Q: I recently stopped nursing my second child and although I want to be sexually available for my partner again, intercourse is so painful now. My doctor prescribed personal lubricant for the pain I have been experiencing during and after intercourse. I have tried 3 different brands of lubricant and I still have pain and burning during and after. Is this normal after having two kids? Will sex never be the same for me?
A: Great question! First off know that you are not alone in struggling with finding your libido and dealing with the physiological changes that come with having children. In fact pain with intercourse affects over 40 percent of women at some point in their lives. Having children and nursing are some of the most common reasons that women experience vaginal dryness and pain with intercourse. There are many others as well, such as taking certain medications (anti-depressants and antihistamines) that cause the same problems, as well as the natural course of aging and menopause.
There are many brands of lubricants available on the market. Largely they break down into three main categories; water based lubricants, silicone based lubricants and oil based lubricants. Each category has its benefits and weaknesses and it is increasingly important to be informed about the choices and consequences associated with different product ingredients. I started my own love product company because so many products that I used after the birth of my third and fourth child only served to further irritate the situation. Soaking myself in late night baths, I often wondered what was wrong with me, and why none of these products were helping me enjoy sex. Being exhausted with burning genitals, instead of feeling satisfied made it easy to believe that the problem was with me, not the products.
Water based lubricants are by far the most popular category because they are most often recommended by physicians and are latex compatible. However, because of their ingredient base which is largely petrochemical, many women experience continuous irritation, burning and infection. Propylene glycol, a primary derivative used in anti-freeze and brake fluid, Polyethylene glycol, an ingredient of oven cleaner and the use of preservatives methyl and propyl-parabens is very common. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a research advocate arm of the Breast Cancer Fund, has recently identified parabens as potentially carcinogenic and is working to stop their usage in all personal care products. Another popular ingredient of water based lubricants is vegetable glycerin. There is some debate about glycerin. On the plus side, it is a great anti-bacterial agent and does provide a certain glide, but in large proportions has a tendency to inflame yeast problems and usually ends up very sticky and overly sweet.
Silicone based lubricants are enjoyed by many, with great response. Silicone is known for providing smooth and long lasting glide. Although many lubricant aficionados swear by silicone lube, it is important to take into account the health risks and the fact that it does not wash off sensitive tissue with soap and water very easily.
Natural oil based lubricants offer a sensuous and aromatic choice for individuals who are either allergic to latex or have other birth control methods. Love oils and butters gave me my first really positive and healing sexual experience and helped me launch my business in natural love products. The use of olive oil and coconut oil as lubricants is ages old, and for good reason.
Over the years we have worked with many doctors who were not aware of how the ingredient base of products that they were recommending were negatively impacting their patients. Finding the personal lubricant that is right for you is a matter of education and trial. Read the ingredient labels and if the company doesn’t offer up the ingredients, be sure to ask.
I have researched product chemistry and really believe that many intimacy products suffer from a serious lack of imagination. In addition to Good Clean Love organic products, you might look at www.yesyesyes.org and www.fireflylubricant.com. Good educational sites to review include thedinahproject.com and www.redtentsisters.com.
Feel good about your desire to solve this problem and know that there are more and more great all natural products that will help you rekindle the fun and intimacy that you remember and that will keep your relationship whole and vital.
Wendy Strgar is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love and family. She helps couples tackle the questions and concerns of intimacy and relationships, providing honest answers and innovative advice. Wendy lives in Eugene, Oregon with her husband, a psychiatrist, and their four children ages 11-20.