It is a well known fact that chemo, radiation, a total hysterectomy (including the removal of the ovaries), low hormone levels and/or the withdrawal from estrogen replacement therapy, all affect the delicate vaginal tissue.
It’s natural for women going through cancer treatment to focus primarily on getting well. Sex fades into the background. The treatments also cause vaginal tissue changes, including vaginal dryness, which makes sexuality uncomfortable and even painful. It is the reason why many women withdraw from sexuality. Recuperation may take many months and often leaves the woman with severe psychological issues. Healing of the body and the psyche come slowly. The interruption of engagement in intimacy causes sensitive problems between partners and can put a lot of pressure on a relationship. After a lengthy withdrawal, many women find it difficult to reenter a sexual life. Meanwhile, how do their partners cope without having intimacy with their loved one?
To help women who have undergone cancer therapy or a total hysterectomy, Jacqui and her advisers have developed a seven step program on how to reenter enjoyable sexuality. This simple and practical guide has helped many couples enjoy a fulfilling sexual life again.
Step one: Review your personal hygiene habits. Please do not use any products in the vaginal area containing fragrance or chemical coloring, products that foam a lot (they contain high levels of detergents), or items containing deodorizing ingredients. Such offerings are known to disturb the healthy vaginal environment and can leave you exposed to irritation and infection. Products that can be safely used for intimate cleansing or lubrication are: fragrance free, free of chemical coloring, free of hormones or unnecessary plant or other additives. They should be hypo-allergenic and pH balanced. Avoid bubble bath, no matter how tempting; most contain chemical coloring and fragrances and are irritating to dry vaginal tissue. No douching. To cleanse the intimate area use lukewarm water and a pH balanced body wash such as the pH balanced Very Private Body Wash or another pH balanced, hypo-allergenic soap without perfume. Best stay away from spicy foods, which are often irritating to the urinary tract and vaginal area. Drink plenty of liquids daily.
Step two: Discuss all your medications and the effects they have with your doctor. Many prescriptions such as antibiotics cause vaginal havoc; dryness, irritation, even infections because they kill all the healthy and needed microbes as well. After using antibiotics it is strongly advisable to add acidophilus tablets daily for at least three months to re-establish a healthy pH balanced vaginal environment. An occasional yogurt will not do. Other medications such as antidepressants may cause loss of libido; however, not all brands of similar medicine have the same effects. Ask your doctor for alternative solutions.
Step three: If you are experiencing discomfort and/or pain during intimacy or have avoided intimacy, get reacquainted with the most intimate part of your body in your own time and place. Wash your hands. Keep your nails short. Put a little Intimate Moisture on your fingertips. Gently explore the area between the vaginal lips, around your clitoris and the vaginal opening. If that feels good, insert one finger and see how the tissue inside your vagina feels. If that feels good, do it again. Apply a little Intimate Moisture daily after washing between your vaginal lips and inside your vaginal canal to cushion the tender vaginal tissue (it must be an FDA approved lubricant such as the Very Private Intimate Moisture). Regular lubricants are banned by the FDA to be used intra-vaginally.
Step four: Repeat stroking, touching and inserting your finger daily to get used to sexual stimulation and gentle penetration. As you continue to feel comfortable, insert two fingers, eventually three fingers. Your fingers can help prepare your body for sexual pleasure again. Always use enough Intimate Moisture to protect the delicate vaginal tissue.
Step five: Share the experience with your partner. Let him touch you. Discuss with him what feels good and what you’re afraid of. Guide his hand exactly to the spots that give you pleasure. Let yourself be in the experience. Relax and enjoy the sensation. Involve each other in this journey of rediscovery.
Step six: As you experience enjoyment, you may be ready to try lovemaking with partial penetration. First have ample foreplay. Be sure to put some lubricant/moisturizer on your partner’s penis as well before penetration. Do not expect everything to work out 100% the first time. Experiencing emotional as well as sexual closeness is a slow process.
Step seven: When you’re ready, and you might not be for quite some time, progress to more complete lovemaking. Many forms of sex can be extremely satisfactory and joyful and do not necessarily include penal penetration. Don’t feel inadequate or frustrated if you’re not ready to go all the way. You can give your mate sexual pleasure in many ways, and so can he. Know that the physical and emotional joy of giving love and experiencing love doesn’t get lost.
Millions of other women have gone through similar frightening health struggles and have been able to reclaim a happy sexual life with their partner. You can too.