the lift and take the stairs..and boost your bedroom bliss!

3)      Walk.

Walk tall and walk proud, you’re working your way towards that stronger, harder butt and orgasm.

 

Need more specific help? Check out our article “How To Activate Your Pelvic Floor Properly” 

When Sex Hurts
Featured, Fertility, Pregnancy & Birth, Your Body

Does Sex Hurt? When You Should Consult A Doctor

Fire In Your Loins

Hopefully when we talk about the fire in our loins we are referring to the heat of our sexual fervour. But for some the flames of desire are being dampened by a burning that has nothing to do with smouldering passions.

The fire in your loins can become something very different to the heat of sexual passion.

Vaginal pain (Colpalgia) or vulval pain (Vulvodynia) can lead to some unpleasant bedroom experiences, such as the “Jesus, hell fire, where do you think you are going with that ?!!” type of  painful penetrative intercourse (Dyspareunia).  The pain can be caused by penile/finger/toy entry into the opening of the vagina or ‘deep’ thrusting during intercourse. It can be an aching, burning, stinging or throbbing sensation.

Suffering In Silence

 Unfortunately it’s very difficult to estimate the prevalence of dyspareunia within the general population because most women that experience it do not report it; they literally grin and bare it (a.k.a.  The ‘lay back and think of England’ approach) or simply abstain from any of ‘that sort of thing’. But what we do know is that for the 10-20% of women that do experience pain in the vajayjay, it can have a devastating impact upon their relationships and quality of life. Nobody likes it when our beaver is bothered.

Why Your Foo-Foo May No Longer Be Your Friend

There is usually an underlying medical condition for vulval or vaginal pain and it may even be associated with psychological issues (depression, issues with sexual identity or previous trauma). However, just to be clear I’m going to flagrantly capitalise – POONANI PAIN IS NOT ALL IN YOUR HEAD!!!!

There are many reasons that your foo-foo may not be feeling too jiggy:

  • Insufficient lube

When the love juices aren’t flowing, or haven’t had enough time to get going, then pain can be created during intercourse.

Vaginal dryness can also be caused by certain medications, such as anti-depressants, anti-histamines, high blood pressure medications, sedatives and some birth control pills.

Vaginal atrophy (when your vaginal walls thin and become inflamed because of low oestrogen in your body) is another cause of your chuff experiencing desert like aridity. This can occur during menopause or when breastfeeding. Also unlike its name suggests,  vaginal atrophy does not mean the old girl has packed her bags and is leaving for good, there is still light at the end for this tunnel.

  • Vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina), which is caused by an irritation or infection. The common symptoms of Vaginitis are vaginal discharge, itching, redness, swelling and pain.

Your lady bits are sensitive little beasts and they may become inflamed or react to antibiotics or other medications, scented ‘hygiene’ or menstrual products, tight clothing, condoms, spermicides, lubricants or even semen. Yep, she’s that fussy – and why shouldn’t she be??

Anyone that encourages you to douche your little flower with natural flora and fauna napalming, pH unbalancing chemicals and perfumes is, well, a douche.  Treat your beast with care.

Infections such as vaginal candidiasis (a yeast infection, commonly called ‘thrush’), Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) and trichomoniasis (‘Trich’) can also be the cause of vaginitis.

  • Hormonal changes

As mentioned before our poonanis are pretty delicate flowers – hormonal imbalances or changes (e.g. during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, postpartum, breastfeeding, menopause – jeez pretty much every life cycle milestone) can lead to sensitivity.

  • Previous trauma or surgery

Nerve damage can occur during various activities where our beaver may have taken a bit of a bashing, such as cycling, horse-riding, aggressive or rough penetrative intercourse or during childbirth.  Genital surgery can also be the cause of chronic or recurrent pain.

A previous history of sexual abuse may have its physical and psychological aftermath for the survivor.  It’s important to recognise that a sexual problem is often more than just examining the physical body part. We are more than a sum of body parts. In order to get to the root of vulval pain we may have to look at the body, its parts and the feelings and emotions connected to them.

  • Abnormal growths or cysts

How Your Honey Pot Can Heal

Sexual pain can impact upon your current relationship or prevent you from engaging in a new one – it can have detrimental effects upon our sense of self, how we feel about our body and sexuality and even our self-esteem and confidence.

In some cases dyspareunia can lead to vaginismus, where the body and subconscious mind anticipates pain and will tighten the pelvic floor or cause muscular spasms to resist intercourse.  So doing something about your poonani pain can be very important, before further issues arise.

We all deserve to have a rich and pleasurable sexual life, so if we choose to engage in penetrative sex, with our partner (s), ourselves or our toys there are treatments that can help manage the pain.

Self-help

  • Engage in plenty of foreplay and outercourse
  • Ensure you are at a high level of personal arousal before engaging in penetrative intercourse
  • Try ladies-on-top positions and guide in any fingers, toys or penises
  • Communicate with your lover(s) about your level of comfort
  • Use plenty of an organic, water-based personal lubricant and moisturiser when engaging in some love play (e.g. Yes!)
  • Rinse the area in cool water, particularly after urination or sex
  • Soak in a bath
  • Apply icepacks wrapped in towels, cool compresses or use heat pads (just not too hot!!)
  • Use unscented tissues and body products
  • Wear organic bamboo or cotton underwear
  • Avoid tight fitting clothes or underwear
  • Avoid pools/tubs or spas with heavily chlorinated water
  • Keep your vulvar clean and dry (i.e. when wiping after the toilet wipe from front to back)
  • Maintain a healthy diet and keep your gut happy with plenty of pre and probiotics

Professional  Poonani Pampering

Seeking help from a range of professionals (gynaecologists, physiotherapists, sexual health professional and sex therapists) can be very beneficial and your twinkle with thank you.

Counselling and sex therapy will incorporate assessment, education, goal setting, and relaxation techniques, identify underlying personal or relationship issues and offer you the necessary tools to resolve these issues. They may give you homework exercises too so that you can hone your skills in the privacy of your own home.

 – Physiotherapists specialised in women’s sexual health can perform a full examination, including musculoskeletal, vulval and pelvic floor examinations. They can offer therapy that is both hands on (e.g. trigger point massage in the pelvic area and transvaginally or using biofeedback) and educational (e.g. teaching you to engage and relax your pelvic muscles).

– Health care professionals (GP’s, gynaecologists, and sexual health practitioners) can rule out any underlying infections or health issues. They can also prescribe medications such as anti-fungals, local anaesthetics, oestrogen creams, antidepressants or nerve blockers. They even may refer you to a surgeon if a more radical approach as a last resort is required.

Alternative health care professionals (acupuncturist, naturopath) can offer treatment or advice that compliments more traditional approaches.

Image credit: © Sergey Nivens – Fotolia.com

Featured, Fertility, Pregnancy & Birth, Relationships

Enjoying Your Sexuality While Breastfeeding

Your relationship with your breasts while breastfeeding is likely to have radically changed; previously there just for your entertainment and to make your clothes fit. Well, now they are working girls with a new agenda.

A breastfeeding mother may experience all or some of the following: leaking, pain, feeling over exposed and touched out, have an overflowing bra before a feed and look like a day old balloon after, but most of all, a new found reverence and appreciation for your breasts.

You are feeding and bonding with your child using your breasts; creating a closeness that is not easily matched in any other human interaction.

We should probably talk about your boobs

In the early days, your breasts may be a no-go zone during sex. They also may like to join in with a little spraying action once the oxytocin starts flowing. As a fan of ejaculate play, I thought that it was great to be on the other side of the equation.

Plus, its hilarious. The most important thing to know is it’s normal. Feeling sexual about your breasts while breastfeeding may be difficult for some mothers. I have found that treating my breasts like my vulva has helped; instead of being part of the foreplay, a no touchy policy until I am really tuned on has reintroduced me to the pleasures of boob play.

They always know!

Why is it that your breastfed cherub can be deep into the land of slumber and normally sleep through the neighbour’s leaf blower, but the slightest nookie noise and they are wide awake? Is it some kind of inbuilt sibling prevention system? I am sorry, I don’t have a solution for this one, just commiserations.

Sneaking Around Like a Horny Teenager?

So you may be having sex with a sock in your mouth, but that doesn’t mean you have to also be in the back of the car, unless a role play of a time with less responsibilities is helping you get in the mood. Often a couple will lose their shared sleeping/sex space to their frequently waking boobie monster on a permanent or part-time basis.

If possible, making a space that the kids can’t go, that is reasonably tidy and has your sex tools close at hand, can make getting your jiggy on that a bit easier during a typically sex-starved time.

My Grandma’s sewing machine inside the play pen brings to mind a possible solution. You really haven’t lived until you have opened your bleary eyes to your toddler painting the wall with your lube left out from the night before.

Coping with a Lower Sex Drive

Lower sex drive during breastfeeding is a biological reality for many women and one of the reasons it’s so important for couples to have a great sex life with themselves. Partner assisted masturbation is a wonderful option while your sex drive is on holiday. If your sex drive is still low after a year or two of breastfeeding, it may be worthwhile checking out the other factors that contribute to a low libido with a health professional.

Estrogen Wherefore Art Thou?

Breastfeeding suppresses estrogen production, which can result in vaginal dryness and irregular ovulation, even if you are regularly menstruating. While most women can deal with this with liberal use of a good lubricant and diligent foreplay, for some breastfeeding mothers low-estrogen can have a more serious impact.

Experiencing pain, bleeding after sex, tightness and irritation may be an indication of vaginal atrophy. Atrophic vaginitis, is the thinning, drying, and tightening of the vulva caused by low-estrogen and reduced blood flow to the vulva (read: not enough sex).

It can become a vicious cycle of painful sex leading to less sex which results in further atrophy. Many health professionals will not consider this diagnosis for women decades away from menopause despite it being a common condition for breastfeeding women.

It is important to be persistent with your provider if they keep fobbing you off with “use more lube” when you have already tried the entire selection at your local sex shop and you still have an unhappy vagina. This is a treatable condition with topical estrogen and more sex. That’s right, more orgasms is just what the doctor ordered.

Featured, Fertility, Pregnancy & Birth, Safer Sex

We Need to Talk About HIV

Though education and public discussion about HIV and AIDS has increased, recent research has shown that not all of us are heeding the warnings when it comes to practicing safe sex.

Kirby Institute’s 2013 Annual Surveillance Report on HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmittable infections in Australia highlights the fact that the rate of newly diagnosed HIV infections in Australia rose by 10 percent in 12 months. This was the largest increase in 20 years.

The report, which is compiled annually with the assistance of organisations such as the Australasian Society for HIV Medicine and the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, revealed two important, and perhaps surprising statistics:

  • A total of 1253 cases of HIV infection was newly diagnosed in Australia in 2012: a 10% increase over the number in 2011. The annual number of new HIV diagnoses has gradually increased over the past 13 years, from 724 diagnoses in 1999.
  • An estimated 25,708 people were living with diagnosed HIV infection in Australia at the end of 2012.

Though some people confused HIV and AIDS and think of them interchangeably, they are not the same thing. HIV is a virus that causes AIDS. A person living with HIV does not necessarily have AIDS, but all people with AIDS are HIV positive.

What is HIV?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus – commonly known as HIV – weakens or breaks down the body’s immune system, and makes the body vulnerable to disease and infection. While some people who infected with HIV experience flu-like symptoms, others may not notice any symptoms for many years.

HIV can be transmitted via blood, semen and vaginal fluid during unprotected vaginal, anal and oral sex, or when sharing needles. HIV positive mothers can transmit the virus to their babies during pregnancy, vaginal delivery and when breast-feeding.

HIV it is not spread like air-borne viruses like the flu, and it can’t be transmitted by hugging, shaking hands, coughing, sneezing, sharing toilets, or using eating utensils or consuming food and beverages handled by someone who has HIV.

What is AIDS?

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome – commonly known as AIDS – can occur after many years of damage to the immune system caused by HIV. This damage makes the body vulnerable to disease and infection, and during the advanced stages of HIV infection, a person may develop a number of ‘AIDS-defining illnesses’ which can be debilitating and in many cases lead to death.

Protecting Yourself Against HIV

It can take just one unprotected sexual encounter with an infected partner to contract HIV. When used correctly, condoms are the best protection against the transmission of HIV, and the use of water-based lubricant is encouraged to ensure condoms don’t break during sex.

If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, it’s important to seek medical advice as soon as possible. A course of anti-retroviral drugs may prevent HIV infection from becoming established, though these drugs are not 100 percent effective, and must be taken within three days of exposure to the virus.

HIV Testing

A blood test is the only way to diagnose HIV. There are many resources and support networks in Australia for people living with HIV, including the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, which offers articles on treatments and living with HIV.

Protect yourself. Read out recent post, How to Protect Yourself Against STIs.

Featured, Fertility, Pregnancy & Birth, Safer Sex

Happy Condom Awareness Month

February is National Condom Month in the USA. The awareness initiative originally started on campus at the University of California, but has grown into a national month-long event, focusing on educating teens, young adults – and even mature adults – about the risks associated with unprotected sex, and the benefits of using condoms.

When used correctly, condoms are considered 98% effective at preventing pregnancy, and are the only contraceptive method that provides STI protection. They’re also inexpensive, easy to access, and highly effective, so we wanted to dedicate this post to everyone’s best foil-packaged little friend.

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Condom Facts

Condoms have been around for thousands of years. In fact, the earliest known depiction of a man using a condom is a 12-thousand year old cave wall painting in France.

Condoms have come a long way. In the early 1800s they were made from vulcanized rubber, were designed to be washed a reused, and had to be fitted by a doctor. Today they come in a range of brands, sizes, textures and colors.

Latex condoms form an impermeable barrier to sperm and STI pathogens.

Condoms provide different levels of risk reduction for different STIs, but condoms are the most effective means of preventing STIs spread through bodily fluids, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV.

Condoms can reduce the risk of contracting STIs spread via skin-to-skin contact, such as herpes, but only if the sores are covered by the condom.

Condom use has been shown to reduce the risk of HPV (human papillomavirus) related health issues such as genital warts, cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer.

In 2003, the Guilin Latex Company made the world’s largest condom – 260 feet tall and 330 feet around.

Condom Dos

  • Keep your condoms in a cool, dry place to prevent them from deteriorating
  • Check the expiration date on your condoms before you use them. Expired condoms can become dry, which can cause them to split or break more easily.
  • Open your condom packets carefully, and never use your teeth to rip open the foil, as this can tear the condom.
  • Use water-based lubricants with condoms, since oil-based lubes can cause latex condoms to break.

Want to read about female condoms? Check out The Female Condom: A Review for info and tips on use.