We’ve reached the final post in the series and this time the post title is a little bit misleading because this one is for my fellow IC warriors who are lucky enough to be able to tolerate some degree of sexual stimulation, be it from intercourse, oral, or touching.
If you are not at this point yet, there will still be some great tips that you will be able to incorporate soon enough and you will be mighty prepared when the time comes! You might be surprised of what you are capable of, given the right tools and support.
Just to quickly recap, in part 1 of this intimacy series you learned about how to use the practices of self-compassion, mindfulness and meditation as a way to fully accept yourself and the difficulties you are experiencing with sexual intimacy. This is an important first step. You can’t be intimate with another until you learn to be intimate with yourself!
In part 2, I taught you 6 sure ways to increase intimacy in your relationship without sex, such as massage, nonsexual touching and using the 5 love languages.
Here are 10 tips to make sexy time more comfortable, enjoyable and safe with IC and pelvic pain:
1. Use natural lubricants
Nothing is worse than having sex with pelvic pain without adequate lubrication. Additional lubrication can make your experience more comfortable, sensual and longer-lasting!
Conventional lubricants have chemicals in them that may further aggravate your condition, as many of us with IC are chemically sensitive. A lot of women with IC also have volvodynia and are likely to react to conventional lubricants.
Contain parabens – estrogen mimickers linked to breast cancer that are easily absorbed through the skin and mucous membranes
Are petroleum-based – fossil fuels in your intimate zone – no thanks!
Contain glycerin – closely related to glucose and can feed vaginal yeast
Can prevent conception – if you are trying to conceive, lubricants like KY, Astroglide and FemGlide have been shown to affect sperm quality and motility
My top 2 picks for natural lubricants:
Coconut oil – coconut oil is completely natural and is only the 1 ingredient. It’s also anti-fungal (will help kill yeast instead of feed it), has staying power (clings to tissues) and is only needed in small amounts. Learn more about the benefits of using coconut oil as a lubricant from Hybrid Rasta Mama and Dr. Jen Gunter.
Fémance® Cala-Gel Lotion by St. Francis – not only cools and lubricates the vagina, but also heals, restores, nourishes and tonifies vaginal tissue. Infused in extra-virgin olive oil, the flowering tops of Calendula play a leading role in this outstanding formula.
Some words of caution: oil based lubes can breakdown latex condoms, but there’s no evidence to show they breakdown polyurethane condoms. As always, it is your responsibility to do your own research and consult with your gynaecologist or medical doctor when it comes to matters of your own health and well-being.
You can also check out the ICN shop sexual lubricants that are pH balanced, hypo-allergenic and water soluble, with no fragrance, no chemical dyes or colors. Water-soluble lubricants should be safe to use with all condoms.
2. Make use of all of your pleasure zones
Erogenous zones are all over your body, from head to toe, so expand your idea of pleasure beyond the genitals!
Besides the more obvious pleasure zones, such as the inner thighs, buttocks and nipples, here’s a list of erogenous zones you might not have thought of:
The area above the genitals where the pubic hair grows
Behind the knees
The abdominal region/belly
Having these areas stroked, touched and massaged can cause sensations of pleasure and excitement.
Do some experimenting with your partner to find out your unique pleasure zones and how you like to be touched there.
Attention to these erogenous zones can be an act of pleasure on its own or can help gently lead you into genital stimulation or sexual intercourse if these are options for you.
3. Try erotic massage
An erotic massage is a massage where complete attention is focused on the receiver’s experience and can incorporate direct genital stimulation of not.
The goal is to arouse pleasure and excitement in the receiver and listen to what his or her body needs in the moment.
Orgasm is not the goal of erotic massage, although it is always a possibility. The purpose is for the receiver to relax into their own bodily sensations and explore their unique desires, while expanding intimacy and connection with the giver.
4. Experiment with genital stimulation or oral sex
Is your pain level okay with oral sex or having your partner gently stroke your lady parts?
Sex isn’t the only way to obtain sexual pleasure.
Genital stimulation or oral sex can be even more pleasurable and less irritating with a lubricant. Try coconut oil, sweet almond oil or grapeseed oil.
5. Practice relaxation techniques before getting intimate
Being in a relaxed state before intimacy will decrease your pain levels.
Next time you are going to get intimate with your partner, try one of these first:
Take a warm bath with some Epsom salts and lavender
Do a gentle yoga sequence or gentle stretching
Take 10-15 minutes to do a mindfulness meditation where you focus on your breath
Do a guided visualization or a visualization session on your own
Practice pelvic floor relaxation exercises
Any practice that calms the mind and body and brings you into the present moment will aid in relaxation, reduce stress (which reduces pain levels) and make for a more positive intimate experience.
6. Seek out a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic pain
Physical therapy can be beneficial, especially if you have pelvic floor dysfunction.
A physical therapist who specializes in pelvic pain can apply techniques that help relax and lengthen tight muscles and release trigger points. They can also provide you with exercises that you can perform at home.
They may recommend using tools like a vaginal dilator to gently and progressively stretch and relax the vagina and increase your tolerance for intercourse.
8. Test whether or not you can achieve pain free stimulation and orgasm by yourself first
Through the use of vaginal dilators and sex “toys” like vibrators, you can test your tolerance for both internal and external genital stimulation, before trying it with your partner. You can also test out lubricants to make sure they don’t cause a reaction.
This can help you to communicate exactly what you need and can tolerate with your partner. In addition, it increases your self-awareness and provides you with the confidence that you will succeed in the sexual encounter with your partner.
9. Visit a sex therapist
A sex therapist can act as a guide and facilitator for you and your partner by helping you to develop communication skills that you can use in the bedroom and beyond.
It’s key to be able to tell your partner in the moment if you are experiencing any pain or discomfort and be able to make adjustments accordingly. To have this type of open disclosure, you need to have deep feelings of safety and trust in the relationship. A sex therapist can help you two to create this.
He or she can also help each of you find ways to please each other and help to create more intimacy in the relationship.
Recap and resources
Remember, whether you are able to have sex or not is NOT the determining factor for intimacy in your relationship.
With or without sex, you can increase the intimacy in your relationship and have a satisfying and fulfilling connection.
Here are a few other helpful articles and resources:
Interstitial Cystitis Association – Interview with Nancy Fish – Intimate Moments
Interstitial Cystitis Association – Being intimate when you have IC
Interstitial Cystitis and Sex