Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby!: Intimacy During Pregnancy & Postpartum

Remember when you were having fun trying to get pregnant? I’m feeling sexy, let’s have sex!  I’m ovulating, let’s have sex! I’m bored, let’s have sex! Any reason was a good reason to do the deed. Then you actually got pregnant, and let’s just say you weren’t as eager any more. Then! You had the baby and thought you’d be eager to get back to having some fun, but that didn’t happen right away. Well that’s because pregnancies and children change your romantic relationship. The question is do you let it change for the better or for the worst?

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One of the most common statements in couples therapy is, “We never have sex.” Surprising? Maybe not, because of course lack of sex is often a result of lack of intimacy, respect, understanding, and many other things already missing from a relationship. These same things can get lost in the changes that occur during and after a pregnancy. Let’s talk about some of the ways sex changes when a baby is on the way.

1st Trimester

You may still look like yourself for the most part, but you probably don’t feel like yourself. Between morning sickness, severe fatigue, and just the stress of understanding that you are actually growing a human inside of you…sex is probably the last thing on your mind (I mean that’s what got you in this situation in the first place! #TurnOff). Your partner may still be very much into you though…no pun intended.

As you go through these unrecognizable changes your partner may still be ready to jump in the hay and may not understand why someone who was all about the sexy time a month or two ago is suddenly completely over the idea. This is the best time to talk to your partner about what’s going on for you and try to get them on the same page. As things start growing and feeling more and more uncomfortable, it will get harder to have a rational conversation about your partner’s needs as well as what you need.

Try practicing other forms of intimacy. Whether that be cuddling, kissing, hugging, eye contact or (let’s stay scientifically correct) fellatio or cunnilingus. If you don’t know what those last two are, Google it…actually on second thought. Don’t Google it. I’m talking about a good old fashioned BJ and well in the words of Cardi B let him “swim with his face”. Anyway…moving on.

2nd Trimester

The first 3 months can be rough, but with the 2nd trimester some changes may occur. The path of pregnancy is a continuously evolving one and you may notice changes in mood, changes in your body, and changes in your sex drive. Some women even experience an increase in their libido during this time! The tricky part about the 2nd trimester is getting back into the swing of things. If you got your partner on the same page during the 1st trimester it is easier to divulge to them that your desire is back and your ready to see what that body pillow was really meant to do.

Now, with a growing bump your partner may have some fears about what is and isn’t okay when it comes to sex at this stage. Always check in with your doctor to make sure they don’t have any concerns about you doing the deed (and trust that asking about sex is definitely not going to make your doctor uncomfortable…they stare at lady parts all day, they don’t have an uncomfortable bone in their bodies). Take the time to educate yourselves on what sex could look like at this stage, and possibly take a birthing class to help build trust and intimacy in this time of delicate emotions. Going to therapy during this time (individual or couples) can also be beneficial for exploring how you are really feeling about this pending new life.

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3rd Trimester

Things are getting a little lot more crowded and uncomfortable. You may have to get creative with your positioning in this stage, but the deed can be done (again, double check with your physician). Use this as an excuse to practice your listening skills and communicate what works and what doesn’t work for either of you. This is technically the last time you will be able to get it done for a few months.

Also, carve out time in your schedule to discuss how you are both feeling about this new life growing and how things might change after their arrival. Set expectations for how you would like to stay connected once sex is something that inevitably becomes less frequent (at least in the short term).

Postpartum

The baby is out! Woohoo! Time for sex, right? Wrong. You have another 2 months (at least) before any doctor will give you the okay for sex. Let’s be honest those first 2 months you’re probably not going to have the time or energy for sex anyway (a newborn can really suck the life out of you). Use these two months to practice less physical intimacy (refer to 1st Trimester) and start discussing your birth control options with your ob/gyn as these will need to be started ASAP if you don’t want to be doing this all over again in 9 months. Note: you CAN get pregnant while breastfeeding, so do not use that as a form of birth control.

This is a time of transition for any couple, so recognizing that things will not be exactly the same, and putting in place some ways to create small, intimate moments that now work with your new life will be critical. If you are struggling in this time to communicate with one another your needs, utilize your village and have someone babysit for an hour or two (take up friends/family on their offers for help). You both deserve a break. Take some time to go on a date or go to therapy together. Giving yourself some grace allows you to be a better partner and parent.

Why I have a Waiting List: What To Do in the Meantime

I know. You came here to schedule an appointment, but you saw I had a waiting list. You got yourself pumped up for starting therapy and were disappointed. I sincerely apologize. I created a waiting list so I know who to reach out to when an appointment opens up. I do not encourage rushing people through their therapeutic process, so as I help my current clients, I will try to leave you with some ideas on how to utilize your time and start the therapy process before your first appointment!

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Start Journaling

One way to document your emotions, events in your life, or just ideas and to-do lists is by keeping a daily or weekly journal. The first question I ask all my clients is, “what brings you into therapy?” If you keep a record of how you have been feeling, you will have collected all the data necessary to answer this question. The therapeutic process would have started before you even walk in the door, and you’ll feel prepared for the work that happens in the therapy room.

Do some Self Care

If you are willing to dedicate an hour a week to therapy that means you have an hour in your schedule already to do some self care. Take that time now to schedule something just for you. Self care can look like taking a walk around the park, lake, or by the beach. It could be spending some time doing something creative like painting, coloring, or knitting. It could mean practicing mindfulness or meditation in a peaceful setting you create just for yourself (candles, mood lights, and white noise machines welcome!). Self care could also look like setting up a coffee date with some of your favorite people every week. Whatever you choose to do with your time make it all about self love!

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Talk to your Support Network

Maybe you can’t grab coffee every week, but maybe you can incorporate some other form of communication. Write a letter to an old friend or to someone you never got to say how you really feel too. Call up a sibling and laugh about old shenanigans or vent about your crazy parents. Join a book club or support group that helps you learn how to open up about your thoughts. Or just carve out time for you and your partner to connect every week. Who ever you give that time to, make sure it is spent with those that will add to your life instead of take away from it.

Try Something New

You thought therapy would be a new adventure for you to take. Why not try something else new and different from your normal routine? Being uncomfortable is a skill you will definitely utilize in therapy, so might as well practice now. Whether that is a new restaurant in town or a new hobby, get outside of your comfort zone and try something that the new you could really dive into!

Reach out to one of the Referrals Provided

If waiting isn’t something you are open to, please utilize one of the referrals emailed to you after adding your name to the waiting list. You could also call the following numbers to get resources more quickly!

Mental Health Resources: 2-1-1

Access & Crisis Line (San Diego): 1-888-724-7240

Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741741

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

 

I hope to see you soon along your path to wellness!

You’ve Decided to Go to Therapy: 3 Questions to Ask BEFORE Scheduling Your First Appointment

So you are thinking about going to therapy. You may have just decided this moment it is something you need in your life, or maybe you have been craving some professional guidance on your mental health for years. Either way, I ‘m happy you are at a place in life where therapy has become a more reachable resource!

Scheduling that first appointment can be daunting, nerve-racking, and anxiety provoking…but it could also be the move that gets your life back on track! Before you “request an appointment” however, it is important to do some self reflection about what role you want your therapist to play in your life. That’s why I give you 3 questions to ask yourself BEFORE scheduling your first appointment.

Disclosure: Your therapist will NOT be a friend, advice giver, enabler, or a passive listener. So if that is what you are looking for…don’t seek it in a therapist.ย 

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Are you ready to put in the work?

Therapy is not just a place to vent for an hour each week. Therapy is a place for growth and reflection and CHANGE. Let me repeat that…CHANGE. Change can be scary for a lot of people, and if you are not ready to get comfortable with change, you probably aren’t ready for therapy. That’s not to say that therapy can’t help you get comfortable with change. If you know things need to be different in your life and you are willing to discover what has gone wrong and what could go better…therapy may just be your jumpstart to a new life.

Therapy involves working on yourself consistently from week to week. Unlike an annual doctor’s visit, where your physician may prescribe 30 minutes of exercise a day and drinking more water, then not see you again for a year just to find out you haven’t exercised or drank more water… Therapy is nearly weekly…if you haven’t worked on the things you said you wanted to your therapist is going to call you out on it…every week…until you start to make the changes. A therapist can be a very good accountability person, and can be exceptional at helping you problem solve what is getting in the way of you accomplishing the small day to day battles.

If you believe that you are ready for a fresh outlook on your own life…scheduling that appointment might just be a good idea.

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Do you know how you want your therapist to help you?

You believe you are ready for change, but do you know what you want to change? Going into therapy with the thought, “My life isn’t working for me right now. I need something different.” is a good start, but a GREAT start would be thinking (for example), “My life isn’t working for me right now because my relationship/career/family/etc. are not fulfilling me the way I need. I need to work on finding balance/something new/peace/etc.”

Ask yourself what you need your potential therapist to help you with. What have you done so far to try and help yourself? And how will therapy emphasize or add too this effort? Do you need to discover certain communication skills or better boundary setting skills or discover yourself or something else? Think of questions to ask this potential therapist so you know they are a good fit for you and your areas of growth.

Example Questions:

  • Do you specialize in working with certain populations?
  • Do you diagnose your clients?
  • What is your theoretical approach? And how will that influence our work together?
  • Do you recommend individual, couples, or family therapy for ________ issues?
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How present do you want therapy to be in your life?

After checking in with yourself about how much work you are willing to put in and how involved you want your therapist to be in your growth…it is only right to ask how those two things may interact throughout this journey. Maybe you know yourself well enough to say you need that weekly appointment to hold you accountable, or maybe you know you just need a monthly check in to keep you on track. Maybe what you really need is a support network that could be established through group therapy or maybe your relationship is really what could benefit from therapeutic intervention.

Whatever combination you need, there is a therapist out there that can meet your expectations.

Always consider your financial health in this process as well, seek out community mental health clinics or associate therapists for reduced cost services. You can find licensed and/or registered therapists in your city at psychologytoday.com or therapyforblackgirls.com

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Young Therapists: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Accepting that First Job

Diverting from my usual audience, I want to speak to my fellow blooming therapists out there.

Deciding to become a therapist means deciding to be selfless more hours out of the day than not. This is a daunting task and takes a special kind of person to take it on. So kudos to you for choosing to walk down that career path!

However passionate you are about this path, I would like to send the reminder that being a therapist is a lot more than just being an empathetic person to those that choose to sit in front of you…it’s a full blown job. A job that is both physically and mentally draining. Preparing yourself for what you are about to take on and preparing yourself for where this career path will take you in the future is important!

Making an informed decision about how being a therapist will affect your overall life will help you grow into your career with ease. That is why I want to pose to you 5 questions to ask yourself before accepting that first job…

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What are you doing for self-care?

As much as we preach “self-care is important!”, are you taking care of yourself? Can you think of one thing you do on a regular basis that is purely for yourself? If you can’t think of something, you better assign yourself some self-care ASAP. We tell our clients all the time that self-care is important, but we often forget that as “helpers” we are often the ones that need some self-care the most. Knowing your hobbies, happy place, or support systems can be life saving when working in this field. Also, think about how you will incorporate this self care when you begin your career. Establishing these self care activities into your routine NOW, will make it much easier when things start to get even more hectic.

What are your priorities?

Are you single, and hoping to still have time for finding love? Or do you have aย  family where being present for all the big moments is important? Or do you really love taking trips and participating in events and get togethers with friends? No matter what your priorities are, make sure to take these into account BEFORE signing on to a new job or side project. Knowing what comes first on your priority list enables you to choose what will be a good fit for you. Also, take into account that these priorities may shift. Working two jobs and 60 hour weeks may seem fine when you are pre-licensed, but once you become licensed you may want to reduce some of these hours to fit in other more important activities.

What do you want your schedule to look like?

There is no typical therapist schedule, so don’t try to match what you see someone else doing. In grad school you may have been handed a class schedule that you had to work around, but it may have seemed easy to just fill in the space before or after classes each week. After graduation however, you have to figure out your entire 24 hours each day to really maximize your time. If you are considering agency work vs. private practice, choose wisely. You may expect a typical 9-5pm, but crisis happens at all times of the day, so therapy jobs often mean working nights and weekends. Something they don’t tell you in grad school.

Look at your schedule and decide what line of work fits into your lifestyle. Outpatient programs offer the most typical schedule, as they are mostly office-based (M-F, 9am-5pm). School-based jobs often give more flexibility due to school year schedules (expect working anywhere between 7am and 3pm, M-F, with all the typical school breaks). A community-based job will often involve more evening hours (think hours between 9am and 7pm, M-Sat., with minimal holidays). Though some add the flexibility of working a 4×10 (4 days a week, 10 hours a day). Private practice work can seem to be the most flexible, but at times it can be the most restricting, as you are catering to when your clients will most likely be available (think M-Th.+Sat., 4pm-9pm or 9am-12pm). With most clients working a typical 9-5, you’re often offering the off hours. Each job you apply for will come with a different set of requirements, so do not be afraid to ask what a normal work day/week looks like for their therapists.

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How do you set boundaries?

You may have been taught about legal & ethical boundaries, but personal boundaries can be just as important to establish in your career. Being a pre-licensed therapist, you often forget just how much you have to offer, which can be detrimental to your sanity. Pre-licensed therapists are often taken advantage of in the work place due to our natural desire to help. Be firm with your boundaries when it comes to working extra hours, taking home work, carrying your client’s baggage, and all the other ways in which you may be asked to go above & beyond your job description. Decide what will be hurtful to your well-being and what will be helpful to your goals. If it feels like too much, it most likely is WAY too much!

What are your career goals?

This is a major question, and arguably the most important. Some people go into the mental health field because they love the one-on-one contact with people, and doing anything other than direct therapy doesn’t interest them. Some people want to be the director of an entire non-profit because they want to see agencies run differently. Some people really want the ability to work for themselves, part-time, and have more time for their family. While others really love the educating aspect of therapy, and see themselves eventually teaching. And still others may have completely different goals tied into their mental health related degree. Figuring this goal out now however, allows you to line up and prioritize what is most important to you.

Think about where you see yourself in 10 years…what are you doing? Where do you live? How hard are you working? These questions will allow you to seek out a position that will help you reach your end goal. Finding a position that gives you room for growth and professional trainings can be game changing when you finally become licensed. Additional items on a resume or just additional knowledge in your head, can make all the difference in that professional transition. Start by making a vision board or writing a letter to your future self, then hold yourself accountable to accomplish the dreams you have.

It will all be worth it in the end.

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“Situationships”: 5 Ways to have Healthy Relationships in College

With the so called “cuffing season” upon us, what are your #RelationshipGoals for the season? Are you looking for something physical and nothing more? Are you looking for someone to bring home to family events, so you stop getting asked why you’re single? Or are you looking for someone to call “bae” through Valentine’s Day, but say “bye” by summer?

Whatever you are looking for, there are healthy and not so healthy ways of interacting with potential partners. Let’s go over some of those crucial skills with 5 ways to have healthy relationships in college…

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Be Real with Yourself

The first step to any relationship is being real with yourself. What do you really want to get out of this interaction? Why are you looking for what you’re looking for? Be real…

Is it because your friends are saying you need to get out there? Is it because your hormones are raging? Is it because you are stressed and see a relationship as a way of seeking support? Is it because you can’t stand being single? What about being single do you hate so much? Is it society’s rules and expectations about partnering up? There are about a dozen more questions I could ask, but you get the idea. Ask yourself the hard questions, and recognize your intentions with seeking a new partner.

Be Open & Honest about What You Want

Once you look at yourself and decide why you are getting suited up for “cuffing season”, the next step is deciding what you actually want. No judgment, some people don’t want to be in a serious, committed relationship. That’s okay. As long as you KNOW that for sure, and don’t decide 3 months into a “situationship” that you want something more. Sorry to inform you, but you will be disappointed.

If you know WHY you want a certain type of relationship, this may be helpful information to share with a potential partner, so as they do not expect you to change your mind down the road. And on the other side of things…when someone tells you exactly what they want do not expect anything more or less of EXACTLY what they said! Do not project your dreams and desires onto a person that does not hold the same values.

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Set Up Boundaries

When deciding what type of relationship you want with whomever, make sure there are boundaries that you are both aware of before getting involved. If you want something casual, but don’t want to share this casual relationship with anyone else that is something to express. If you want to be free to explore all your options, that should be clear as well. It only makes things awkward when you go out and see your “situationship” having a situation with someone else. So be upfront, and don’t get involved with someone who doesn’t match your idea of a successful relationship.

Be Respectful of Others’ Mind, Body, and Soul

When you involve yourself with somebody else, you are involving yourself with ALL PARTS of that body. Whether you want something physical, emotional, or spiritual, you will get all 3 in any relationship. Everyone has their baggage and although they may not intend to unload it on you, it can be laid out on the table verbally and/or non-verbally. Be respectful of what someone is bringing to the table and be sure to discuss whether you are willing to take it all or none. There is no in between.

Reminder as well…being a part of someone’s body means being a part of EVERY body they have come in contact with…if you get my drift. This is a risk that you must come to terms with before choosing to expose yourself figuratively and literally. Wrap it up!

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Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

Lesson of the day is…communicate! If you listen to your own needs, and communicate those desires to the person you choose to have relations with, you will have a much easier time navigating your relationships. Practicing your communication skills (negotiating boundaries, expressing likes & dislikes, asking questions, etc.) will help you in all aspects of your life. College is a time to gain knowledge. Use this time to learn about yourself and you won’t regret that degree!

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P.S. If you are interested in individual therapy during those college years, request an appointment at a reduced fee, here!