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The Ultimate Guide to Pregnant Sex

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By Lauren Katulka

Takeaway: The nine months of pregnancy bring with them a host of coital challenges, but with our handy guide you can enjoy good loving during any trimester.

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You’ve just received the happy news that you’re expecting and you’re feeling more connected to your partner than ever. Although those nine months of pregnancy can be a challenging time to be a woman, that doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice time between the sheets. Read on to discover the difficulties you might face during each trimester, and how you can overcome them to experience some of the best sex of your life.

First Trimester Fun

It wasn’t too long ago that you were getting down to business on a regular basis, but now that you’ve got a bun in your oven you might be thinking of sex less often. The first trimester can leave you exhausted and morning sickness can make you feel far from sexy.

Just know that you’re not alone. A waning libido is only natural as your body stops sending signals to pass on your genes. You’re also feeling the maternal urge to protect your tiny offspring. Even if the doctor assures you sex is safe, a mother’s instinct might have you second-guessing hanky-panky.

During the first trimester it’s good to remember that sex doesn’t have to mean intercourse. If you’re not feeling up to going all the way, perhaps you could rediscover the joys of outercourse or even a simple massage. Touching one another and talking about your desires can ensure you stay close to your partner through these challenging months. (Get some tips in Double the Fun! 5 Hot Tips on Self Touch for Two.)

You don’t have to take intercourse off the table though. Sex during pregnancy has plenty of perks, including better sleep and a feelings of wellbeing . Sex during these early months can also be really enjoyable, even if you don’t feel up to it from the outset. Allow yourself to be seduced with an open mind and you might be surprised how much fun you’ll have.

Steam It Up in the Second Trimester

Many women say their second trimester is their favorite part of pregnancy. The fatigue and morning sickness are gone and your libido has returned. Your genitals will also be constantly engorged and lubrication is increased. These changes can make you feel more open to sex and can maximize your enjoyment.

Your changing body can be a bit of a stumbling block though. A baby bump and the extra curves that come with it may take some getting used to, but it’s important to take pride in these changes. Your awesome body is building a baby! (Get some tips on body confidence in 6 Steps That’ll Help You Love Love Love Your Naked Self.)

Urinary tract infections can also curb your sexual activities for a while. Pregnant women are more likely to contract these painful problems, and they can have nasty implications for pregnancy and your sex life. Don’t ignore painful urination or cramps; see a doctor as soon as you notice these symptoms. An untreated UTI can bring on early labor, so it’s crucial that you act quickly.

Connect in the Third Trimester 002

We hope you enjoyed your second trimester, because the third might be tough. That cute little baby bump has grown so large many women find that it feels impossible to get comfortable. And your estrogen and progesterone levels are at their highest.

This is the perfect time to remember the tactics you used to get through your first trimester. You might not always feel like intercourse, but sex can take many forms. Communicate about how you’re feeling so that you can stay close to your partner, even if you aren’t getting as close physically.

Oh, and with that big bump in the way, it can be difficult to get as close as you might like. Sex might seem daunting, but there are ways to work around your new body shape. Women on top and rear entry positions are ideal. See our article on safe, sizzling sex positions for pregnant women for enough inspiration to spice up this final trimester.

Your bump is also a real reminder that baby is on board, and men can struggle with this. However, doctors insist that no matter how hung your man is, his penis can’t possibly go through the cervix, amniotic sac and placenta. In simple terms, sex is totally safe for the little one (and good for you). For normal pregnancies, sex also won’t cause miscarriages or preterm labor.

And Another Thing

While sex is safe for most pregnant women, those with high-risk pregnancies should exercise caution and consult their doctor if they have any concerns. More important than sex itself is the intimacy this act can foster between new moms and dads. If you can get steamy during this time, go for it. If not, make sure you talk about your feelings and remember to show your affection in other ways. This will help couples deepen their connection with each other before the new addition to the family.

Complete Article HERE!

My Complicated Relationship With Religion and Sex

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Religion and Sex

Religion and sex have been intertwined for thousands of years. Religion often inspires guilt about sex. That guilt needs to go away.

I was raised Christian, which involved Catholic school, Baptist church and consecutive nights at Bible study. The recurring message throughout all of the teachings was that sex is wrong, wrong, wrong – unless you’re married.

When I’ve written before about the complicated relationship I have with religion and sex, people have messaged me that it’s possible to be religious and fuck. While I’m sure this is true, and there are absolutely liberal churches out there, where I was raised the rules were staunch on this: you don’t have sex until you’re married. Full stop.

Letting Go of My Guilt

I’m an atheist now, for a variety of reasons, and I’ve been working to let go of the guilt I’ve attached to sex for as long as I can remember. The guilt was a combination of my own sensitivity (I’ve always taken things to heart), and the teachings that spanned my school education and social activities. Having dated several committed Christians as a teenager, none of whom believed in sex before marriage, I’d become accustomed to not fucking. I wasn’t one of those “anything but” religious types, either. Sure, I’d engaged in plenty of dry humping, fully clothed, but I was beyond sexually frustrated well into my 20s. When my lon- term boyfriend decided that even making out was sinful, I started to wonder if this was the kind of relationship I even wanted to be in anymore.

More Than Just Teaching Abstinence

Abstaining from sex wasn’t the only thing that religion taught me about sex. Time and again in Bible study and Youth Group, the leaders got majorly specific about what was OK and what wasn’t OK. For instance, one workshop I went to in college told everyone that men could masturbate because they needed the physical release, but that women should abstain altogether. As a massive feminist, this should’ve been the only wake-up call I needed that perhaps religion was not for me, but it was years before I gradually moved away from religion and the rules that went with it. The fact is, letting go of rules that have been programmed into us from an early age can be incredibly difficult. (Read more about the author in How I Became a Sex Positive Feminist.) Friends of mine balked and broke the church rules time and again. When one got pregnant at 16, her family decided in conversation with the church that the solution was simple: she’d get married. Once she was married, she was instantly absolved of the perceived sin that had occurred. Despite the rules, people have sex. They just get shamed for doing it. (Read more in The Worst Analogy for Premarital Sex Ever.)

The Rules Totally Affected My Life

In hindsight, abiding by the rules of the church was no mean feat, and completely fucked my head up. Telling my body to deny itself, and constantly being denied the physical affection I so craved, gave me a bit of a complex about relationships. That being said, I respect anyone whose decision it is to not have sex for whatever reason. It’s all down to personal choice and being respectful of your partner’s wishes. Because religion is often an inflexible set of rules, personal wishes get lost, and this can be problematic. I didn’t have sex until I was 24. I’d previously been in situations where it was offered, but it took me a long time to untie myself from the associated guilt. Even when I stopped going to church and chose to start moving in a new direction, my old habits stuck. It was difficult to shake the thoughts, feelings, and teachings that I’d held for 20 years. It was important for me to reclaim sex for myself and separate it from the shame that so often gets applied to it by religion. Religion has a lot to say about sex. It dictates when, how, with whom, and, to some degree, how often people should have sex. As a feminist, I couldn’t live this way anymore. And I absolutely couldn’t stand the sexist doctrine that set different rules for men and women. I’m pro-masturbation, and don’t think that it should ever be separated out by gender. Repression shouldn’t rest more heavily on women, and any doctrine that says it should isn’t one I can abide by.

Breaking Free From Religious Guilt

There are some religious and spiritual traditions that have a more positive view of sexuality. In fact, in a number of cultures the moment of orgasm has been described as a transcendental experience in which one is momentarily elevated to a divine level of awareness. Instead of designating sex to an off-limits area, only talking about it in conjunction with sin or marriage, and refusing to recognize that it’s a natural and enjoyable part of life, we should celebrate it.

I don’t want outsiders dictating who I can sleep with. I’m ready to discard the shame I’ve been layered in like butter. I want to peel off my guilt and make choices that feel right for me. And I want to encourage you to do the same.

Complete Article HERE!

Scents and Sensibility

“Sexual chemistry” is more than just a way of talking about heated attraction. Subtle chemical keys actually help determine who we fall for. But here comes news that our lifestyles may unwittingly undermine our natural sex appeal.

By Elizabeth Svoboda

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Psychologists Rachel Herz and Estelle Campenni were just getting to know each other, swapping stories about their lives over coffee, when Campenni confided something unexpected: She was living proof, she said, of love at first smell. “I knew I would marry my husband the minute I smelled him,” she told Herz. “I’ve always been into smell, but this was different; he really smelled good to me. His scent made me feel safe and at the same time turned on—and I’m talking about his real body smell, not cologne or soap. I’d never felt like that from a man’s smell before. We’ve been married for eight years now and have three kids, and his smell is always very sexy to me.”

Everyone knows what it’s like to be powerfully affected by a partner’s smell—witness men who bury their noses in their wives’ hair and women who can’t stop sniffing their boyfriends’ T-shirts. And couples have long testified to the ways scent-based chemistry affects their relationships. “One of the most common things women tell marriage counselors is, ‘I can’t stand his smell,'” says Herz, the author of The Scent of Desire.

Sexual attraction remains one of life’s biggest mysteries. We might say we go for partners who are tall and thin, love to cook, or have a mania for exercise, but when push comes to shove, studies show, the people we actually end up with possess few of the traits we claim to want. Some researchers think scent could be the hidden cosmological constant in the sexual universe, the missing factor that explains who we end up with. It may even explain why we feel “chemistry”—or “sparks” or “electricity”—with one person and not with another.nice boobs

Physical attraction itself may literally be based on smell. We discount the importance of scent-centric communication only because it operates on such a subtle level. “This is not something that jumps out at you, like smelling a good steak cooking on the grill,” says Randy Thornhill, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of New Mexico. “But the scent capability is there, and it’s not surprising to find smell capacity in the context of sexual behavior.” As a result, we may find ourselves drawn to the counter attendant at the local drugstore, but have no idea why—or, conversely, find ourselves put off by potential dating partners even though they seem perfect on paper.

Though we may remain partially oblivious to scent signals we’re sending and receiving, new research suggests that we not only come equipped to choose a romantic partner who smells good to us, but that this choice has profound biological implications. As we act out the complex rituals of courtship, many of them inscribed deep in our brain, scent-based cues help us zero in on optimal partners—the ones most likely to stay faithful to us and to create healthy children with us.

At first blush, the idea of scent-based attraction might seem hypothetical and ephemeral, but when we unknowingly interfere with the transmission of subtle olfactory messages operating below the level of conscious awareness, the results can be both concrete and devastating. When we disregard what our noses tell us, we can find ourselves mired in partnerships that breed sexual discontent, infertility, and even—in extreme cases—unhealthy offspring.

The Scent of Desire

When you’re turned on by your partner’s scent, taking a deep whiff of his chest or the back of her neck feels like taking a powerful drug—it’s an instant flume ride to bliss, however momentary. Research has shown that we use scent-based signaling mechanisms to suss out compatibility. Claus Wedekind, a biologist at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, created Exhibit A of this evidence by giving 44 men new T-shirts and instructing them to wear the shirts for two straight nights. To ensure that the sweat collecting on the shirts would remain “odor-neutral,” he supplied the men with scent-free soap and aftershave.

hair pullAfter the men were allowed to change, 49 women sniffed the shirts and specified which odors they found most attractive. Far more often than chance would predict, the women preferred the smell of T-shirts worn by men who were immunologically dissimilar to them. The difference lay in the sequence of more than 100 immune system genes known as the MHC, or major histocompatibility complex. These genes code for proteins that help the immune system recognize pathogens. The smell of their favorite shirts also reminded the women of their past and current boyfriends, suggesting that MHC does indeed influence women’s dating decisions in real life.

Women’s preference for MHC-distinct mates makes perfect sense from a biological point of view. Ever since ancestral times, partners whose immune systems are different have produced offspring who are more disease-resistant. With more immune genes expressed, kids are buffered against a wider variety of pathogens and toxins.

But that doesn’t mean women prefer men whose MHC genes are most different from theirs, as University of Chicago evolutionary biologist Martha McClintock found when she performed a T-shirt study similar to Wedekind’s. Women are not attracted to the smell of men with whom they had no MHC genes in common. “This might be a case where you’re protecting yourself against a mate who’s too similar or too dissimilar, but there’s a middle range where you’re OK,” McClintock says.

Women consistently outperform men in smell sensitivity tests, and they also make greater time and energy sacrifices on their children’s behalf than men do—in addition to bearing offspring, they look after them most of the time. These factors may explain why women are more discriminating in sniffing out MHC compatibility.

Men are sensitive to smell as well, but because women shoulder a greater reproductive burden, and are therefore choosier about potential mates, researchers are not surprised to find that women are also more discriminating in sniffing out MHC compatibility.

Unlike, say, blood types, MHC gene complements differ so much from one person to the next that there’s no obvious way to reliably predict who’s MHC-compatible with whom. Skin color, for instance, isn’t much help, since groups of people living in different areas of the world might happen to evolve genetic resistance to some of the same germs. “People of different ethnicities can have similar profiles, so race is not a good predictor of MHC dissimilarity,” Thornhill says.

And because people’s MHC profiles are as distinct as fingerprints—there are thousands of possible gene combinations—a potential sex partner who smells good to one woman may completely repel another. “There’s no Brad Pitt of smell,” Herz says. “Body odor is an external manifestation of the immune system, and the smells we think are attractive come from the people who are most genetically compatible with us.” Much of what we vaguely call “sexual chemistry,” she adds, is likely a direct result of this scent-based compatibility.our what?

Typically, our noses steer us in the right direction when it comes to picking a reproductively compatible partner. But what if they fail us and we wind up with a mate whose MHC profile is too similar to our own? Carol Ober, a geneticist at the University of Chicago, explored this question in her studies of members of the Hutterite religious clan, an Amish-like closed society that consists of some 40,000 members and extends through the rural Midwest. Hutterites marry only other members of their clan, so the variety in their gene pool is relatively low. Within these imposed limits, Hutterite women nevertheless manage to find partners who are MHC-distinct from them most of the time.

The few couples with a high degree of MHC similarity, however, suffered higher rates of miscarriage and experienced longer intervals between pregnancies, indicating more difficulty conceiving. Some scientists speculate that miscarriages may be the body’s way of curtailing investment in a child who isn’t likely to have a strong immune system anyway.

What’s more, among heterosexual couples, similar MHC profiles spell relational difficulty, Christine Garver-Apgar, a psychologist at the University of New Mexico, has found. “As the proportion of MHC alleles increased, women’s sexual responsiveness to their partners decreased, and their number of sex partners outside the relationship increased,” Garver-Apgar reports. The number of MHC genes couples shared corresponded directly with the likelihood that they would cheat on one another; if a man and woman had 50 percent of their MHC alleles in common, the woman had a 50 percent chance of sleeping with another man behind her partner’s back.

The Divorce Pill?

Women generally prefer the smell of men whose MHC gene complements are different from theirs, setting the stage for the best biological match. But Wedekind’s T-shirt study revealed one notable exception to this rule: women on the birth-control pill. When the pill users among his subjects sniffed the array of pre-worn T-shirts, they preferred the scent of men whose MHC profiles were similar to theirs—the opposite of their pill-free counterparts.

This dramatic reversal of smell preferences may reflect the pill’s mechanism of action: It prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg, fooling the body into thinking it’s pregnant. And since pregnancy is such a vulnerable state, it seems to activate a preference for kin, who are genetically similar to us and likely to serve as protectors. “When pregnant rodent females are exposed to strange males, they can spontaneously abort,” Herz says. “The same may be true for human females.” What’s more, some women report a deficit in sex drive when they take the pill, a possible consequence of its pregnancy-mimicking function.

The tendency to favor mates with similar MHC genes could potentially hamper the durability of pill users’ relationships in the long term. While Herz shies away from dubbing hormonal birth control “the divorce pill,” as a few media outlets have done in response to her theories, she does think the pill jumbles women’s smell preferences. “It’s like picking your cousins as marriage partners,” Herz says. “It constitutes a biological error.” As a result, explains Charles Wysocki, a psychobiologist at Florida State University, when such a couple decides to have children and the woman stops taking birth control, she may find herself less attracted to her mate for reasons she doesn’t quite understand. “On a subconscious level, her brain is realizing a mistake was made—she married the wrong guy,” he says.

“Some couples’ fertility problems may be related to the pill-induced flip-flop in MHC preferences,” Garver-Apgar adds. No one has yet collected data to indicate whether the pill has created a large-scale problem in compatibility. Still, Herz recommends that women seeking a long-term partner consider alternative birth control methods, at least until they get to know their potential significant other well and are sure they like the way he smells. “If you’re looking for a man to be the father of your child,” she says, “go off the pill before you start your search.”

If you were on the pill when you met your current partner, the situation is more complicated. Once a relationship has progressed to long-term commitment, says Herz, a woman’s perception of her partner’s smell is so intertwined with her emotional reaction to him that it could be difficult for her to assess his scent as if he were a stranger. “If she’s in love, he could smell like a garbage can and she’d still be attracted to him.”

Crossed Signals

The pill subverts a woman’s ability to sniff out a compatible mate by causing her to misinterpret the scent messages she receives. But it may warp olfactory communication channels in the other direction as well, distorting the signals she sends—and making her seem less appealing to men, an irony given that women typically take the pill to boost their appeal in a partner’s eyes.

Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of New Mexico and author of The Mating Mind, noticed the pill’s connection to waning male desire while studying a group of exotic dancers—women whose livelihoods depend on how sexually appealing they are to male customers. Non-pill-using dancers made about 50 percent more in tips than dancers on oral contraceptives. In other words, women who were on the pill were only about two-thirds as sexy as women who weren’t.

Why were the pill-takers in the study so much less attractive to men? “Women are probably doing something unconsciously, and men are responding to it unconsciously,” says Miller. “We just don’t know whether it has to do with a shift in their psychology, their tone of voice, or if it’s more physical, as in the kind of pheromones they’re putting out.”

The biggest earners in Miller’s study were non-pill-using dancers at the time of ovulation. Other studies have shown that men rate women as smelling best when they are at the most fertile point of their menstrual cycles, suggesting that women give off scent-based signals that broadcast their level of fecundity. “The pill might be producing cues that a woman is in the early stage of pregnancy, which would not tend to elicit a lot of male sexual interest,” Miller says. “It makes sense for men to be sensitive to that and for them not to feel the same chemistry with the woman.”

Drowning in Fragrance

The pill isn’t the only way we might confound sexual chemistry. Every day, far more people may be subverting their quest for love with soap and bottled fragrances. In ancestral times, smelling ripe was just a fact of life, absent hot showers and shampoo. This held true well into the 19th century, when the miasma of body odor in Parisian streets grew so thick that it was dubbed “The Great Stink of 1880.” Back when a person’s scent could waft across a room, a mere handshake could provide valuable information about attraction.

Since the 20th-century hygiene revolution and the rise of the personal-care industry, however, companies have pitched deodorants, perfumes, and colognes to consumers as the epitome of sex appeal. But instead of furthering our quest to find the perfect mate, such products may actually derail it, say researchers, by masking our true scent and making it difficult for prospects to assess compatibility. “Humans abuse body smell signals by hiding them, masking them, putting on deodorant,” says Devendra Singh, a psychologist at the University of Texas. “The noise-to-signal ratio was much better in primitive society.”

Miller argues that modern hygiene may be such an impediment to sexual signaling that it could explain why so many people in our culture get so physical so fast. “Hunter-gatherers didn’t have to do a lot of kissing, because they could smell each other pretty clearly from a few feet away,” Miller says. “With all the showering, scents, and soap, we have to get our noses and mouths really up close to people to get a good idea of their biochemistry. People are more motivated to do a lot more kissing and petting, to do that assessment before they have sex.” In other words, the need to smell our mates—and the comparative difficulty of doing so in today’s environment of perfumes and colognes—may actually be driving the sexual disinhibition of modern society.

Scents and SensibilityOther scientists counter that odor detection is a bit subtler. For one thing, it’s possible we select store-bought scents to complement our natural odorprints, rather than mask them entirely: One study found that people with similar MHC profiles tend to go for the same colognes. And Garver-Apgar points out that in spending hours together each day, partners have ample opportunity to experience each other sans artificial scents. “Once you’re in a close enough relationship,” she says, “you’re going to get a real whiff at some point.”

Scents and Sensibility

There’s no way to know whether couples who shell out thousands of dollars to fertility clinics—and those who struggle to make a relationship work because “the chemistry just isn’t there”—suffer MHC incompatibility. We might never know, since a multitude of factors contributes to every reproductive and romantic outcome. But we can, at least, be cognizant of the importance of natural scent.

“Scent can be a deal breaker if it’s not right, just like someone being too stupid or unkind or short,” says Miller. Nevertheless, smell isn’t the be-all and end-all of attraction, but one of a constellation of important factors. Armed with knowledge of how scent-based attraction operates, we have some power to decide how much priority we want to accord it. Is it more important to be with the partner who smells amazing and with whom you have great chemistry, or with the one who may not attract you quite as much on a physical level but is honest and reliable?

“People tend to treat this as an either-or situation: Either we’re completely driven by pheromones, like moths, or we’re completely in charge of our own destiny,” University of Chicago psychologist McClintock says. “But it’s not a wild idea that both factors are involved.” While people like Estelle Campenni have reaped untold benefits by trusting their scent impressions, it’s ultimately up to us how highly we value what our noses tell us.—Elizabeth Svoboda

Follow Your Nose

How to put your nose to work in choosing a partner—or evaluating an existing one.

Think twice about opting for the pill if you’re seeking a long-term partner. The first few weeks of a relationship are critical to assessing compatibility, so make sure your nose is up to the task.

Try a fragrance-free week. Eliminate factors that could throw your nostrils off. Have your partner set aside scented shower gels in favor of fragrance-free soap, nix the cologne, and use only unscented deodorant.

Keep smell’s importance in context. If you sometimes find your partner’s scent off-putting, don’t panic; it doesn’t necessarily mean fertility issues are in your future. Connections between MHC compatibility and conception problems have yet to be confirmed in large-scale population studies, so don’t plunk down big bucks for MHC testing at this point.

Complete Article HERE!

Don’t Be Afraid of Your Vagina

By Nell Frizzel

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Lying across a turquoise rubber plinth, my legs in stirrups, a large blue sheet of paper draped across my pubes (for “modesty”), a doctor slowly pushes a clear plastic duck puppet up my vagina and, precisely at that moment, Total Eclipse of the Heart comes on over the radio and it’s hard not to love the genitourinary medicine, or GUM, clinic.

I mean that most sincerely: I love the GUM clinic. It is wonderful beyond orgasm that in the UK anyone can walk into a sexual health clinic—without registering with a doctor, without an appointment, without any money, without a chaperone—and get seen within a few hours at most. It brings me to the point of climax just thinking about the doctors and health professionals who dedicate their life to the nation’s ovaries, cervixes, vaginas, and wombs.

And yet, not all women are apparently so comfortable discussing their clitoral hall of fame with a doctor. According to a recent report commissioned by Ovarian Cancer Action, almost half of the women surveyed between the ages of 18 and 24 said they feared “intimate examinations,” while 44 percent are too embarrassed to talk about sexual health issues with a GP. What’s more, two thirds of those women said they would be afraid to say the word “vagina” in front of their doctor. Their doctor. That is desperately, disappointingly, dangerously sad.

In 2001, I went to see a sexual health nurse called Ms. Cuthbert who kindly, patiently and sympathetically explained to me that I wasn’t pregnant—in fact could not be pregnant—I was just doing my A-Levels. The reason I was feeling sick, light-headed, and had vaginal discharge that looked like a smear of cream cheese was because I was stressed about my simultaneous equations and whether I could remember the order of British prime ministers between 1902 to 1924. My body was simply doing its best to deal with an overload of adrenaline.

Back then, my GUM clinic was in a small health center opposite a deli that would sell Czechoslovakian beer to anyone old enough to stand unaided, and a nail bar that smelled of fast food. I have never felt more grown up than when I first walked out of that building, holding a striped paper bag of free condoms and enough packets of Microgynon to give a fish tits. My blood pressure, cervix, heartrate, and emotional landscape had all been gently and unobtrusively checked over by my new friend Ms. Cuthbert. I had been given the time and space to discuss my hopes and anxieties and was ready to launch myself, legs akimbo, into a world of love and lust—all without handing over a penny, having to tell my parents, pretending that I was married or worry that I was being judged.

My local sexual health clinic today is, if anything, even more wonderful. In a neighborhood as scratched, scored, and ripped apart by the twin fiends of poverty and gentrification as Hackney, the GUM clinic is the last great social leveler. It is one of our last few collective spaces. Sitting in reception, staring at the enormous pictures of sand dunes and tree canopies it is clear that, for once, we’re all in this together. The man in a blue plastic moulded chair wishing his mum a happy birthday on the phone, the two girls in perfect parallel torn jeans scrolling through WhatsApp, the guy with the Nike logo tattoo on his neck getting a glass of water for his girlfriend, the red-headed hipster in Birkenstocks reading about witchcraft in the waiting room, the mother and daughter with matching vacuum-sized plastic handbags talking about sofas, the fake flowers, Magic FM playing on the wall-mounted TV, the little kids running around trying to say hello to everyone while the rest of us desperately avoided eye contact—the whole gang was there. And that’s the point: you may be a working mum, you may be a teenager, you may be a social media intern at a digital startup, you may be a primary school teacher, you may be married, single, a sex worker, unemployed, wealthy, religious, terrified, or defiant but whatever your background, wherever you’ve come from and whoever you slept with last night, you’ll end up down at the GUM clinic.

Which is why it seems such a vulvic shame that so many women feel scared to discuss their own bodies with the person most dedicated to making sure that body is OK. “No doctor will judge you when you say you have had multiple sexual partners, or for anything that comes up in your sexual history,” Dr. Tracie Miles, the President of the National Forum of Gynecological Oncology Nurses tells me on the phone. “We don’t judge—we’re real human beings ourselves. If we hadn’t done it we probably wish we had and if we have done it then we will probably be celebrating that you have too.”

Doctors are not horrified by women who have sex. Doctors are not grossed out by vaginas. So to shy away from discussing discharge, pain after sex, bloating, a change in color, odor, itching, and bleeding not only renders the doctor patient conversation unhelpful, it also puts doctors at a disadvantage, hinders them from being able to do their job properly, saves nobody’s blushes and could result in putting you and your body at risk.

According to The Eve Appeal—a women’s cancer charity that is campaigning this September to fight the stigma around women’s health, one in five women associate gynecological cancer with promiscuity. That means one in five, somewhere in a damp and dusty corner of their minds, are worried that a doctor will open up her legs, look up at her cervix and think “well you deserve this, you slut.” Which is awful, because they won’t. They never, ever would. Not just because they’re doctors and therefore have spent several years training to view the human body with a mix of human sympathy and professional dispassion, but more importantly, because being promiscuous doesn’t give you cancer.

“There is no causal link between promiscuity and cancer,” says Dr. Miles. “The only sexually transmitted disease is the fear and embarrassment of talking about sex; that’s what can stop us going. If you go to your GP and get checked out, then you’re fine. And you don’t have to know all the anatomical words—if you talk about a wee hole, a bum hole, the hole where you put your Tampax, then that is absolutely fine too.”

Although there is some evidence of a causal link between certain gynecological cancers and High Risk Human Papilloma Virus (HRHPV), that particular virus is so common that, ‘it can be considered a normal consequence of sexual activity’ according to The Eve Appeal. Eighty percent of us will pick up some form of the HPV virus in our lifetime, even if we stick with a single, trustworthy, matching-socks-and-vest-takes-out-the-garbage-talks-to-your-mother-on-the-phone-can’t-find-your-clitoris partner your entire life. In short, HRHPV may lead to cancer, but having different sexual partners doesn’t. Of course, unprotected sex can lead to an orgy of other sexually transmitted infections, not to mention the occasional baby, but promiscuity and safe sex are not mutually exclusive. And medical professionals are unlikely to be shocked by either.

We are incredibly lucky in the UK that any woman can stroll into a sexual health clinic, throw her legs open like a cowboy and receive some of the best medical care the world has ever known. We can Wikipedia diagrams of our vaginas to learn the difference between our frenulum and prepuce (look it up, gals). We can receive free condoms any day of the (working week) from our doctor or friendly neighborhood GUM clinic. We can YouTube how to perform a self-examination, learn to spot the symptoms of STIs, read online accounts by women with various health conditions, and choose from a military-grade arsenal of different contraception methods, entirely free.

A third of women surveyed by The Eve Appeal said that they would feel more comfortable discussing their vaginas and wombs if the stigma around gynecological health and sex was reduced. But a large part of removing that stigma is up to us. We have to own that conversation and use it to our advantage. We need to bite the bullet and start talking about our pudenda. We have to learn to value and accept our genitals as much as any other part of our miraculous, hilarious bodies.

So come on, don’t be a cunt. Open up about your vagina.

Complete Article HERE!

Chlamydia at 50… Could it be you?

by Jenny Pogson

senior intimacy

If you think only young people are at risk of sexually transmitted infections, think again – rates could be on the rise in older adults.

With more of us living longer and healthier lives, and divorce a reality of life, many of us are finding new sexual partners later in life.

While an active sex life comes with a myriad of health benefits, experts are warning those of us in mid-life and beyond not to forget the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection from a new partner.

Figures suggest rates of infections have been on the increase among older people in the US and UK in recent years and there is a suggestion the same could be happening in Australia.

Chlamydia, a common bacterial STI, is on the up among all age groups in Australia, and has more than doubled in those over 50 since 2005; going from 620 cases to 1446 in 2010.

Gonorrhoea, another bacterial infection, has seen a slight increase in the over 50s, rising from 383 infections in 2005 to 562 in 2010.

While these increases could partly be attributable to more people being tested, the trend has caused concern in some parts of the medical community here and overseas.

Cultural shift

Older people are increasingly likely to be single or experiencing relationship changes these days, according to the UK’s Family Planning Association, which last year ran its first sexual health campaign aimed at over 50s.

It’s much easier to meet new partners, with the advent of internet dating and the ease of international travel. Plus, thanks to advances in healthcare, symptoms of the menopause and erectile dysfunction no longer spell the end of an active sex life.

But despite this, education campaigns about safe sex are generally aimed at younger people; not a great help when it’s often suggested that older people are more likely to feel embarrassed about seeking information about STIs and may lack the knowledge to protect themselves.

And, as noted by Julie Bentley, CEO of the UK’s Family Planning Association, “STIs don’t care about greying hair and a few wrinkles”.

Risky sexual practices

Dr Deborah Bateson, medical director at Family Planning NSW, started researching older women’s views and experience of safe sex after noticing a rise in the number of older women asking for STI tests and being diagnosed with STIs, particularly chlamydia.

The organisation surveyed a sample of women who used internet dating sites and found, compared with younger women, those aged between 40 and 70 were more likely to say they would agree to sex without a condom with a new partner.

Similarly, a telephone survey commissioned by Andrology Australia found that around 40 per cent of men over 40 who have casual sex do not use condoms.

While the reasons behind this willingness to engage in unsafe sex are uncertain, Bateson says older people may have missed out on the safe sex message, which really started to be heavily promoted in the 1980s with the advent of HIV/AIDS.

In addition, older women may no longer be concerned about becoming pregnant and have less of an incentive to use a condom compared with younger women.

“There is a lot of the information around chlamydia that relates to infertility in the future, so again for older women there may be a sense that it’s not relevant for them,” she says.

However, the Family Planning survey did find that older women were just as comfortable as younger women with buying condoms and carry them around.

“There’s obviously something happening when it comes to negotiating their use. Most people know about condoms but it’s just having the skills around being able to raise the subject and being able to negotiate their use at the actual time,” Bateson says.

As with most things in life, prevention is better than cure – something to remember when broaching the topic of safe sex and STIs with a new partner.

“If you’re meeting a new partner, they are probably thinking the same thing as you [about safe sex],” says Bateson.

“So being able to break the ice [about safe sex] can often be a relief for both people.”

Stay safe

Anyone who has had unprotected sex, particularly with several people, is potentially at risk of STIs, says Professor Adrian Mindel, director of the Sexually Transmitted Infections Research Centre based at Westmead Hospital, Sydney.

“People who are changing partners or having new partners, they and their partner should think about being tested,” he says.

“Also think about condom use at least until [you] know [the] relationship is longer lasting and that neither of [you] are going having sex with anyone outside the relationship.”

The UK’s Family Planning Association also stresses that STIs can be passed on through oral sex and when using sex toys – not just through intercourse.

It also notes that the signs and symptoms of some STIs can be mistaken as a normal part of aging, such as vaginal soreness or irregular bleeding.

And remember that often infections don’t result in symptoms, so you may not be aware you have an STI. However, you can still pass an infection on to a sexual partner.

So if you are starting a new sexual relationship or changing partners, here is some expert advice to consider:

  • If you have had unprotected sex, visit your GP to get tested for STIs. This may involve giving a urine sample to test for chlamydia, examination of the genital area for signs of genital warts, or a swab of your genitals to test for STIs such as herpes or gonorrhoea. A blood test may also be required to test for syphilis, HIV and hepatitis B.
  • If you are starting a new relationship, suggest your partner also gets tested.
  • Use a condom with a new partner until you both have been tested for STIs and are certain neither of you is having unprotected sex outside the relationship.
  • If you have symptoms you are concerned about, such as a urethral discharge in men or vaginal discharge, sores or lumps on the genitals, pain when passing urine or abdominal pains in women, see your GP.

Complete Article HERE!

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