If you’ve ever worked in any service job, you’ve probably dealt with managing your emotions to keep the customer happy. If you work at a restaurant and you bring food to your table, and the customer says their sandwich came with a sauce on it they didn’t ask for, you need to stay positive and offer a solution to keep the customer also feeling positive so they’ll return to your restaurant. You have to manage your feelings while also managing the emotions of the people around you. This idea of managing emotions, feelings, and expressions is called emotional labor. With Mother’s Day in May, it feels especially right to discuss emotional labor, as women often exercise it most. 

What is emotional labor?

The concept of emotional labor was first fully explored by sociologist Arlie Hochschild in her 1983 book The Managed Heart. When Hochschild was first discussing emotional labor, she mostly explored this concept in regard to work relationships. Other professions that require a great deal of emotional labor are teachers, nurses, flight attendants, or hotel management, just to name a few.

Since Hochschild’s initial writing on the topic, many other sociologists have delved deeper into studying emotional labor. This topic has now been expanded beyond just showing up in work situations. Emotional labor also is present in people’s everyday domestic lives, and unfortunately, women often bear the brunt of emotional labor in many relationships.

Examples of emotional labor for women

The first time I heard the term “emotional labor” and saw a lengthy explanation of it was a Harpers Bazaar article written by Gemma Hartley. In the article, Hartley describes how she asked her husband to hire a house cleaning service for her as a Mother’s Day gift. She wanted her husband to handle it all so she could relax and enjoy a clean home. She didn’t want to have to go through the trouble of looking up cleaning services, comparing prices, and reading reviews—she wanted her husband to do that for her as part of the gift.

Instead, her husband cleaned the bathrooms himself, which is a nice gesture, but Hartley describes that she ended up watching their children and cleaning up some clothing and a box her husband left out in their closet. Her husband says she should have just asked him to put the box away, and as the author expresses, the whole point is she doesn’t want to have to ask. She wanted to feel cared for by her partner in the same way she cares for him.

Bearing the full responsibility of managing a household and making sure everyone is cared for is a lot of work. Updating a calendar with everyone’s schedules, packing lunches for children to take to school, washing and folding laundry, asking your partner to clean up after themselves, asking them a second, third, and fourth time to clean the bathroom even though it’s their responsibility and they shouldn’t need to be reminded. These are all examples of emotional labor women often are responsible for in a home.

The actual, physical work isn’t the emotional labor— all of the little things you do for others that make their lives easier, and the process of asking your partner to also do their work and share in the responsibilities is the emotional labor.

How can we manage emotional labor?

Having conversations with your partner about them pitching in more, being considerate of their feelings, making sure they understand you asking them to help out and do their chores without being asked multiple times is not an attack on their character, is emotional labor. All the while you just do what needs to be done because if you don’t do it, no one will.

So why is it that women often bear a great responsibility for this? There’s the old stereotype that men will go out into the world and work a full-time job while women stay at home and raise the children and look after the house. Maybe some of this is due to old gender norms sticking around, but honestly, I’m not quite sure. But many modern relationships have both partners working full time, so shouldn’t the housework and in-home responsibilities be split equally?

Obviously, every relationship won’t have this exact dynamic, but if you google “emotional labor,” you’ll find article after article citing specific examples of women handling emotional labor in the home. Think about your own upbringing and who was in charge of domestic and emotional care in your home. Think about those responsibilities in your own life now and who takes care of them in your various relationships.

Do what works for you and your relationship

Everyone has to do some sort of emotional labor in their lives, but if you are thanklessly responsible for the majority of this labor in your home, you should feel able to change that.

If you’re feeling like you are bearing the brunt of all of this in-house labor and you’re having to constantly remind your partner to do their share of housework, run errands, etc., then it might be time for a conversation with them about equally distributing work. Yes, you’ll want to be considerate of their feelings when you talk with them, but you are not nagging! You’re simply asking for an equal share of responsibility. And if your partner loves you and cares about you, then they should want to actively share the responsibility. 

The vagina is an absolutely amazing organ. It can bring life into this world, it helps facilitate your menstrual cycle to let you know your body is working properly, it can be used for sex and pleasure, and it’s totally self-cleaning. And since it’s a self-cleaning organ, that means vaginal hygiene products are totally unnecessary.

Why do vaginal hygiene products exist?

If your vagina is self-cleaning, then why do “feminine hygiene products” like Summer’s Eve and other brands exist? To be perfectly blunt, these products exist to make you think your vagina’s natural discharge and odor is dirty and unnatural so you’ll want to buy feminine hygiene wipes and douches to “cleanse” yourself. Not only do vaginal hygiene products use people’s insecurities and shame regarding their vaginal odor to make money, but these products also are harmful to your vagina’s health and can throw off your vagina’s pH balance, leading to infections or other complications.

The vagina is a self-cleaning organ, using discharge to flush out any bad bacteria. Discharge is one hundred percent normal and essential for your vaginal health. A specific odor likely accompanies this discharge, and for some reason, people are made to feel ashamed of the way their vagina smells. Vaginal odor is also completely normal and healthy. In fact, a person’s vaginal odor will likely change throughout their menstrual cycle, and can also change depending on diet. The only time you should be concerned about your discharge or vaginal odor is if either one changes drastically. If your discharge changes color or consistency and your vaginal odor change significantly, consult your doctor. You could have an infection.

Cleaning your vulva versus vagina

Although the vagina cleans itself, the vulva does not. Your vulva is the folds of skin (labia) on the outside of your body. The best way to clean your vulva is with warm water. Doctors also recommend warm water and mild soap. If you have very sensitive skin, unscented soap would work best, but again, just water is fine as well. Since all you need for a clean vulva and vagina is warm water, the chemicals in vaginal hygiene products can be harmful to users.

Summer’s Eve has a whole host of products such as cleansing wipes, sprays, cleansing wash, body powder, and douche products. It’s important to note that Summer’s Eve is not the only brand that sells these types of products. I am just using them as an example because they are very widely known and easily available. No matter the brand name, these products are unnecessary and can be harmful. 

Most importantly, do not douche

If you gather only one thing from this article, let it be this: do NOT douche. Douching is a method to wash out the vagina using a formula that is sprayed directly into the vagina. Douching products can contain water, vinegar, antiseptics, and fragrances, all of which can be harmful to your vaginal hygiene. People douche to wash out bad bacteria from the vagina and to feel “fresh and clean.” While you are washing out the bad bacteria, you also wash out the good bacteria your vagina needs to maintain a healthy pH balance. Side effects of douching include bacterial vaginosis, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, pregnancy complications such as ectopic pregnancy, and an increased risk of cervical cancer.

Summer’s Eve website contains no ingredients for any of their products, which I find alarming. Through my research, I found one source that listed some ingredients, some of which include “fragrance” (which the product does not elaborate on what makes up this ingredient), methylisothiazolinone, methylchloroisothiazolinone, cocamidopropyl betaine, and many more. For a full list of ingredients you could of course look at the products in the store. However, if I am using something to clean my vulva or vagina, I would like to be able to pronounce it.

I also found that Summer’s Eve cleansing wipes contain octoxynol-9, which is a spermicide. There is no warning on the packaging that discloses this information. The wipes are not viable forms of contraception, however, it is unclear if the octoxynol-9 is strong enough in the wipes to affect someone’s ability to get pregnant. 

Your vagina’s smell is normal!

This is no joke! Your vagina doesn’t need to be flushed out with water and other chemicals. Your vagina is not smelly or dirty. This harmful narrative that vaginas are dirty and smell bad is incredibly harmful to your physical and mental health. Being told that your vagina is dirty and literally needs to be flushed out with fragrances in order to be clean and desirable harms positive self-image and feeling good in one’s body. I understand wanting to feel clean or wanting to “freshen up” before a sexual encounter, but as mentioned above, all you need is water for that. No chemicals or artificial scents are necessary.

I’m here to tell you that the messages sold to us by these hygiene companies are lies. There is science to prove how harmful these products are and to reiterate that vaginal odor is normal and healthy! Your vagina is not supposed to smell like flowers or baby powder. You are not a flower or a baby. Your vagina should smell like vagina! 

 

In this great year of 2021, there are many ways to manage your period. From pads, to tampons, to the period sponge, to period-proof underwear, you are bound to find an option that makes managing your period fit with your lifestyle and preferences. Menstrual cups have been gaining a lot of popularity in the last few years, and there’s so much to explore with this environmentally friendly invention.

When were menstrual cups invented?

Although menstrual cups have only become extremely popular recently, they were first invented in 1884! They didn’t hit the market until much later, but the first design was invented then. This first model, known as the Improved Menstrual Receptacle, was invented by Hiram Farr, and was designed to hold several cups of blood at a time. This first design never actually hit the market, but big thanks to Hiram Farr for designing this revolutionary device.

In 1937 American actress Leona Chalmers patented another menstrual cup design, and actually followed through on trying to get it to hit the market. This menstrual cup was similar to the menstrual cups we have today, but it was made from latex rubber. After a few redesigns, this menstrual cup was sold by the company Tassette until the 60s, then they went out of business. Menstrual cups made a comeback in the 1980s with the brand The Keeper and starting in 2003 with the Diva Cup, menstrual cups have become more and more popular.  

How do menstrual cups work?

Menstrual cups have clearly been around for a long time, proving they must in fact be an excellent idea. I first heard of menstrual cups a few years ago when I first learned about the Diva Cup. Unlike the early menstrual cup designs, Diva Cup and other modern brands are made of silicone. Not only is the allergy risk of silicone much lower than latex, but it is also super soft and easy to clean. There are many menstrual cup brands available—Diva Cup, Keeper Cup (that same brand from the 80s!), Moon Cup, Lunette Cup, Lena Cup, Lily Cup, plus some disposable cups or discs. Although there are many brands to choose from, they essentially all work the same.

Menstrual cups are made of flexible silicone material and are shaped like a small bell or cup with a little stem on the end. You place them inside of your vagina right below your cervix and they catch your menstrual blood. You use the short stem on the end to pull them out to empty and clean. Menstrual cups can be left in anywhere from 6 to 12 hours, and need to be rinsed and washed when emptied. When emptying your menstrual cup throughout the day, dump out the blood and wash it with unscented antibacterial soap and water before putting it back in. Some menstrual cup brands also sell cleaning wipes so you can clean your menstrual cup if you’re using a public restroom and can’t wash it thoroughly in a shared sink. Wipe that baby down in the privacy of your stall, pop it back in, and you’re good to go.

How do I use a menstrual cup?

There are different sizes of menstrual cups based on if you just got your period or have had any children. Some menstrual cup brands have more detailed size finders on their websites, and that can be a useful tool to find one that works for you.

To insert your menstrual cup, wash your hands and sit or stand. Similar to putting a tampon in for the first time, this might take a few tries, so you should give yourself plenty of time to get it properly inserted. If your vagina isn’t already slick with a lot of period blood, it might be helpful to use some lubricant to help slide it into place. Be sure to use water-based lube if you do so because other lubes are not silicone compatible and could eat away at the cup over time. 

Relax your muscles and body as much as you can, pinch the top of the cup (most brands come with their own set of instructions on the box and recommend pinching it so the top is a “C” shape), then gently guide the cup into your vagina. You will have to get really comfy with yourself here because you need to put your fingers into your vagina to get the cup in place. Once it’s far up in there, slightly rotate the cup and let go of the top of it and it should suction into place. If the cup is inserted properly, you shouldn’t be able to feel it. As I mentioned, this may take a few tries, so be patient with yourself. The first time you wear it, you may even want to wear a liner or pad just to make sure you don’t leak and see if it was inserted properly.

What about emptying and cleaning?

When it’s time to empty your cup, you’ll have to bear down a bit and activate those pelvic floor muscles. Reach your hand into your vagina and gently pull on the little stem at the bottom of the cup and it should slide out. You’ll have to pinch the cup slightly to loosen the suction at the top of the cup that keeps it in place. If you don’t break the suction it could be very painful to pull out.

In between periods, you can disinfect your menstrual cup by washing it with soap and water, and some people even boil their cup in hot water between cycles. Since your menstrual cup sits below the cervix, it won’t get lost inside your body, and even if it feels like it’s stuck, you can get it out! If you really have trouble getting it out, go visit your doctor and they can easily help you and give you some tips on how to get it out easier next time. 

Menstrual cups are a great option for people to manage their periods. You can reuse them for several years, so they are a fairly cheap option because you get a lot of bang for your buck. They are also good for the environment because they’re less wasteful than tampons or pads. If you’re interested in using a menstrual cup, check out some of the brands’ websites and find a size that works for you. 

Polycystic ovary syndrome is a hormonal condition that affects people with female reproductive organs. Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, can cause enlarged ovaries, abnormally long menstrual cycles, intense pelvic pain, excess hair growth, and loss of fertility. This syndrome affects about 10 million people worldwide, but the exact cause is unknown.

What is PCOS?

People are usually diagnosed with PCOS after puberty or when they are young adults—once their reproductive organs are up and running. PCOS is caused by an imbalance in androgens, insulin, and progesterone, but the exact cause of this imbalance is unknown. Doctors believe PCOS can be hereditary, can be caused by excess insulin in the body, low-grade inflammation, and excess androgens. This hormonal imbalance affects the ovaries and menstrual cycle, among other things. 

All people have a certain level of androgens (known as “male hormones”), but people with PCOS can have higher levels of androgens than the average person, which causes some of the symptoms of PCOS like acne, unwanted hair, and irregular menstrual cycles. Insulin also affects this syndome. If someone produces too much insulin, this causes an excess of androgens, which causes problems in the ovaries. And finally, if someone isn’t producing enough progesterone, this can also lead to problems with your menstrual cycle because progesterone is a hormone essential for your period. Even though this condition affects your ovaries, many people with PCOS don’t actually have cysts on their ovaries but do indeed have complications with this part of their body. Cysts on the ovaries are possible, however, and are caused by follicles or fluids on the ovaries that enlarge them and restrict their function.

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

Unfortunately, PCOS has a lot of symptoms, but fortunately, they can be managed in a number of ways. Many people with the syndrome experience long last periods with pelvic pain that is present even when they’re not menstruating. Excess hair growth known as hirsutism is another symptom due to the increased androgen levels. This excess hair can be on the face, back, chest, and other parts of the body. Infertility is also a big symptom of PCOS, although people can undergo hormone therapy if they have trouble conceiving, and many women with the syndrome can still conceive naturally. Other symptoms include weight gain, fatigue, thinning hair, acne, mood changes, headaches caused by hormonal changes, and sleep problems. 

How can I treat my PCOS?

Because of the varying insulin levels and weight gain that can accompany PCOS, doctors recommend weight loss and a healthy diet to help treat it and avoid diabetes and high blood pressure. The varying hormone levels do make it hard to lose weight and keep it off with PCOS, but doctors say even a five percent weight loss will help treat the syndrome and manage insulin levels. Additionally, doctors may treat PCOS with hormonal birth control to help regulate your period and lower your androgen levels which will help with the excess hair growth.

A drug called metformin can also be used to treat polycystic ovary syndrome. Metformin isn’t approved by the FDA for treating this syndrome, but it is often prescribed to help lower insulin and androgen levels. This drug can also improve menstrual cycles and help with weight management. It won’t treat the excess hair growth though. Because this drug isn’t approved by the FDA, it’s important to have an in-depth discussion with your doctor about taking metformin. Another drug called clomiphene is also used to treat PCOS because it helps induce ovulation, which can help with fertility issues. There are also many products specifically made to treat excess hair growth. 

Getting support for your diagnosis

Although PCOS is a serious syndrome with many symptoms, there are many options for treating it and managing it. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, see your doctor and they can help diagnose you with a blood test to check your hormones, as well as a pelvic exam and ultrasound. 

Polycystic ovary syndrome affects a lot of women and can cause serious problems such as infertility and diabetes if untreated. The PCOS Awareness Association has a bunch of wonderful resources on their website such as in-depth information on each PCOS symptom, as well as specialists who treat PCOS. Although there is no cure for this syndrome, there are many ways to treat it and manage the symptoms. If you have PCOS, talk to your doctor about ways to manage it and know that you are not alone.

It’s that time of year again—spring cleaning! The sun begins to shine, we hear birds begin to chirp, everything that’s been frozen over is beginning to come back to life, and so do we! With this newfound zest for life in the spring, we want to clean up our homes and do it the right way. In this day and age, long gone are the days of using smelly and slightly toxic cleaning supplies. We’ve got options, honey. Here are some ways to do your spring cleaning the sustainable way.

1. Donate your old stuff during spring cleaning

If you have yet to read Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” I suggest you begin here. Kondo wrote this book many years ago, and it’s regained popularity the last several years with the premiere of her Netflix show, which I also recommend. Kondo offers a foolproof method for cleaning out your entire home in a way that ensures you won’t have to do a deep-tidying ever again.

After going through your belongings and deciding what you’re ready to part with, consider donating. You could donate old clothes to a local women’s shelter, Goodwill, or even a friend. If you have any beauty, haircare, or menstrual products, consider donating those as well because those are also needed at shelters. Not only is donating used items thoughtful, but it’s also better for the environment than throwing away your clothing for it to end up in a landfill.

2. Use eco-friendly chemicals in your cleaning products

Let’s be real – everything has chemicals in it. We just want to make sure that the chemicals we are spray and scrubbing all over our home are not bad for us. Brands such as Seventh Generation and Mrs. Meyer’s make high-quality cleaning products that smell good and are safe for your home. Other brands that are eco-friendly even have biodegradable packaging. Sure, these might cost a bit more than the store brand cleaner, but the environmental impact of eco-friendly cleaning supplies is worth the cost if you ask me.

3. Switch to package-free, reusable products

Besides using eco-friendly products for your spring cleaning, there are also many clever products that are reusable or package-free. Consider swapping out some products in your home and see how much waste you save. Switch to reusable sandwich bags, a reusable trash liner, wool balls instead of dryer sheets, reusable Swiffer covers, refillable surface cleaner—the list goes on and on. Again, these items might be a bit pricier, but they last a long time and have little to no packing. It’s a win-win.

4. Use essential oils and soy candles

Although burning a candle in your home can put the cherry on top of a freshly cleaned space, traditional candles use chemicals that can release soot into your space or even stain your walls over time. Soy candles are better for the environment, burn longer, and are made from soy, which is a renewable resource. Essential oils can also help fill your home with a fresh scent, and those are made from plants and are safe. Essential oils can also be used in homemade cleaning products and can be used for light cleaning as well as being diffused. Some essential oils are not safe for animals, so if you have pets, do a little research first before bringing those into your home.

Now go forth and spring clean your space the sustainable and safe way!

It’s good to be educated about our bodies every month of the year, but with Endometriosis Awareness Month observed in March, it’s an excellent time to learn about this condition that up to 10 percent of people with uteruses have—endometriosis.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is when the tissue that lines your uterus grows outside of your uterus as well. This tissue is called the endometrium. During your menstrual cycle, the endometrium tissue builds up, sheds if you have no fertilized eggs, then leaves your body through your period. When this tissue grows outside of the uterus, it still builds up as part of your menstrual cycle, but then it has nowhere to shed and exit the body. Endometriosis develops over time, usually several years after your first period, and affects up to 10 percent of people with uteruses ages 25-40.

What are the symptoms?

Since everyone’s bodies are so different, endometriosis symptoms can be mild to severe and vary for everyone depending on their body. The severity of your symptoms does not indicate the severity of the actual tissue buildup. This tissue can grow on your ovaries, bowel, and pelvis, and comes with a wide variety of symptoms. Because this tissue is building up and isn’t shedding, it can become increasingly painful over time. The most common endometriosis symptom is pelvic pain and cramps. This pain and cramping hit you in the same areas you might feel period cramps, but it’s much more intense. This cramping can be just during your period, but for some people, there’s constant pelvic pain. These cramps aren’t like normal period cramps. Some people experience cramps so intense they can’t go to work or function normally.

In addition to painful periods, other symptoms include pain during or after sexual intercourse, pain with bowel movements or peeing, as well as diarrhea, constipation, and bloating, heavy bleeding during your period, or bleeding between periods, and in some cases, infertility. About 30 to 40 percent of people with endometriosis experience fertility issues. These issues can be discussed with your doctor, and there are options to maximize your fertility with endometriosis.

Because the tissue can grow in several places in your body, it can affect these places in different ways. Another symptom is developing scars on your ovaries and pelvis, as well as adhesions or tissues growing so that they bind your organs together. Because the symptoms are so general, endometriosis can be hard to diagnose initially. People can be misdiagnosed with Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, ovarian cysts, or even Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Are there treatment options?

Although endometriosis is not curable, there are several different treatment options. The growth of your endometrium outside of the womb is due to varying levels of estrogen in your body. Your changing hormones during your menstrual cycle that promote the growth and shedding of your uterine lining are the exact hormones promoting the growth of this tissue as well. Remember, the only difference is this tissue has nowhere to go once it’s grown. Hormone therapy or hormonal contraception can be used as an effective treatment. Hormonal birth control pills are a popular treatment for endometriosis because they shut down ovulation. If you’re not ovulating, your uterine lining is not building up to shed, so it should stop the growth of this tissue outside of the uterus as well. Any hormones that help stop menstruation could help treat endometriosis. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists and antagonists can be used to treat endometriosis as well. GnRH is used to essentially create early menopause by stopping the production of estrogen in the body. Because it puts you in an early menopause, side effects would include vaginal dryness and hot flashes. This treatment sounds intense, and I’d guess it would likely be used for severe cases. Danazol is another medication that can stop your period and help stop the growth of endometrium tissue. These treatment options can help with pain and help stop tissue growth, but they don’t necessarily help with fertility.

If you are wanting to get pregnant or have a severe case of endometriosis and hormones haven’t helped, surgery is another option. During the surgery, the excess tissue growing outside of the uterus is removed. The surgery is called laparoscopy, uses lasers, and is minimally invasive. Again, this is the only treatment option that can help improve fertility. In extremely severe cases, and if you are not wanting to get pregnant, you could also have a total hysterectomy. This is a surgery to remove your uterus and cervix. This is usually only recommended for severe cases or for someone who knows they do not want to get pregnant. Once your uterus and cervix are removed, you won’t be able to get pregnant because your uterus will be gone.

What is the cause of endometriosis?

The exact cause of endometriosis is not known, which can be frustrating. One theory is that during menstruation the blood flows back into the fallopian tubes, causing build-up, while another theory suggests that hormones transform cells outside of the uterus into ones similar to those inside the uterus, confusing the body. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, or even just have incredibly painful periods, go see your gynecologist. They will likely do a physical exam and an ultrasound to see what your uterine tissue looks like. Once diagnosed, your doctor will discuss the severity of your case with you. If left untreated, endometriosis can get worse over time because of the continuation of tissue building up. Once your doctor tells you the severity (minimal, mild, moderate, or severe) you can work together to discuss treatment options. Although endometriosis isn’t curable, you can still live a relatively pain-free life with it. If you are planning on having a family and want to maintain your fertility, be sure to mention that to your doctor.

If you suspect you have endometriosis or have incredibly painful periods, speak up and talk to your doctor about it. Intense period pain isn’t normal or something you should live with! It can indicate there’s a deeper issue going on. Talk with your doctor to find a solution.

Our bodies are truly amazing! They help us breathe, walk, protect us, and literally bring new life into this world! They also help us experience pleasure, which is an added bonus! A lot of people don’t often think about the transition from giving birth back into having intercourse or penetrative sex, and let me tell you, it’s important to be informed! I recently was listening to a podcast where the author of the book Like a Mother, Angela Garbes, was talking about her first time having sex after giving birth.

In a hilarious and alarming turn of events, she squirted breast milk out of her nipples as she orgasmed! Apparently, the same hormones are released during breastfeeding and orgasm, and her body got confused. Is this normal? Will this happen to me? What even is “normal”?!

First thing’s first: when it comes to sex and sexuality, there is no “normal.” Every person’s body and level of desire are different. Now that we’ve got that out of the way…

How long to wait to have sex after giving birth

Although there’s no set time you must wait to have penetrative sex after giving birth, it’s recommended to wait between four to six weeks, regardless of delivery method. If you had a vaginal delivery, your body needs to recover! Your vaginal tissue is thinner than before, your vagina is tired, and you may even need to recover from some tearing. If you had a C-section, that is major surgery! You were cut open, your organs were moved aside, and a human was lifted out of you! Your body also needs time to heal and recover. Although this is the recommended time to wait, pay attention to your body. If you need more time to heal, take more time. Make sure to communicate with your partner about how you and your body are feeling so they can be kept in the loop as well.

What is my body doing after birth?

Your body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy and childbirth, so it’s important to pay attention to how you are feeling. After giving birth, estrogen levels drop severely. Estrogen is the hormone responsible for natural lubrication in your vagina, so once these levels drop, your vagina will be dryer than usual until the hormones balance back out. Additionally, if you are breastfeeding, that can also increase vaginal dryness. When you are ready to have intercourse again, use lube baby!!! Also, take it slow and enjoy some foreplay with your partner to allow your body to relax and get its natural lubrication going as well. Technically your chances of getting pregnant while breastfeeding are extremely low, but this isn’t a foolproof method of birth control. Use another method like condoms or an IUD. You can even use the progestin-only pill, but avoid any birth control with estrogen in it. This can lead to blood clots if used immediately after pregnancy.

Additionally, after giving birth, your vaginal tissue is thinner. This is also due to your hormone levels drastically dropping. This can lead to pain during sex. The tissue won’t stay this way forever, but just know that sex initially might feel different or more uncomfortable because of this. You might experience dryness as I mentioned above, you might have more pain or even bleeding, fatigue, or low libido. Your pelvic floor muscles also need to be strengthened after you give birth, and tired pelvic floor muscles can cause less intense orgasms. Those are easily strengthened with Kegel exercises though.  

Just be patient!

The biggest thing to remember when getting back in the sex-game post-baby is to be patient with yourself! Your body has just undergone a HUGE change and experienced something a little traumatic- either major surgery or pushing a human out of your vagina. The dynamic between you and your partner has also likely shifted a bit because you are now parents. You are tired. You have a baby to think about and care for 24/7. You also might feel like everyone needs your body and you have no energy to share your body with your partner at the end of the day. That’s okay. Communicate how you’re feeling! Talking about these feelings will also help build intimacy between you and your partner, which will lead to great sex when you’re ready.

You can also do other fun sexy things besides penetrative sex if you are not ready for that just yet. Passionate kissing, kissing anywhere buy the mouth, oral sex, finger and hand stuff, sensual massages, use toys on each other, take a bubble bath together, mutual masturbation. The list goes on and on!

Be patient, communicate your needs, and pay attention to how your body is feeling. You got this, mama.

It’s no secret that here at Just Jenn I LOVE talking about sexuality! We’ve discussed all sorts of things sexual health related here, and I’ve got another fun thing to add to our discussion: a Desire Journal. 

I first heard of the idea of keeping a desire journal from a sex educator on Instagram named Dr. Wendasha Jenkins Hall PhD (@thesensiblesexpert). Dr. Wendasha brought up the idea of keeping a desire journal in one of her Instagram videos where she discusses a different topic related to sexual health each week. The Sensible Sexpert describes a desire journal as a journal where you write down all of your sexual desires and explore the possibilities of your desire. I love this idea and totally think we all should start keeping desire journals, like, ASAP.

What is a desire journal?

As The Sensible Sexpert describes, a desire journal is a place for you to explore your sexuality and desire in private. if you want to share these desires with a partner now or in the future, of course you can, but the journal is just for YOU. Even just writing about your desires and allowing yourself to explore new ideas can help you better connect with your sensuality and sexual self. 

Why keep a desire journal?

There are SO many possibilities of what to write about in a desire journal. There are no rules! You could write about past sexual experiences that you’ve enjoyed, and why. You could write about past experiences you didn’t enjoy, and why. You could write down fantasies and let yourself explore them in detail. An important note about fantasies and a desire journal in general – just because you fantasize about something doesn’t mean you ACTUALLY want it to happen. That’s why it’s a fantasy. Besides, no one else is going to see these pages, so let yourself roam free with your sensual imagination. 

Suggestions for your next journal entry

You could make a list of sexy things that turn you on, non-sexual things that turn you on, ways you turn yourself on. Make a list of how you like to be touched by someone else, how you like to be touched by yourself, places you like to have sex, places you want to have sex. You could also use the pages of your journal to create a sex bucket list or a list of sexy things you’d like to try. Again, no one but you will see these ponderings, so let yourself explore your desire without shame! Are there any new sex positions you want to try? Write about it! Are there sex toys you’d like to try? Write about it! Is there a type of lingerie you want to try but never have? Write about it! Write down any and everything you desire, even if you don’t actually want to try everything you explore in the journal.

Being connected to your own desires and feeling safe and comfortable to express and explore them with yourself will help cultivate a more open, healthy relationship with your own sexuality and sensual self. Exploring your desires in a safe place such as a journal could help make it easier to express your desires to a partner as well. We are not often encouraged to explore our desires, or we’re shamed for being in touch with them. I’m here to tell you there is NOTHING wrong with exploring your desires, and in fact, I think it will improve your overall relationship with yourself. Get to writing!

A few years ago I kept seeing ads for a medicine called Truvada for PrEP that helps prevent the spread of HIV through sex. Amazing! I even wrote an article about it! Now, several years later, another option is on the market called Descovy for PrEP.

What is PrEP?

PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, and is a once daily pill taken to help lower the risk of getting HIV through sex. HIV is NOT the same thing as AIDs. HIV is a virus that takes over cells in the body of an infected person and weakens the immune system, making it impossible for the virus to get cleared out of the infected person. HIV can be spread through certain bodily fluids such as blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid or pre-cum, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. People can become infected with HIV by sharing a needle or having unprotected sex with someone who is infected with HIV.

AIDS is the final stage of HIV. A person is diagnosed with AIDS if or when their immune system is no longer working the way it should. HIV turns into AIDS if the virus is untreated and weakens the immune system over time.\

How does Descovy work with PrEP?

Someone who is HIV negative, but has a partner who is HIV positive would be a great candidate for Descovy, because it prevents the spread of HIV through sex. Descovy works almost exactly as Truvada does, however, there is one main difference in the medications. Descovy is not for people assigned female at birth, as no clinical trials have been done on these participants. Truvada trials have been done on people assigned female at birth, however, you should consult your doctor before becoming pregnant or breastfeeding while on Truvada, as HIV can be spread through breast milk. But back to Descovy!

Before taking Descovy, you must receive a negative HIV test. Once you start taking your prescription, it is recommended to get tested about every three months for STDs, including HIV. Other STDs can make you more likely to contract HIV, so regular testing along with taking PrEP regularly is the way to go. Descovy lowers the chance of getting HIV through sex, however, it doesn’t prevent any other STDs, again making those regular tests oh so important. If you take Descovy and have a monogamous partner who also knows their STD status, you likely wouldn’t need to be tested as often. 

What are the side effects of Descovy?

When used correctly in a clinical trial, 99.7% of participants stayed HIV negative. Heck yeah! As with any medication, there are some potential side effects. The side effects for Descovy and Truvada are nearly identical. Side effects for Descovy include the possibility of worsening Hepatitis B, so be sure to tell your health care provider all of your current medications and health status before starting Descovy. Side effects also include potential kidney problems, too much lactic acid in your blood, as well as liver problems. More mild side effects include nausea or headache. 

The Descovy website has a bunch of detailed information on how to find a healthcare provider to help you determine if Descovy is right for you, as well as ways to stay on top of your daily pill intake, including a daily pill tracker to help you never miss a dose. There is also information on the cost and coverage for Descovy on their website

Having more options for PrEP medications and HIV prevention through sex is huge and exciting! Again, Descovy is not for people assigned female at birth, but it’s a great option for other people at risk of being exposed to HIV. If you think Descovy is a good option for you or your partner(s), visit their website to find a recommended healthcare provider.

We often hear about the way someone’s body will change during pregnancy, but we don’t really talk much about how bodies change after pregnancy. For example, Chrissy Teigen’s Twitter page taught me that she had to wash herself with a little syringe after peeing when she first gave birth because patting herself dry with toilet paper would be too irritating. And apparently, that’s a common thing people do after giving birth. My limited knowledge on how someone’s body changes after birth made me wonder: between breastfeeding and fluctuating hormones, what happens to a person’s post-baby period after giving birth?

Breastfeeding Hormones Can Affect Your Post-Baby Period

The short answer is it depends — each person’s body is different. I was surprised to find that whether you have a C-Section or vaginal delivery does not affect your periods after giving birth. The biggest thing that affects your periods is whether or not you breastfeed. Breastfeeding produces high levels of the hormone prolactin, which will suppress reproductive hormones. If these hormones are suppressed, you won’t have a period. Although you won’t have a period if you are exclusively breastfeeding, this is not an effective birth control method and you could still get pregnant. If you don’t want to get pregnant again immediately after giving birth, talk to your doctor about birth control methods.

Once you stop breastfeeding, your period can return anywhere from six to nine months after giving birth. Experts recommend you see your doctor if your period hasn’t returned within this window of time after weaning off breastfeeding. If you do not breastfeed after giving birth, your period can return anywhere from four to eight weeks after giving birth. If you get your period very shortly after giving birth, it is recommended to avoid using tampons so your body can fully heal.

Post-Baby Vaginal Discharge

Before your period returns, you will have a vaginal discharge called lochia. Lochia will accompany a vaginal birth or a c-section. This discharge will likely be lighter and not last as long with a c-section. Lochia generally occurs for about four to six weeks after delivery and changes color with time. Initially, the discharge is dark red accompanied by small blood clots. After the first few days, it can be watery and pinkish-brown in color. After the first week, it will likely be yellowish in color. The amount of your discharge can change throughout the day and with physical activity as well. This comes before your period even returns.

Your First Post-Baby Period

Your first period after birth will likely be different than pre-pregnancy because your body is readjusting to menstruation. Unfortunately, there is no way to know what your period will be like after pregnancy until you start menstruating again. Your first period after giving birth might be heavier than usual, and you might experience more cramping due to the uterus clearing everything out.

 After the initial first period, some people’s periods will be lighter after giving birth, some might be heavier, some have less severe cramps than before getting pregnant, while some have more severe cramps. The uterine cavity can get larger after giving birth, causing it to have more lining to shed each month, leading to heavier periods. However, this is not the case for everyone. There is truly no sure way to predict how your period specifically might change after giving birth. Most periods should return to how they were before you got pregnant, although some changes can occur due to other factors.

It’s impossible to predict how someone’s period will be after giving birth, so it is important to pay attention to your body. Your first menstrual cycle after giving birth might be different than you period before pregnancy, but if you notice continuous, painful changes, severe increase in bleeding, or other complications, contact your doctor. You know your body best so trust yourself and speak up if something feels off.