Sex and Intimacy After Hyperemesis Gravidarum
Okay well you know I'm not one to beat around the bush and it's recently come to light that this is a topic that needs rapid addressing for my audience! I conducted a quick survey on a “survivors” group on Facebook to get a gist of the key issues couples are facing in the bedroom post hyperemesis gravidarum to cover the subject in the book. Goodness me! I was almost in tears reading some of the problems women and their partners are facing.
As much as I would like to say wait to buy the book I feel there is a more urgent need for some of my HG friends to get support and help with this important aspect for their sanity and relationships.
Now I know sex isn't the be all and end all of relationships and I've talked before about partners sorting themselves out while their woman is suffering, but sex is important. Or rather intimacy is important. An intimate-less relationship is far more likely to start deteriorating and crumbling than one in which an active life in the bedroom is regularly enjoyed.
It's not uncommon for a couple's sex-life to decline somewhat after normal pregnancy and birth for a whole host of reasons. But fear of pregnancy and lack of confidence in contraception is totally understandable after a pregnancy which nearly killed you. However, fears and anxiety need to be dealt with, got in perspective and brought under control... otherwise they control you and can ruin your life (and that of your partner).
I'm no expert and I'm not a sex therapist or marriage guidance counsellor so over the next month or so I will try to track down someone who is to do a post with some “official” advice. But in the meantime I'm going to dole out some advice which I reckon surely must help and certianly can't do any harm...
First of all, TALK TO YOUR PARTNER!!! Get the kids to bed, open a bottle of wine, turn the goddamn TV off and talk... Don't book a babysitter and go out for a date-night to talk as you're likely to feel very self conscious in a restaurant or pub and it may get emotional so stay at home. Tell your partner what's worrying you and how you feel about it. A number of women said they “feel like a failure as a woman and a wife”. Tell your partner... I would bet money on the partners responding that they too have been feeling like that! If it would help then write down key points before hand.
Next MAKE A PLAN TOGETHER. This needs to be a team effort and needs to incorporate both of your needs within your comfort zones. There is a whole load of intimacy that you can engage in which won't result in pregnancy. Mutual masturbation, oral sex and plenty more which will make you feel closer as a couple and help you regain the closeness needed to go on to enjoy penetrative sex.
Your plan might include:
Going together to the doctor or practice nurse to discuss contraception you can feel confident in.
Agreeing to turn the TV off ever other night for two weeks and going to bed early to work on your sex life.
Kissing and cuddling more often.
Talking about sex openly with each other and talking about the anxiety and fears remaining from the pregnancy.
You could start with agreeing you won't have penetrative sex for a few weeks but focusing on pleasuring each other in lots of other ways. You could also look to build confidence in your body if you have issues around that – your partner clearly taking pleasure in your body is a pretty big boost generally. Women's bodies post baby are never the same as pre-baby but they aren't meant to be and mature men are naturally attracted to their partners bodies post-baby... you grew his offspring in there!
Maybe talk about fantasises and reminisce on pre-baby antics from your relationships early days. Play games, dress up, bath or shower together, get outside, wake each other up, HAVE FUN!
The purpose of all that is to build confidence and intimacy but ultimately if you are still very anxious about sex then book into see a counsellor, either on your own or as a couple. Ultimately, if you are careful with contraception so you can't get pregnant then your fear is bordering on irrational and is becoming a phobia... that needs addressing promptly so it doesn't get out of control. If that is the case then please GET HELP.
Finally I'd like to add that it's not always the women who are fearful of pregnancy and therefore nervous or anxious about sex, our men folk can be just as traumatised by hyperemesis gravidarum and scared that if their partner got pregnant again they would not be able to cope or that she might even die from it. They need as much support and understanding as if it were the other way around.
It's bad enough that hyperemesis gravidarum ruined your pregnancy and perhaps limited your family. Don't let it ruin your relationship or any more of your life.
Links for further help:
My co-authored book, Hyperemesis Gravidarum – The Definitive Guide will have further information and support. It is due for release this Autumn.
Amazon offers a whole host of books about improving your sex life
Preparation for Pregnancy, Part 1: The Care Plan
Well sorry for the short absence folks, I've been gallivanting around Yellowstone National Park in America still riding the no-more-HG high two years on from my final bout!
Now down to business. As promised, I'm going to discuss preparation and planning for hyperemesis gravidarum in the next few blog posts (bar something topical arising). Once you've made that hard decision, as discussed in a previous post, the next crucial thing is planning how the hell you're going to survive the dreaded nine months you need to endure to get your precious bundle of joy, aka the End Goal.
As I sat on the floor of the wood cabin we are staying in on a Montana farm this evening, gently stroking the forehead of my third and final End Goal in an attempt to get the, ahem, little monster, to sleep next to her equally monstrous (and still awake) End Goal Siblings, I thought about this post and the order in which I should discuss the different aspects of preparation. The way I see it there are three main aspects to preparation and planning for hyperemesis gravidarum. The first, which I will discuss in this, already long winded post, is about your medical care and pre-emptive treatment. The second is practical considerations and the third is emotional support – I'll address these later two over the next week or so.
This blog originated after my husband and I had made the difficult decision to have a third baby despite hyperemesis gravidarum. The condition from my husband was that I do more research than I did for number two and that we are better prepared than before. So I did and you can read that story way back in the archives from 2011. That pregnancy was better than the previous two by about a thousand miles, entirely down to careful preparation and planning, which is why I now harp on about it so much!
So here is the key... if your GP is rubbish and won't make a pre-emptive plan (like mine was), then switch doctors, switch practices if needs be, but find a doctor who is willing to make at least a basic plan in advance. The doctor I found in a practice in the next town along was brilliant (Dr Tullberg of Carnewater Practice in Bodmin). Empathetic and kind, she was all for being pro-active and having a plan in place. She knew I had read plenty of research and could tell I knew all about the various treatments. She believed me when discussing what had and hadn't worked before and listened to me regarding what was personally tolerable.
Together we made a plan for which drugs to try and when, which we were both happy with, ie. I was happy with the medications and side effect and she was happy to prescribe them based on current evidence. Also planning when to move onto the next 'level' of treatment and at what point admission to hospital would be deemed necessary. She weighed me and took bloods so she would have 'base lines' to compare to and aid decision making. And she made note of which adults she could discuss my condition with (ie. My husband, the nanny we employed and so on). After all this she told me she would discuss the plan with the other doctors at the practice as she only works three days a week and would ensure they all knew there was an agreed plan to follow. The plan was fully documented on my electronic medical notes.
When I finally got pregnant we re-noted my weight etc. as it had altered (by that I really mean increased) since the plan had been made and she reminded the other doctors about the plan. I was also able to communicate with her via email, which when sick is really quite convenient.
The pregnancy was drastically better than the first two, I was still pretty sick, housebound and miserable. But I got downstairs almost every single day, I ate and drank almost every day. I had one very brief spell in hospital when a down hill spiral happened quickly at 17 weeks and I hadn't managed to get on top of it but that was it. During that pregnancy we moved house and I worked on and launched the current Pregnancy Sickness Support website and support network... whilst pregnant from my sick bed. In my first two I couldn't even consider looking at a computer screen let alone populate an entire website and I couldn't get out of the house let alone move house!
“So what was this wonderful plan?” I hear you plead...
Well after the End Goal arrived safe and sound, the wonderful Dr Tullberg and I set to work formalising the plan we had made into a more accessible plan for others to use. Doctors don't like a lot of paperwork so it's as short as possible but accompanying it is a worksheet for you to do before you approach a doctor so you have your own head clear about how you want to tackle the hyperemesis and there is a sheet with all the references and additional info needed to back up the care plan. Remember to approach your doctor with empathy for how tough their job can be, the responsibility of prescribing in pregnancy and so on. Your aim should be to build up a 'team approach' rather than going along to 'demand' what medication and treatment you want. But if the doctor is very dismissive then forget them and try another. Switching practices is easy so don't be put off.
The Care Plan and accompanying documents are available to download and print from the Pregnancy Sickness Support website by clicking here. It will also be available in the book I have co-authored with PSS colleague Amanda Shortman along with lots more information and tips about planning for hyperemesis gravidarum, which will be available to purchase this Autumn. It's called Hyperemesis Gravidarum – The Definitive Guide so keep your eye out for it and watch out for my next post about the practical considerations for hyperemesis gravidarum.
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In conjunction with Pregnancy Sickness Support and Plymouth University I am looking for women who have been treated for HG in the last 2 years in the UK to take part in a research survey. Please click here to find out more.
I am mother of three beautiful children and wife to a fantastic and supportive husband. I am a nurse, a farmer and a trustee for Pregnancy Sickness Support. I love working hard and spending time with my kids.
About this blog
Information and support for pregnancy sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum. Views are my own and do not represent those of any other organisation. Information provided here should not be a substitute for medical advice. My aim is to raise awareness and encourage sufferers to know they are not alone.
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