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Envisioning A New Approach To Postpartum Sex

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Welcoming a baby into the world is an incredible experience, but it is certainly not a seamless one. Although your new bundle of joy may be small, metaphorically speaking, they occupy a lot of space, with your partner and intimacy being the first thing to be pushed to the side.

As part of running MysteryVibe, I speak to women and men from different countries, backgrounds, and cultures every day – and one of the most common themes of discussions or questions people ask me is around reclaiming intimacy and sexual pleasure after childbirth.

The 6-week check-up often marks the moment when new moms are physically cleared by their doctors to have sex again. But while you might be given the green light, many women are simply not ready emotionally for penetrative sex.

You have welcomed a new human into the world, and while your heart could burst from all the love you feel, likewise you might be worried sick about their well-being at every moment, ready to cry at the drop of a pin.

Between the physical recovery of birth, a flurry of activities and the emotional rollercoaster of hormones, the last thing on your mind during the postpartum is being physically available for yourself, much less your partner.

But that does not mean that you have to give up on intimacy altogether.

It is time to reframe the 6 week check-up, and move beyond its unrealistic presumption that makes new mothers feel pressured to jump back into the sack after a string of sexless months, and guilty or ashamed when they cannot bring themselves to do it right away.

Rather, we propose a new vision of postpartum sex as a gentle journey of intimacy that leads to a fulfilling, pleasurable relationship with your partner, where sex does not have to mean intercourse right away.

A journey that will not necessarily lead you back to your pre-baby sex life, but to a new normal that can even be more emotionally (and physically) satisfying than ever before!

The rules of the game – go at your own pace, take it slow, communicate your needs to your partner, sit back, relax and let yourself enjoy the pleasure.  Here we offer you a few tips to kickstart your journey.

1. TLC- tender loving care. Before you can be emotionally or physically available for your partner, you must carve out some time for some self-love. Perhaps let dad or grandparents have some alone time with the new arrival – take a bubble bath, go for a walk in nature or perhaps cuddle up in a cozy blanket listening to your favorite tunes.

If you are up to it, maybe try a solo session, using a clitoral stimulator or small vibrator with lots of lubricants. Because of your body’s changing-needs, highly-customizable toys like MysteryVibe’s Crescendo will be a great fit as you can change its shape along with creating unique patterns of vibrations (spanning from super gentle to more powerful).

Toys like this are super effective at satisfying both penetrative and non-penetrative play, and don’t rely on friction or thrusting, which can be painful for many women post-birth. This will be a great time to reconnect with your body, with orgasms acting as stress relievers as well.

Whatever it is, love yourself and do what makes you feel good!

2. Rediscover the power of cuddling and kissing. While it may feel like you are regressing back to ‘first base’, these simple forms of physical touch with your partner increase* oxytocin levels, also known as the ‘bonding’ hormone that can help reduce* stress and anxiety.

So, when your baby is sleeping, take some time to simply hold each other’s hands or wrap yourself up in one another’s arms as you watch some TV.  When you are feeling ready for second base, allow your lips to linger and move into loving, passionate kisses.

3. Venture outside the usual. For many women, their breasts and vagina feel less sexual during the postpartum period. Once a focal point in the bedroom, breasts are now inflated and sore, and the vulva and vagina may be recovering from the physical trauma of childbirth.

No need to fret. There are many other erogenous zones that can bring you pleasure.  With their hands and/or mouth, ask your partner to stimulate other areas of your body.

Try some of these: ears, neck, nape of neck, spine, back, behind the knees and feet. These areas are full of nerve endings and can reveal some unexpectedly pleasurable sensations.

4. Explore non-penetrative practices. There are many ways to experience mutual pleasure and intimacy with your partner outside of the traditional penetrative act. Try reinventing the 69.

If you are not ready for vaginal or clitoral action, ask your partner to massage your feet that stimulate blood flow up to your legs and abdomen, while you return the favor with your hands or mouth.

You and your partner could also try intercrural sex, where the penis is stimulated by being placed in between your thighs. Or, on the flip side, intergluteal sex where the penis can be stimulated by moving between the buttocks.

For the last two, we recommend lube.

5. Invest in some good quality lube. When you are ready for more advanced foreplay or penetrative sex, do not be shocked if you are not naturally lubricating downstairs. Dryness is another side-effect of declined estrogen and progesterone levels post-birth.

Lube will be your best friend when you are getting back to the norm with your partner, helping things run smoothly. Clitoral stimulators can also act as great tools in this department. Also, do not forget to relax.

Many women feel a mixture of fear and anxiety about returning back to penetrative sex after months of celibacy, leading to a tenseness that will undeniably make sex less pleasurable. If you can, have a glass of wine, take your time, let your partner give you a massage, and then get the lube out!

6. The gift that keeps on giving. So maybe you are just not in the mood? Because of wonky hormonal changes, it’s totally normal to experience plummeted levels of libido. It’s ok.

Nonetheless, women put pressure on themselves to perform in the bedroom out of guilt for not tending to their partner’s sexual needs. Consider buying masturbating toys for your partner, it will show them that you care without forcing yourself to do anything out of your comfort zone.

All in all, intimacy with your partner can help decrease* your stress, improve* your confidence and (contrary to belief) energize you! Making space to prioritize intimacy, without the pressure of going all in, can help nurture a deep connection with your partner that can translate to increased happiness and wellbeing.

Do not expect to go from 0 to 100 after your 6 week check-up. Remember, most women wait longer than 6 weeks, and many women will not get 100% back into the groove of things for months.

Allow this journey back to intimacy be an exciting opportunity to rediscover the relationship you have with your own body and to find new techniques that lie outside the norm with your partner.

The key is to take things slowly, to listen to yourself, communicate with your partner, and when the time comes, use lots and lots of lube.

Complete Article HERE!

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Nienke Helder designs therapy tools for women recovering from sexual trauma

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Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Nienke Helder has created a set of sensory objects that can be used to rehabilitate women affected by sexual abuse.

Presented at this year’s Dutch Design Week, Sexual Healing is designed to help women who are suffering from trauma-induced sexual problems, such as pelvic muscle blockage.

According to the designer, current treatment available often focuses on a clinical perspective – putting too much emphasis on physical issues, rather than the psychological aspects of trauma.

From her own experience, Helder recognised the frustration this can cause, which prompted her to develop an alternative therapy which focuses more on the emotional aspects of sexual trauma.

“I was really frustrated with the way we treat these kinds of issues. In my opinion, the treatments that I got only made it worse,” she told Dezeen.

“It was totally taking me away from the sexual context; it became really clinical. It was so focused on this end goal of penetration that I totally lost all fun in my sexuality.”

The designer worked with medical experts and women in recovery to develop a set of five objects which invite users to discover their own sexual pleasure.

The objects encourage women to explore what feels good to them, which in turn, relieves fear and pain, and help them regain a sense of security about their bodies.

The first object is an ergonomically shaped mirror that lights up.

“Research shows that if you look at your own vulva, it increases your body positivity a lot. But if you have a trauma, it can really be confronting to look at your own body,” Helder said.

She made the mirror in such a way that it only shows exactly what you hold in front of it, allowing users to take their time and slowly start exploring their own bodies.

The second object is a brush made from horsehair, which is meant to help users become comfortable with being touched again. It also enables them to invite their partner to the healing process.

“If you have a trauma, it can be really difficult to talk about it. But by giving someone an object and making them part of the therapy, it opens a lot of doors for conversation,” Helder explains.

Two of the objects focus on biofeedback and are designed to help the user detect if they are feeling tense or stressed.

“Trauma creates certain reflexes in your body that comes from your subconscious mind,” the designer said. “To break that cycle, you need to rationally understand what is causing these processes in order to overcome them emotionally.”

One is a sensor that is meant to be placed on the abdomen. The device lights-up when the user’s breathing becomes tense, functioning as a signal to relax again.

A second is an object that measures the pressure in pelvic floor muscles. If the user tenses up, the device starts to vibrate, signalling the need to relax.

The final object is a kimono made of silk jersey, which emphasises the need to feel warm and relaxed in the bedroom.

“I made it because the bedroom is one of the coldest rooms in the house,” said the designer. “As I mentioned in my project video, it is important to keep your socks on when having sex because women could not have an orgasm when they have cold feet.”


 
Mental health is becoming an increasingly explored topic in design, particularly among graduates.

At last year’s Design Academy Eindhoven graduate show, designer Nicolette Bodewes presented a tactile toolkit designed to be used in psychotherapy sessions, while Yi-Fei Chen channelled her personal struggle with speaking her mind into a gun that fires her tears.

Helder’s Sexual Healing project was presented at this year’s Design Academy Eindhoven‘s graduate show as part of the annual Dutch Design Week event, which took place from 21 until 29 October 2017.

Complete Article HERE!

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With midlife comes sexual wisdom

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Research shows women’s sexuality adapts with aging

by Madison Brunner

While women experience changes with the menopausal transition that can negatively affect their sex lives, they often adapt behaviorally and psychologically to these changes, according to a qualitative study by University of Pittsburgh researchers.

The results of the study, which included individual and focus group interviews, will be published online in the journal Menopause on November 1.

Midlife, which is defined as 40 to 60 years old, can bring physical, psychological, social and partner-related changes. Menopause-related vaginal dryness or pain, aging joints and reduced flexibility may lead to negative changes in sexual function for some women. Additional contributing factors such as career, financial and family stress, and concerns about changing body image, may add to decreased frequency of sex, a low libido and orgasm difficulties. However, not all changes are negative. The positive psychological changes aging brings—such as decreased family concerns, increased self-knowledge and self-confidence, and enhanced communication skills in the bedroom—may lead to improvements in sexual satisfaction with aging.

During the course of the study, the researchers interviewed a total of 39 women who were 45 to 60 years old and had been sexually active with a partner at least once in the prior 12 months. Participants chose to take part in either an individual interview or focus group.

“While prior longitudinal studies have documented negative changes in sexual function as women move through midlife, few have highlighted the positive changes,” said Holly Thomas, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of medicine, Pitt School of Medicine. “We found most study participants were prompted to try new adaptive behaviors to overcome negative challenges to maintain their overall sexual satisfaction.”

Such adaptations included using lubricants, different sexual activities/positions and changing priorities, with greater focus on emotional satisfaction. Women also discussed changing their priorities around sex; as they aged, they de-emphasized physical sexual satisfaction and placed more importance on emotional .

“It is important for to recognize that each woman’s experience of during menopause is unique and nuanced, and they should tailor their care accordingly. Midlife can learn strategies, such as adapting sexual behavior and enhancing communication of sexual needs, to help ensure and maintain satisfying as they age,” explained Thomas.

Complete Article HERE!

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Does Smoking Pot Lead To More Sex?

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In every group the researchers studied, the more marijuana people smoked the more sex they reported having.

By Angus Chen

Tobacco companies put a lot of effort into giving cigarettes sex appeal, but the more sensual smoke might actually belong to marijuana.

Some users have said pot is a natural aphrodisiac, despite scientific literature turning up mixed results on the subject.

At the very least, a study published Friday in the Journal of Sexual Medicine suggests that people who smoke more weed are having more sex than those who smoke less or abstain. But whether it’s cause or effect isn’t clear.

The researchers pulled together data from roughly 50,000 people who participated in an annual Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey during various years between 2002 and 2015. “We reported how often they smoke — monthly, weekly or daily — and how many times they’ve had sex in the last month,” says Dr. Michael Eisenberg, a urologist at Stanford University Medical Center and the senior author on the study. “What we found was compared to never-users, those who reported daily use had about 20 percent more sex. So over the course of a year, they’re having sex maybe 20 more times.”

Women who consumed marijuana daily had sex 7.1 times a month, on average; for men, it was 6.9 times. Women who didn’t use marijuana at all had sex 6 times a month, on average, while men who didn’t use marijuana had sex an average of 5.6 times a month.

When the researchers considered other potentially confounding factors, such as alcohol or cocaine use, age, religion or having children, the association between more marijuana and more sex held, Eisenberg says. “It was pretty much every group we studied, this pattern persisted,” he says. The more marijuana people smoked, the more they seemed to be having sex.

Now, that association doesn’t necessarily mean the weed is responsible for the heightened sex drive, says Mitch Earleywine, a psychologist at the University at Albany who has studied cannabis and sex but wasn’t involved in this work. “In some surveys, we saw that people [who used cannabis] did have sex more, but it seemed to be mediated by this personality type that’s willing to try new things or look for thrills,” he says. In other words, it seems that people who like to smoke weed may have other character traits that lead them to be lustier.

Or maybe it really is the weed. “It’s possible it makes men or women more interested in sex,” Eisenberg says. In one study, researchers found they were able to induce sexual behavior by injecting a cannabinoid, the class of psychoactive compounds in marijuana, into rats. But people aren’t rats, of course.

Another study published in 2012 found that women became more aroused when watching erotic films when they had cannabinoids in their system. But that might just be because weed seems to heighten sensory experiences overall. “It gets people to appreciate the moment more anyway,” psychologist Earleywine says. “They like food more, find humor in things more easily, so it wouldn’t be stunning to think they would enjoy sex more.”

Whatever the connection, Eisenberg says his results leads him to think that pot, unlike tobacco which can depress libido and performance, isn’t going to take the steam out of one’s sex drive. “One question my patients always have is will smoking marijuana frequently negatively impact my sexual function?” Eisenberg says. “We don’t want people to smoke to improve sexual function, but it probably doesn’t hurt things.”

Not everyone agrees with that conclusion. “It’s a lot of stretch here,” says Dr. Rany Shamloul, a researcher at Ottawa Hospital in Canada who focuses on sexual health and function. He didn’t work on the latest study. In an odd Catch-22, Shamloul says that recent research suggests cannabis might actually make it harder for a man’s penis to become erect, even if weed might turn people on. “Recent studies have shown cannabinoid receptors in the penis itself, and experiments in the lab show an inhibitory response,” he says. “There was basically a mixed result. Cannabis might increase [sexual arousal] frequency in the brain, but also decrease erectile function in the penis.”

There is another issue that may throw cold water on cannabis’ potential as a love enabler. A frequent side effect of marijuana is a dry mouth, and University at Albany’s Earleywine points out that one’s mouth might not be the only thing turning arid. “Drying of the mucus membranes is a pretty consistent effect of the plant. Women should keep that in mind when considering cannabis as a sexual aid. I know that some products have THC or cannabinoids in a lubricant, but I haven’t seen any actual data on that,” he says.

Stanford’s Eisenberg says his study doesn’t prove the idea that marijuana is getting people into the sack, though he says that is a possibility. There’s really only one conclusion he can safely draw from the work: Cannabis users are doing it more.

Complete Article HERE!

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Preserving Our Right to Sex in Long-Term Care

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Do you need to put your wishes in writing?

By Kevyn Burger

At age 74, Joan Price likes sex and doesn’t care who knows it.

“I plan to continue to celebrate the sexual pleasure my body can give me. Things may change and I will adapt to them, but I say, sex has no expiration date,” said Price, who calls herself an advocate for “ageless sexuality.”

While prevailing wisdom may suggest that the sex lives of 70-somethings are spoken of in the past tense, Price, a speaker, blogger and award-winning author (Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex, Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk About Sex After Sixty) has her future sex life on the brain.

Sex in Long-Term Care: Unfriendly Policies

Price worries that if she would ever live in senior housing — from assisted living to skilled nursing to hospice — her desire for sexual expression could be thwarted.

“Residents in long-term care get no privacy, so how can they explore their sexuality with another resident or solo when they can’t lock the door?” she said. In fact, many facilities’ policies are “archaic, regressive and even ageist,” according to a 2015 article in Time magazine.

One notable example, Time wrote, was at Hebrew Home at Riverdale (in the Bronx), which drew up a Sexual Expression Policy. Among other things, it “recognizes and supports the older adult’s right to engage in sexual activity, so long as there is consent among those involved.”

Price urges individuals to be frank in stating their intentions.

“It occurred to me that we need to put it in writing, while we are capable to give instructions to our spouses and grown children, about what we want when it comes to exercising our sexual rights,” she said.

‘Advance Directive’ for Sexual Expression

Price created a sort of advance directive to make clear her sexual wishes. It begins with her desire to live in a facility with a sex-positive environment.

“I want my rights respected — the right to close my door and have privacy, the right to have a relationship with someone of my choice or the right to charge my sex toys in my room and use them without being disturbed,” she said.

A few facilities that house aging residents are cautiously beginning to address their lifelong needs and desires as a body of research is emerging on the sexual activity of older adults.

Previously, sex researchers typically stopped quizzing subjects at the age of 60, since prevailing wisdom suggested people were no longer sexually active beyond that age.

Sexually Active Well Beyond 60

But a 2012 study in the American Journal of Medicine found that half the women surveyed (median age 67) remained sexually active, with sexual satisfaction increasing with age. A national survey in the UK became the first to ask people in their 70s and 80s about their sexuality and confirmed that half the men and a third of the women enjoyed active sex lives into their eighth and ninth decades.

“Many service providers for older adults have had their heads in the sand. They refused to acknowledge the sexual needs of their residents. But now the Centers for Disease Control is reporting a high number of sexually transmitted infections in this population, so we know they are active,” said Jane Fleishman, a Massachusetts-based sex educator involved in ongoing research into sexuality in aging adults. “Facilities need to think about a sex policy or directive for their residents’ safety as well as their pleasure.”

Fleishman, 63, regularly consults with older adult service and housing providers. She has noticed that the intimate needs of their clients are starting to be recognized by a small minority of them.

“Sexual well-being lowers depression, social isolation and cardiovascular disease. As lifespans increase, so will people’s ability to have new adventures and relationships later in life,” she added. “Facilities should be constructed so there are private spaces where adults can be their authentic selves.”

What to Do About Dementia

Being open about older adult sex is not without its complications. With the cognitive impairment that often accompanies aging, questions can arise about whether an individual is capable of giving consent, even if he or she had previously stated an intention to remain sexually active.

It’s a dilemma that can create liability fears for administrators who run senior housing facilities and are charged with making sure their residents aren’t mistreated or exploited.

“Adult children may have the expectation that their parents are not sexually active, and administrators have seen that there will be hell to pay if the wrong two people start getting it on under their roof,” Fleishman said. “But deciding if someone can provide consent should come in a clinical assessment. It’s a question for a geriatrician, not a family member.”

Professor Gayle Appel Doll, a gerontologist and director of the Center on Aging at Kansas State University, noted that an advance directive can’t anticipate how individuals might change with age and the onset of cognitive impairment.

“When people have dementia, we see changes in their libido leading to less interest in sex. But we also see personality changes that go the other way,” such as the straitlaced older woman “who now wants to kiss men who look like her husband,” said Doll, author of Sexuality & Long-Term Care: Understanding and Supporting the Needs of Older Adults.

Building for Privacy

In her research, Doll surveyed developers who build senior housing to see if they considered resident sexuality in their planning. She found few retirement or nursing home developers accommodating the privacy needs of future residents who want opportunities for intimacy or conjugal visits.

But Doll thinks that’s changing, due to demands of the boomers and new federal policies.

“Facilities are under pressure to let their residents make their own decisions,” she said. “Mandates coming from Medicaid and Medicare require a personal care plan that lets residents say what they want for their lives and gives more weight to their preferences.”

Doll suggests that adults speak frankly about their sexual intentions to those whom they name to carry out their stated instructions.

“Creating the elements of an advance directive gives you the opportunity to talk to the people close to you and let them know what you want. I recommend having a conversation about your sexual desires in a general way with someone who might be your durable power of attorney,” she said.

But Doll admits that she doesn’t practice what she preaches.

“This means you have to have that awkward conversation with your kids, because that’s who’s going to be in control of you. And talking about the sex life you think you will want as you age is not easy,” she said. “I’m 63, and have I talked to my two grown sons about this? No.”

Persistent Silence on Sex

The lack of communication about older adult sex underscores society’s deep discomfort with acknowledging the intimate needs of the aging population.

“Even those who work in the field can’t get over what I call the ‘ick’ factor, their disgust with even the idea of wrinkly people having interest in sex,” said Price. “I’d like to see us talk out loud about lifelong sexuality without embarrassment, guilt or shame.”

Even if they don’t choose to formalize their sexual desires in a written document, Price urged people to ask questions about sexual policies as they evaluate older adult living situations.

“This is going to be your home, not a prison, so it’s incumbent on you to explore which facilities would respect your privacy and which ones would take it away,” she said.

Complete Article HERE!

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