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I'm not a doctor by any stretch of the imagination, but I am a wife who happens to read a lot about sex (not to mention have a lot of sex).
And I am a woman.
And I have been pregnant and given birth.
So I guess those things give me a little bit of wisdom to discuss this whole matter of hormones and sexual intimacy in marriage.
Plus, I was just reading a post by my pal Mrs. Hot Holy Humorous on finding a good gynecologist, and I thought her post was so FABULOUS that I would piggy back on it with my two cents.
As women, we learn in our pre-teen and teen years that something begins to change in our body. Once menstruation is on the scene, we are well aware that hormones do impact our mood, how we feel, and so forth.
We may not understand all the biology or endocrinology behind it, but we know.
(It's probably around this time that females start becoming both an alluring and baffling mystery to the male population. Sorry guys.)
The ovaries produce estrogen and progesterone, and both play a role in a woman's monthly cycle.
Estrogen also is the hormone that is responsible for development of reproductive anatomy, as well as many of the features that we consider feminine -- soft skin, the duct system in our breasts, a broadening of the pelvis.
Progesterone helps prepare the uterus to receive and maintain a pregnancy.
As we move out of the teen years and into adulthood, we notice more about the impact of hormones on our body.
Possibly we've become more adept at navigating the mood swings, though. When my husband and I were dating, he said to me once, "I can't even tell when you're having your period."
A nice compliment. Thank you, honey!
Now that we are married, I don't know if he can necessarily pinpoint all my mood swings, but I don't think he's oblivious to them either.
I have let my guard down a lot from our dating days, feeling comfortable enough in my own home and marriage to admit when my body is rebelling against me. My husband is patient with the process because he knows that most of the month, he's going to get outstanding sex.
If we journey through pregnancy, delivery and nursing, the hormones definitely show up and lay claim to our bodies and emotions in a way we couldn't have fathomed.
We find ourselves crying at more than just Hallmark commercials. Even a cute puppy or the kindness of a grocery clerk can bring on the waterworks. (Deep inside we wonder if this is slightly pathetic, but we cry anyway).
When it comes to sex, it's no surprise that most women are more inclined toward sex when they are ovulating.
God kind of set it all up that way. Through the role of hormones, our bodies generally "want" sex more when it is more likely we could get pregnant.
Our vagina more easily becomes moist. We maybe are even more easily turned on, so to speak.
I've shared before that I wish I would have known the impact that hormone-based contraceptives have on sex drive.
I was on the pill in my first marriage and had no idea that it likely was a contributing factor to my very numb sex drive. The pill inhibits ovulation so it definitely can diminish sex drive in some women.
I'm not here to tell you what to do about birth control, but I definitely think it is wise that you talk very openly with your doctor about any and all side effects.
Don't assume that your doctor will volunteer all this information.
Be your own advocate.
Ask the questions, read the research, read the small print, and so forth.
Many women are surprised to learn that women have testosterone and that this affects sex drive as well. Men have it at higher levels typically.
But testosterone levels in both men and women can fluctuate and decline, which obviously affects sexual intimacy in a marriage. Again, this is a good conversation to have with your doctor so that you can have your testosterone levels tested.
Menopause and perimenopause ("almost menopause") are also times in a woman's life when hormone levels start to change.
Unlike men, who can father children well into their 60s, 70s and 80s, the same cannot be said for women. At some point, we women stop having monthly cycles and stop ovulating.
The decreasing levels of estrogen that occur with menopause can also lead to things like vaginal dryness, which obviously isn't very conducive to the movement and thrusting of a penis during the sexual intimacy.
So, suffice to say, after all I've shared above, not to mention a number of other aspects I didn't share, it's pretty obvious that hormones can and likely will have an impact on sexual intimacy in marriage -- physically and emotionally.
There's a lot going on when it comes to our bodies.
The very good news is that never has our society been so open with information and conversation surrounding these matters. Gone are the days when what is going on within a woman's body is spoken only in hushed tones -- or not spoken about at all.
My advice is that you don't rule out how hormones can and will affect your sexual intimacy.
As is covered so well in the post on finding a good gynecologist, you owe it to yourself and your marriage to not settle for sub-standard care.
As women and men navigate hormonal changes, there are a variety of options available to help with many of the negative impacts. Sexual intimacy doesn't have to be taken off the menu or viewed as something "just to get through."
I never cease to be amazed by the number of women I meet who are hesitant to change to a different OB/GYN because they feel some sense of loyalty to that doctor, even if they don't feel they are getting resolutions to physical issues that are impacting their life.
Just because the doctor delivered one or all of your babies -- or because you have been going to him or her for "years" -- doesn't mean you are indebted to this doctor forever.
Here's a more blunt way to say it -- if you took your car to a mechanic and they did crappy work on your car, would you keep going back? Well, your body is worth much more than your car.
As I mentioned before, I am not a doctor, so please don't take this as medical advice. Don't go changing your medications without talking with your doctor(s). But if you think hormones could be affecting your sexual intimacy (or sabotaging it?), then don't just sit back and think this is just the "natural course of things."
I think there is no better place to start initiating some conversations on all this than in your own marriage.
The more comfortable you and your husband can become in talking about what could be going on hormonally with either of you, the more likely it will be that you will seek helpful solutions.
Your marriage -- and the sexual intimacy within your marriage -- are worth it!
Copyright 2012, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.