Let’s Talk about Sex… (and Condoms, Lubricants, Toys and Tools)
It can be challenging to find a safe space to talk about sex outside of the bedroom (if your bedroom feels like a safe space), over a beverage with a trusted friend, or on the exam table of your midwife’s office. I have spent many-a-dinner out in town where friends who pass by quietly tap me on the shoulder to say, “Can I ask you about this thing that happened with my partner? Is it normal?” Many clinic visits end with a client waiting until the last few moments of their hour-long visit to whisper quietly, “…I have been wondering if sex is ever going to be like it was before I had the baby? Is there anything I can do to strengthen those muscles again?” Even in the clinic, it can be hard for a client to feel like this is their time to ask.
Why is this? Maybe we came from families who did not talk about sex, let alone discuss topics like contraception or the female orgasm. Many of us were educated in public school classrooms that do not fund sex education. Some of us were educated in religious schools that disregarded any sex talk, period. Or, we might be in a relationship that doesn’t encourage self-exploration around our individual sexual needs or desires. But maybe, behind our whispered questions, moments of awkward silence, and blushes of embarrassment, there is a sense of curiosity: we want to understand how our bodies work! We want to know how to have consensual sexual experiences. We want to explore the boundaries of our sexual pleasure. We are concerned about the ways in which our bodies hold traumatic experiences of the past, and we want to heal from that pain so we can experience pleasure.
Our local sex-positive education shop, Self Serve, is located at Central and Morningside, in the Nob Hill area. If you have ever had a postpartum or gynecology visit with me at Dar a Luz, you received a “referral card” along with a rant about how much I enjoy going to Self Serve to stay up to date on the latest news and products. Self Serve is run by open-minded and well-informed sex educators who are happy to answer any questions you may have about sex or sexual health. They are experts in de-stigmatizing any questions about sexual practices, anatomy and physiology, and tools you can use in the bedroom. I encourage you to check it out: take yourself or a partner out on a date, ask a question, buy a product, and sign up for a class! In the meantime, I want to share my experience at Self Serve, and some of their most popular products, along with my “staff picks.”
Walking into Serve Self, you are greeted by a display of condoms of all varieties (latex, non-latex, lubricated, XL-sized, smooth, ribbed and anything in between). Do you have a latex allergy? No problem – non-latex options range from Polyisoprene Skyns to Polyurethane Trojans. Has sex with a condom caused irritation? Try the Skyn Extra Studded or the Crown’s lubricated condoms. Is your partner hesitant to wear a condom because they haven’t fit comfortably in the past? Take a look at the Durex XXL or the Kimono Microthin Large. My personal favorite, the Okamoto 004, is a super thin option for those who experience decreased sensation with condoms.
Next up is an entire wall of lubricants, always glycerin-free and neatly organized into three categories: water-based, silicone-based, and oil-based. Waiting to use a lubricant until you feel dryness is a bit like waiting to drink water until you are medically dehydrated! Lubrication should be used prophylactically with each act of sex to encourage internal lubrication, reduce microscopic tearing that leads to pain or infection, and increase pleasure. I encourage you to talk with a sex-educator at Self Serve prior to purchasing a lubricant to see which one fits your specific needs. Avoid purchasing lubricants online or at health food stores – their ingredients are often drying for tissues.
Water-based lubricants such as Sliquid, Good, Hathor or Slippery Stuff can be used with all types of condoms, including latex and not-latex varieties, and with all types of sex toys. They best mimic the body’s internal lubrication without being sticky or tacky. Some users feel that water-based lubricants are shorter-lasting or irritating due to possible interactions with other ingredients being absorbed by the body (Aloe Vera, cotton fibers, citric acid). My pick is Sutil, one of Self Serve’s best selling products: a 100% plant-based with a pH equal that of the vagina with ingredients that aid in tissue healing.
Silicone-based lubricants that are odorless and tasteless, like Uber Lube and Gun Oil, are popular for their hypoallergenic qualities: they have the least number of preservatives, or preservatives that do not get easily absorbed into body tissues. They provide the longest-lasting lubrication that isn’t water-soluble, so it continues to work in the shower or bath. Please note: while they are compatible with all types of barrier methods including condoms, dental dams, and gloves, silicone-based lubricants are not compatible with sex toys also made of silicone.
Oil-based lubricants have gotten a bad rap in the past. Recently, several body-safe oil-based lubricants have come on the market. Note: despite what you may have heard, you shouldn’t use oils from your kitchen as lubricants! The important thing to know is that you can use these oil-based lubricants, such as The Butters and Sliquid Soul lube, with non-latex condoms made of Polyurethane such Trojan Supra. This 100% organic hydration is also safe with silicone-based sex toys. Oil-based lubricants are also nourishing to tissues for anyone practicing perineal awareness massage during pregnancy. This type of lubricant is not, however, recommended for clients with chronic infections (such as yeast, bacterial vaginosis or urinary tract infections).
You can access more information about each lubricant’s pros and cons HERE.
My personal favorite section of the store is the sexual health corner that includes “Sexercise” and kegel tools. In the clinical setting, many clients report pain during sex but believe there is nothing that can be done to alleviate this pain — that it is a normal postpartum symptom, or is caused by their “abnormal anatomy.” Pain during sex is common, with reported rates ranging from 25-45% of the sexually active population. It is usually a result of decreased or inadequate lubrication, anatomical changes in vaginal tissues, the positions used during sex, muscular tightness, or other TREATABLE issues. If you are experiencing pain during sex, make sure you report it to your midwife, who can refer you to pelvic floor physical therapy. We can also recommend a wide range of tools, sold at Self Serve, that you can use to treat many of the causes of pain. These tools should only be used after an evaluation by and recommendation from your healthcare provider. Self Serve carries both sexercise and kegel tools for strengthening the many muscles of the pelvic floor. My personal favorite of these is the Evi, a silicone-based tool for both beginners and advanced users to coordinate the pelvic floor muscles (which are used during urination, sex, and pregnancy). Vaginal dilators are also available to help incrementally relax tight or traumatized vaginal muscles. For more information, click HERE.
So, once you’ve purchased all of the tools and toys you need to make your sexual experience more exploratory, exciting, or healing — what if you’re still not sure what you do with them? Ask the staff! Or, maybe you don’t feel comfortable asking questions one-on-one, but you enjoy a classroom setting, where you can quietly take notes and listen. Self Serve regularly holds classes for individuals and partners, such as “Intimacy for Survivors,” “G-Spot Orgasms,” and lots of other hot topics, which can answer your outstanding questions. Access upcoming events HERE. Enjoy!
Your neighborhood midwife – Yelena Baras, CNM, MSN
To register for classes visit our website calendar pageHERE
Learn what happens when birth doesn’t go as expected. Hear from midwives, doulas, counselors, and a past family who transferred. Free dinner! YOU MUST register for this class. Click HERE to register.
Wednesday, Feb 26th 5:15 to 8:00 p.m.
Doula Teas with the New Life Doula Collective Come & join us for some tea, and meet our doulas. We’ll help you learn more about doula care, so you can explore your options. RSVP for tea HERE to let us know you’re coming (drop-ins OK too) or to learn more about doulas visit Doula page on our website HERE
Monday, Feb 24th 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 14th noon
Breastfeeding and New Moms
Facilitated by our Lactation Consultant Robin Hayter with support from the nurses and midwives.
Wednesday mornings, 10:00 to noon
(No group March 11th)
Postpartum Mom Group Our staff counselor Kimberlee Maresma, LPCC will hold a therapeutic group that supports the new mother for the first year. Email Kimberlee HERE with any questions.
Friday, Feb 7th noon
Fathers Mindful Group
Thursday, Feb 27th at 6 p.m. The Postpartum Partner Group has a new name! Please join Jose Maresma for an evening of an emotionally safe exploration of the differences our partners face after the birth of a new baby. This Workshop is for fathers. Suggested donation: $10-20 Read more about classes and events at the birth center.
Thursday, Feb. 20th 6 p.m. We are excited and honored to host a very special opportunity for ALL Albuquerque-area doulas and doula groups to connect with interested families. RSVP HERE
Baby Count 989
…and counting! That’s over 2877 gallons! Go, Mamas, Go!
Bonus classes Disclaimer: Most of the special events below are set up and led by community members — not Dar a Luz staff members — and as such, they don’t necessarily reflect our beliefs as an organization. Dar a Luz is not responsible for their content, and does not necessarily endorse every aspect presented. _____________________________ Babies beyond the Basics
Part 1 Sunday, Feb 16th 10 a.m. Part 2, Sunday, Feb 23rd 11 a.m. Exciting changes to this series for 2020 including more time, topics, and guest speakers! Sign up HERE _____________________________ Infant Child and Adult CPR
Monday, March 9th at 6 p.m. Firefighter Kris Romero leads this certification course in infants, child and adult CPR. Learn the basics for life-saving measures, what to do in an emergency, and feel more prepared for a sudden, unexpected event. Cost: $40 per person- PRE-PAY 100% NON-REFUNDABLE at the time you sign up. Space is VERY limited so register today. Register HERE _____________________________ Pappy Hour
Thursday, Feb 20th at 5 p.m. Location: Marble Brewery This group is for all expectant or new Dads in the community and moderated by our own Dar a Luz Dads. RSVP HEREDar a Luz does not advocate or encourage the abuse of alcoholic beverages. Please drink responsibly and in moderation. _____________________________ Free Family Music Demo!
Saturday, March 21st noon For kids from newborn to five, and their families and caregivers. Please join us for a FREE demonstration class at Dar a Luz Birth and Health Center from 12:00-12:45 pm. We can’t wait to make music together with you! Register HERE
Name: Ruian, Ezra, and Nolan Birthdate: April 24th, May 5th, June 16th Fun Fact: These adorable boy’s Mamas got to know each other in classes prenatally and postpartum . You can have your baby featured by emailing usHERE a picture of your cutie and we’ll put them in a newsletter! Please include permission to use the image, your little one’s first name, date of birth, and a fun fact.