Ep 131: Sex and Pregnancy with Therapist and Sex Educator Dr. Juliana Hauser

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Sex and sexuality are a normal part of life, but they can change over the course of pregnancy and after birth. Having a healthy sexual relationship prior to pregnancy doesn’t guarantee that you won’t face difficulties along the way and, as always, the best way to prepare is to educate yourself. In this episode of the podcast, Dr. Juliana Hauser helps you get educated and navigate those changes.

Dr. Hauser is a licensed couples and family therapist. For 20 years, she’s worked with clients to help them manage relationships, sexuality, confidence, infertility, and more. She is the type of woman and expert who is so approachable; you wish you could sit and talk with her weekly. She's your best friend who just happens to have her PhD and is an expert on sex, sexuality and relationships.

Dr. Hauser breaks down some of the common challenges and changes you can expect during pregnancy and as a new mom, and delivers some great advice on how to manage those challenges. There is a lot of great information (and life advice) in this episode that we all need to hear.

In this Episode, You’ll Learn About:

  • What sexual agency means and how it relates to pregnancy
  • Why Dr. Hauser wants people to be their own “sexpert” and trust their own decisions
  • What are some common issues she sees for women and couples surrounding sex and pregnancy
  • How sex is not about servicing each other but about experiencing together
  • How to learn from what you don’t like
  • How your birth experience can have an effect on your sexual agency
  • What are the challenges of reconciling being a mother and a sexual being

Links Mentioned in the Episode

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I want this podcast to be more than a one sided conversation. Join me on Instagram where we can connect outside of the show! Through my posts, videos, and stories, you'll get even more helpful tips to ensure you have a beautiful pregnancy and birth. You can find me on Instagram @drnicolerankins. I'll see you there!

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Ep 131: Sex and Pregnancy with Therapist and Sex Educator Dr. Juliana Hauser

Nicole: This episode is about sex and sexuality surrounding pregnancy and the postpartum period. There's more adult content in this episode. So it's not appropriate for younger listeners.

Nicole: Welcome to the All About Pregnancy & Birth podcast. I'm Dr. Nicole Calloway Rankins, a board certified OB GYN who's been in practice for nearly 15 years. I've had the privilege of helping over 1000 babies into this world, and I'm here to help you be calm, confident, and empowered to have a beautiful pregnancy and birth. Quick note, this podcast is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Check out the full disclaimer at drnicolerankins.com/disclaimer. Now let's get to it.

Nicole: Hello. Hello. Hello. Welcome to another episode of the podcast. This is episode number 131. Thank you for being here with me today. I am so excited to have quite a juicy conversation with Dr. Juliana Hauser today. Dr. Juliana is a licensed couple and family therapist and a counselor with a PhD in counseling education. For 20 years, she has worked with clients to help them manage relationships, sexuality, confidence, infertility and more. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including Oprah magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Women's Health, and the Discovery Channel. Her flagship courses include Revealed: Uncovering Your Sexual Story, that has been found in over seven countries. As I said, we have a really juicy and informative conversation today talking about sex and sexuality surrounding pregnancy and in the postpartum period. In this episode, you're going to learn about sexual agency. That is some great stuff there.

Nicole: Some really great life advice, really. She'll also share some common issues that she sees for women and couples surrounding sex during pregnancy, also around infertility, things like what is the bare minimum that I have to do for sex during pregnancy? What do we do if I'm on pelvic rest? She talks about how sex is not about servicing each other. She likes to think of it in a different way. We also talk about how to manage differences in sexual connection. For example, she does not agree with the just make yourself do it advice. And then finally we touch on reconciling being a mother and a sexual being, lots of great information in this episode that we all need to hear. And she is so approachable, really easy to talk to. I know you're going to really enjoy this conversation. Now, before we get into the episode, let's do a quick listener shout out .This from Susanna Lowenstein or Lowenstein.

Nicole: I apologize if I didn't say it correctly. And the title of the review says critical for all pregnant people, and the review says I listened to this podcast so much. I'm pretty sure my baby recognizes Dr. Rankin's voice as much as my own. I love that that's so sweet. This podcast has been so incredibly educational. I cannot imagine my pregnancy without it. Dr. Rankins provides clear cut information based on evidence and research in a way that is short, sweet and understandable. I feel so empowered and knowledgeable about pregnancy and birth, and it is 100% due to this podcast and her Birth Preparation Course. I am so grateful I stumbled across this podcast early in my pregnancy so I have been able to make informed unbiased decisions that are best for me. Thank you. Thank you so much, Susanna for that lovely, lovely review. I really, really appreciate you taking the time to leave that.

Nicole: I also love that you say that your baby is hearing my voice as much as yours is really sweet. Now, one of the things that Susanna brings up in her review is how she not only listens to the podcast, but she's a member of the Birth Preparation Course. If you don't know, the Birth Preparation Course is my signature online childbirth education class, that gets you calm, confident, and empowered to have a beautiful birth, especially in the hospital. And the podcast and the course actually are designed to work synergistically together. Yes, the podcast is great, but the course will help you take it to that whole next level. There's a deeper dive into some content. There's also a lot of use of visual elements that I can't do in the podcast. There's also interaction with me and other mamas who are going through the same thing as you in the private community Facebook group. So if you are looking to up-level your childbirth education and do check out the Birth Preparation Course, it's incredibly affordable for everything that you get. You can learn all the details of the Birth Preparation Course at drnicolerankins.com/enroll. All right, let's get into the conversation with Dr. Juliana Hauser.

Nicole: Thank you Juliana, for agreeing to come onto the podcast. I am so excited to have you on to talk about this very important topic.

Juliana: Great. I'm so happy to be here. Thank you for having me and thank you for like honoring this topic too.

Nicole: Yeah, yeah. So why don't you start off by telling us a bit about yourself and your work and even your family, if you'd like.

Juliana: Yes. So, um, I am currently in Kentucky, um, but I've lived all over. I have two kids and they have a wide spread spread between the two. I have a 22 year old son who is finishing up college and I have a seven-year-old daughter.

Nicole: Oh, wow. Yeah, you almost started over.

Juliana: I did. Expand difference with three of them, so that's been fascinating. And it was really interesting when I had a toddler and a teenager at the same time, but, but it's, it's actually been wonderful and I love it. A lot. People will come up to me and say, I'm a girl. They'll identify with my daughter. They'll say, oh, am I, my siblings are all 13 or 14 years older than me. And they turned out great. And it's wonderful. I love it when people see us and see the difference of how, uh, how we are. Um, and I have, my career has been an interesting career. I actually started off as a kindergarten teacher and, uh, and then transitioned to being a therapist. And then along the way, I really discovered my interest and comfort in sex and sexuality. And that ended up becoming like my area of expertise. So by trade I'm a marriage and family therapist and licensed professional counselor and a sex educator.

Nicole: Right. And you've been doing this for a while. How long have you been doing it? I love folks to hear how long folks have been in their work.

Juliana: Yeah. So I graduated from Auburn with my master's in counseling in '97. So that's when I became a counselor. And then I graduated with my PhD as a marriage and family therapist in 2005. So two different kind of phases of things.

Nicole: Lots of experience in the area.

Juliana: Lots. Yes. And I sprinkled in some acting in between that for a while. So that's where some of the media stuff that I do now really comes into play too.

Nicole: Love it, love it, love it. So I'm curious, what led you to specifically focus on sex and sexuality in your work?

Juliana: So it first happened when I was getting my doctorate that I had, um, one like sexuality and couples class. And I was, I mean, I didn't miss a minute. I took copious notes, I just ate it up. And I would look around at my friends and colleagues and they were bored. And I was like, how, how are you bored? This is so fascinating and interesting. My professor took me aside and said, you're different. You know, this, this needs to be what you're doing. Like you, you have the passion for this, but not everyone does. And so, you know, use that naturalness to it. And then I just went back and started exploring why, why is it that, that was so interesting to me? What was, what was it that I wanted to know about it, to help people with? And I realized that I just had a greater comfort and curiosity with sexuality and I didn't, I didn't want to continue the shame that I saw in myself and in others.

Juliana: I saw it as something as a really normal part of our life. And I wanted to be a person that people could come to and normalize it and validate their feelings. I, when I was in college, I had a group of girlfriends that, um, we came together. We didn't really know what we were doing. We were just being friends with each other. But when we were, do like our sexual debriefing with each other, I found that we, we had this wonderful mix of a lot of differences. We came to our friendships with different sexual backgrounds, different sexual values and goals, frankly, but we didn't judge each other for it. And we allowed there to be a safe environment for us to talk, to share our experiences and the good and the bad without making each other wrong. And that was a new experience for me.

Juliana: Um, and, and it changed me. So when I was finishing up my doctorate and doing my dissertation, I actually replicated a class, um, and constructed a new class based on that experience with my friendship group, just to see how that would work. And I had, uh, they, uh, it took me a year to get the college to agree to it. And once they did, I had, they said, well, if you can get six people, then you can do this. I had 20, within a couple hours. And they were, yes, because we want to talk about sex because we're not giving us space right now. When I started this, it was different. The climate was different and it was a lot more, um, surprising to have a class about sexuality. It was not as much on the internet like it is now, but I still find that people are hungry to talk about sex and sexuality in a safe way that isn't being, they're not being told what to do. They're being shown how to discover what their sexuality is on their own terms.

Nicole: Love it, love it. And you clearly have passion for this work. I do. So why don't we start off? One of the things that, um, when you wrote in, was talking about sexual agency, so what does that mean? Why is it important? And then even, how does that relate to pregnancy and birth?

Juliana: Yes. I think agency is what our sex education should be founded on. And it should be a term that we all know and are living and are practicing with each other and having communities about it to break it down into five steps. Um, sexual agency is, is born from the idea that we need to be our own experts. We had the responsibility and, and, and really the, the privilege of being able to say, this is what I want. This is what I don't want. This is what I like. This is what I don't like. And to know that yourself and be responsible for that knowledge and self exploration, and then to be in community and relationships with other people who respect that and want themselves, and that you provide that for each other. That sounds obvious. That sounds ideal, but it's hard in practice, and it's, it's very difficult, uh, uh, in the topic of sexuality and in relationships because you see conflict when people are finding that their wants and needs are different than each other, but they're committed.

Juliana: So what do you do when you want something different? Um, in that. And so what I also have learned through my research and particularly with women, but I find this with all genders as well, which is we, if I, if I ask a woman, do you know how to make decisions? It almost comes off as an insulting question. Like, yes, of course I'm grown and I know how to do this. But when I start talking about particular places, especially places where there's healing and there's sexual journey, I find that choice was really not there. And that's where I started really diving into what sexual agency is. And my definition is first that you realize there's a decision to be made. And sometimes you don't, sometimes you're in the middle of something and it's just happening. And I'm not talking about assault. Um, at this point, now that those are like the obvious parts of where agency isn't in play, but the more subtle nuances in relationships.

Juliana: So you have to know there's a decision to be made. Then you have to feel confident in your decisions as we go through life. And we've made decisions that go awry. We often lose confidence in our own decision-making that makes us hesitate. That makes us not trust our own judgment. And that makes it difficult to act in agency when you don't trust yourself or trust the world to respond to your decisions in the way that you need them to. The third thing is, is that you make a decision. There are a lot of people that will describe, they just go along with the flow, or they let other people make a decision, or they defer without even realizing they're doing that. So you have to be able to say this, this is what I want. This is what's happening. This is my yes, this is my no on this.

Juliana: Then I used to end it there and it's not, well, that's a lot. And that's a lot for some of us to learn and for us to create environment for, but it didn't account for a lot of what I was finding was when, when I was going through people's history and they were having shame and guilt, where I found the difference was we needed to deal with when you make a decision, when you are confident that you've made a good one, but things go awry and I call those unintended consequences. And that, and that happens, especially with, uh, with relationships. And that happens a lot in pregnancy, that things happen that you have no control over, right? And you have to have the skill set to be able to handle that. And then the last thing that I rounded up is, so when something goes awry, there's unintended and sometimes unintended is better than we think it's going to go, what are we, what do we do with that?

Juliana: And for some, and in some circumstances you find resiliency and that goes back to feeling good about yourself, feeling confident, and you can make decisions, being able to make decisions, or we wall ourselves up. We make ourselves wrong. We feel like victims. We don't want to make decisions. We don't trust ourselves and we don't trust the world. So it's a cycle. And are I look at the concept of agency as something that we need to continue to have a relationship with because things happen. And we had new people in our life and our agency isn't just affected about our sex life and our sexuality is affected by all things. And, and so we need to keep working that so that we keep making decisions. We keep checking in and having self-reflection. We keep making ourselves find a relationships, whether it's platonic or sexual or work relationships or friendships that promote agency in each other. And that's what Ben and that, that allows it to grow and grow and grow

Nicole: Well. Julia, I mean, we already starting off with some serious life advice here.

Juliana: I'll tell you what it, it really changed my life. I, I, and that's also where I became really passionate and I will get the concept that can be difficult to wrap your head around. And I've learned too, that that's part of the process is that if, if this sounds like what, or like seems obvious, sit with it and things like, where am I in my agency? And who surrounds me that wants that? Like my, I used to have a course in a brand called Be Your Own Sexpert. And the premise of it was, yes, I'm an expert within sex and sexuality, but I'm not your expert. I want to teach you to find, I want to ask you the questions that's no one that no one is asking you. And I want to sit with you while you discover it on your own and celebrate when you find out what is a yes. And what's a no to you inside and outside sexual activity.

Nicole: Love it. Love it, love it. So, I mean, it's almost like a window into finding your power, not just in relation to sex, but in your life.

Juliana: Yes. Agreed.

Nicole: Yeah. So how about we talk about what are some issues that you see, I'm just, it's maybe a couple that you see women and couples have sometimes surrounding sex during pregnancy.

Juliana: Um, there there's a lot, and I've worked with a lot of couples that do lots of work infertility, too. And it is, you know, the process of fertility, whether it's going the way that you want it to, or if there's stumbles along the way is not benign. And it really highlights where couples have strengths and highlights where there's challenges, um, and couples, because it's for, even if you've had multiple children, each pregnancy, each child is so different that you are often starting from scratch and having new things that you have to negotiate with each other. So what I find, especially with first time parents is a fear of like, what's, is it okay to have sex during, especially penetrative sex during, uh, during pregnancy? And although I can't give medical advice, what I hear a lot of is, um, in general, if you're not having pregnancy issues, it is safe, but it is

Juliana: It's, it can be hard to wrap your mind around. So there is a being inside of me at some, you know, the various stages within you and the pregnancy. What does that mean? What is that like? Who am I as a sexual being pregnant as someone, if, if it's a heterosexual couple or another couple that that is having sexual activity, the non-pregnant person, uh, having sex with the pregnant person can not know what their role is and what that means. And so just having the demystifying, the myths and the harms that can happen with having sex and have having people understand that there's really wonderful benefits to having sexual activity with it. Um, I, uh, I also see there's a lot of fear of if I don't want to have sex or I don't satisfy my partner, that my partner is going to cheat on me, or we're going to be in a lot of discord. Like, how do I have, what is the, I get this question a lot, what is the bare minimum I can do to still be a good partner, um, during pregnancy insights. And so obviously I like to unpack all of the values that are being placed upon that first, um, and helping a couple decide what is working for them and realizing that that can change week to week, day to day, month to month in the pregnancy.

Nicole: Got it. So, I mean, it was just a wide, a wide range of things and all of it is, so none of this is like abnormal or like, you're not crazy if you're feeling some of these things they're relatively common. It sounds like in your experience.

Juliana: Absolutely. In fact, I was just talking with a client yesterday and her question was, am I a weirdo if I don't want to, to give oral sex to my husband very often. And because she's on pelvic rest and we talked through like, what is the reason that she would even consider the word weirdo as a description for not wanting to do something and unpacking all the shoulds that we put onto our sexual selves first, and then trying to find like, where are the needs that both of you need to be met? Um, I often work through couples of trying to remove the idea of servicing each other, uh, and replacing it with experiencing with each other. And a lot of that comes from the words we see and hear from each other, what we're told from generations before us, what we're seeing in the media. Um, and we don't do a lot of great education about how to experience pleasure with our partner. So that's a lot of focus during pregnancy is let's widen the definition of what pleasure is and an add to the repertoire of what sexual connection can be and what intimacy can be sometimes that's penetrative. Sometimes that is oral sex. And sometimes it's a lot of other things too.

Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. Gotcha. And then, you know, you also mentioned you deal with couples with having, um, fertility issues. I know that sex can often become like a chore in those circumstances. So what would you say about that?

Juliana: So some of that is dictated on how often you're needing to have it and why you're needing to have it. And there are, there are variances that you can't get around of, of feeling that to a degree. What I find is, again, looking at pleasure and looking at there's lots of things you can do leading up to it. And afterwards that, um, can make you feel like this isn't just functional, that this is also the function isn't just to get pregnant. The function is also to keep our relationship connected and for us to feel this intimacy that no one else gets to feel with each other about it. Um, I often say that that one of the most powerful things you can do as a couple, if you're going through fertility issues or you're having a disconnect, um, during pregnancy is to have an atmosphere like an atmosphere and an attitude of curiosity.

Juliana: And when something doesn't feel right, and that not of course not about harm, you know, to the pregnancy, but w when, when it's just not working and somebody isn't, isn't feeling it, instead of looking at it as a failure or a warning side for the relationship, I like to look at it as in like, okay, we are pioneers of information. We're going to remain curious. A no is not bad. A no is as powerful as a yes. So now we know this is a no for her, for him, for them, whatever. Okay. So let's find a yes. Is there something that can replace that? And I deconstruct it with what needs were, were not being met that made it a no. And what needs were met that we can build on and grow from.

Nicole: Love it, love it, love it. So it sounds like, obviously curiosity, just like you said, is a really important strategy to help manage some of these issues and differences. So you can both or where you or your partner can both have an enjoyable sex life during pregnancy. Are there any other strategies that you recommend?

Juliana: Yes, I w communication is key and that's, you know, again, it's kind of easy to say, like, we just need to communicate better. How do you do that when you're that, you know, when you're angry or sad or scared, or someone, someone has crossed the line, like all of that, all, all of the like beautiful rules that we can put to it, go out the window, and you're just showing your ass, you know, and not, not doing any of the things we're supposed to. I I've been there myself. Haven't we all? Yes, yes, yes. But then you can reset. And, um, and so I like to normalize that we don't have to be perfect communicators, but we have to be kind, and, and kindness beings. We apologize kindness that we give grace to each other in it. And that we keep going back to what our ground rules are.

Juliana: So first you have to create the ground rules, uh, with each other. And those can change again, like if you're staying curious, instead of being critical with each other, then you can be like, well, that didn't go well, let's try this instead of like, you did this and you did that. And that kind of stuff, just derails it. And, and you're no longer working as a team, which is my second bit of advice, which is you need to have the team approach, team approach all the time. I've even had couples that I had them name what their team is, so that they can kind of get a perspective of what this is about instead of just being at each other. We are coming at this together. Some couples do that very naturally, and it's beautiful to see that other couples, they don't, that it's, everything's a fight and everything is something to win.

Juliana: And when I have that happen, it's just a lot of work of, let's just get to the basics of, um, how to communicate. And so a lot of the ground rules are, let's be a team. Um, what do we consider kind a, this next thing is a really important, and it's rarely asked, um, for people, but you should know this for yourself. And you should ask your partner, which is, what do you need to feel safe? Huh? When, when I use the word safe, most people think physical, which of course, that's, that's an absolute ground, you know, baseline of it. But I, I re I'm also meaning emotionally safe because when we're not emotionally safe, that's when we go to the places that cause damage. That's when we say things that we, we wish we hadn't said, or do the things or act in a way that we'd be mortified for people to have a video of.

Juliana: We, um, so, and what we consider, what we need in a person, a relationship and environment to be safe. It's not always the same, what our partner needs. So be able to explain what you need in safety and be open to what your partner needs and create an environment together and both be equally responsible for having that safety amongst each other. And then, um, I like to look at when, when you've had an argument or conflict go awry, when you really not been your best self or even close to your best self in it, I like to look at where were we problem focused, as opposed to where were we trying to win the battle? And again, that's a hard skill to deconstruct, but it's important to like, I believe in debriefing, I like sex debriefings. I like conflict debriefings. And let's, let's talk about what went well and what didn't, and let's be loving and mature about this because if we are partnered up to make our lives better, and if we're partnered up to learn more of ourselves and to have complainants to the world, then we should be focused on being kind and clear with each other and constantly checking in with what do you need, um, and wanting to know what the other person needs from, um, from a good heart,

Nicole: For sure. For sure. And I know it maybe, feels like do sometimes people feel like, gosh, this is a lot of work and I got to do this, that and the other, but it sounds like once you kind of put in that initial sorta, get your ground rules and set the tone for things, that it actually doesn't have to be an overwhelming thing.

Juliana: I agree with that. I mean, there are times it can feel overwhelming, but it doesn't have to, there are again, like if you say, if you come from a place of like, okay, so now we're learning that didn't work or, or this does, and you have more of a lightness to it. And you're up, you can infuse humor and perspective to the, the ups and downs and the ebbs and flows of the relationship. Then it doesn't become overburdening. And when two people have that attitude, then things can change and flex and be agile in a relationship, which is really what you need. Cause there's just so much in life we can't anticipate and things have happened that we don't expect. You have to have emotional agility and you have to have that kind of movement in your relationship to be able to flex with it together.

Juliana: I often will, will use the example of if you're going through a crowd with your partner, uh, who is the one that's grabbing the other one and leading them along and, um, and who is the one that's allowing themselves to have that and it should be back and forth. Um, and, and that allows it not to feel like that feels like the overwhelm too. If there is more of a partnership in that, um, I wanted to give one of their strategies, um, about like, especially if there is differences in, um, sexual connection during pregnancy, and it kind of going back to your former question, which is, and that not everyone agrees with me on this and you'll hear this advice in opposite from others, but I feel pretty passionate to never give advice to just do it. Um, I don't say, just force yourself to do it, or like, just like make yourself do it.

Juliana: It'll be fine if, you know, appease your partner, those kind of things. I don't find that to be helpful. Um, and in fact, I think it breeds resentment and disconnect instead of using it for both parts of it. So finding your way and to, um, where, where can you find middle ground that maybe not all of your needs are met, but the priority ones are for both of you makes a big difference and that no one should have the attitude that you should just do something that you don't want to do, uh, particularly, um, in a committed relationship.

Nicole: Yeah. I like that. I like that a lot. I like that a lot. So let's talk about what happens after you have a baby. One of the things that can really pop up is that sometimes it can hard for women to reconcile, both being a mother and also a sexual being. A lot of that comes from our, you know, things in society of how mothers should be, those kinds of things. What are your thoughts about that and how women navigate that?

Juliana: It's it, you know, and it's not predictive. I used to think it was, but after years of doing this, I realized, because I used to say, if you're going into a pregnancy, having a healthy sexual connection, then typically that's going to be okay for you to navigate the new roles. Not true, not true at all. Huh? It varies because it's another journey that's happening alongside of it. And one, our sexual journey is never stagnant. It is always fluid and ever changing, interacting with things. And that's the same thing with parenthood. Our parenthood journey is not stagnant and it is not predictable. So when you have those things intertwining, um, it can feel confusing. Uh, and some of it is on our role model. Some of it's personality, some of it is what kind of baby you get that can make a big difference. Just like, you know, like that, that, that joke that, you know, you make joking to your child, you make it difficult to be the kind of parent I always thought I'd be, you know, um, or like, conversely, like you get the kid you need to have, and you learned your lessons through the children that you have, and that can happen in infancy too.

Juliana: Um, I, uh, I, I think it's great to, to walk into it, trying as much as you can to be open-ended with who you're going to be and how you're going to interact with your partner and with your child or children along the way. And I think it's okay to not know. So often we think we should know this. We're trying so desperately, especially first-time parents to figure out how to keep this kid alive and thrive. And we're so worried about everything, about how, how to navigate all the new roles in our life. If you've had any kind of physical issue along the way with the child or with your own body through it, that can make it very complicated. Um, and then it's even to the, another end of the continuum, which is, if everything goes well, if you have a, a baby that aligns with your, your way of parenting, if you and your partner are working well together, it's often a place of, okay, so what is this body?

Juliana: Who are you? And how do I have a new relationship with this body is, and how does this new body want to experience pleasure and sexual activity alone and with, um, with a partner, um, that has so much variance to it. But what I, what I want for, especially for women is to allow the marriage of parenthood and sexuality to happen, to really be purposeful and intentional about it, that you haven't become something different. You have added something alongside of it. And that is a nuance that I think is important to understand. Um, but you know, it's it, and allow that to ebb and flow. It's, it can be really different if for those who are breastfeeding to figure out how do, how do our, this body part become functional at one aspect and pleasurable in another. And sometimes it's both that sometimes breastfeeding is pleasurable.

Juliana: I have people that feel guilt about that, that they find pleasure in breastfeeding and wanting to just normalize that process as well. I've had coming back to pregnancy. I've had people feel complete and utter guilt for masturbating during pregnancy. What is that going to do to the baby? What does that mean to the baby? What does it mean about me? Um, or if they feel extra horny, um, and feeling a lot more desire during that, what does that mean? And that can happen after the baby comes as well. Um, I, I, I find agency to be integral at this point that you, um, again, like, depending on how your birth went and your birth experience went, that sometimes is very invigorating and really gives a, um, a surge of agency for a woman when she's had the birth experience she wanted to, or overcame something really special.

Juliana: And I've had women that their birth experience was traumatic and they felt their agency was taken from them from many different places. And so if you were having either of those, that can be hard to conceptualize and integrate into who you are as a person. And then let's just add in hormones and exhaustion, every person's opinion as to what your baby is and how you should pair it, add to that. It's just like the noise and the voices that come alongside of it. So lift normalize, you may not know today who you are as a sexual being, and that's okay. You may know it tomorrow and that's okay too, but don't stop asking that and work to not have that part of yourself completely close off. That is something that I feel protective for for people is that, um, you are a sexual being inherently and that will change depending on what's happening in your life, but it's important to spend time on that. And that's in parenthood, um, and pregnancy, um, and the newborn phase also.

Nicole: Yes, yes, yes. Love it. Love it, love it. Excellent, excellent advice. And kind of related to that, like, and you mentioned it briefly even feeling like sexy or like a sexual being can be challenging either during pregnancy and after having a baby. So how do you suggest people still like reconnect or, you know, don't, don't lose that.

Juliana: I could talk two hours about the word sexy and it's surely comes up and it's such a good question that you're asking, because that is a phrase that's used a lot. I don't feel sexy. I don't feel sexy anymore. And sometimes that means we need to go way back to then how do we even define what sexy is for you? And, okay, so let's figure out what that is out. Let's let's work. If you can hear I say this a lot, I think everything is a concept on a definition and that we should have a relationship with these different parts of ourselves instead of it being something that's separated from us. And that's the same thing with sexy. So I like, I call it finding sexy and my definition and my concept of sexy is spark and vibrancy. It isn't about what my body looks like.

Juliana: It isn't about how it's interacting with others. It is my connection with the vibrancy inside of me and how I spark that. Um, that is hard when you're exhausted that it's hard to feel vibrant and to feel, um, a spark or to know where to get your spark when you life has turned into, um, helping keep it another being alive and helping them grow in on themselves, which is what we so often see is that women and parents lose themselves in their kids. Right. So where you need to go? And the, the bigger picture is let's talk about where those sparks are. It may not be the same. It probably won't be the same spark it was before, but that's okay. Let's discover again, curiosity of where that spark is in your life. Where is that vibrancy inside of you? Yes, you're exhausted. Yes.

Juliana: You're feeling these things, but can we protect some areas inside of you in your relationship in your life that still brings vibrancy back to you? And I often you'll hear the phrase what happens inside the bedroom happens outside the bedroom that works well when you're trying to rediscover or find again, or find a new phase of your relationship with sexy is if, if there's a place in your life that you do find vibrancy that you do find a spark start there and let that grow and move that into sexual connection. Uh, I'm so happy that in the last decade, and especially the last five years, that the concept of masturbation I use the word self-pleasure is so much more palatable for people. And it is something that we're talking about. There's so much more information about it, about how to do it and how to normalize it.

Juliana: But I love working with parents, especially parents of young kids, about how to keep incorporating or to reincorporate self-pleasure into your life, and how to use that as a way of connecting with your vibrancy, with your sexual energy and having that be something that's beautiful and helpful and will help you to feel sexy again. So that's like the bigger picture answer, the smaller, not smaller, but like the more specific answer that I can give is, um, that you can't pressure yourself again, like going back to that, if you make yourself do it, that is not going to tell your body it's safe and fun. And so we want to find fun again, want to see what feels pleasurable and in an environment that isn't like, you have to do this. This is the goods you are good. If you do this, you're a good wife.

Juliana: You're a good partner. If you do this, you are bad. If you don't do this, um, or that you don't have, you have a place that you can say this hurts, or I'm scared for to try this, or I'm not interested in this anymore. It isn't as interesting to me and I'm focused on this, or I don't feel good about the way my body looks. Uh, I have, I've been actually writing this play, um, based on sexual stories that I have this montage of people on top of their sexual partner. And I really called on a lot of the women that I work with that, um, talk about, they are concerned about how their body looks to their partner after pregnancy, how it changes and particularly about if they use the sexual position of being on top, what their partner is seeing now that their body has changed.

Juliana: And just trying to, to help their, um, partner, to know how to communicate in a way that is affirming, um, and not dismissive of that experience and trying to find women, um, ways to, again, honor that their body has changed, but not showed themselves into accepting the changes that maybe they're not, they haven't become accustomed to, for someone that isn't an issue for some women, they, they love the changes and they're embracing it. And some women it's really difficult. Um, and so finding positions, sexual positions that don't trigger that inside of you changing lighting, changing places where you're doing it, creating variety that I like to look at this like, okay. So if this doesn't feel good, okay, great. Again, like, no, the no is not bad news. It's good news because it's information that we can flex and move with. But also let's look at parenthood and life after pregnancy, as in this is exciting to have a new chapter let's discover.

Juliana: Okay. So before this felt good, now it doesn't that doesn't have to be something that we have to grieve. It can be like, now that I'm moving into a new phase and let's see what feels good. Now, sometimes we have to grieve and, and honor those feelings. But I also want us to move into this. Isn't all bad news, even if we don't like this role or this sag or this change, okay, let's honor that maybe grieve it, but let's also find, but this part is new. This part is great. Let's try this new position. Let's try this, let's do it in the car. Let's do it during, you know, in the morning, let's try something different and see what sparks an interest in our sexiness with a new concept of sexy, let's look at what we can do different with each other and be adventurous.

Juliana: And let's look at like, look high five, each other. We survived, we survived that we survived that newborn phase. We can figure out how to have great sex again. I can figure out how to feel sexy again. And I get to decide what my path is to finding sexy. I do not what anyone else is. I can learn from others and I can pick and choose what feels right for me. And I get to forge my path and that's beautiful. And if I'm partnered, I want to do that alongside of you. And you're figuring out because it isn't just women and the bodies that went to the pregnancy that had to find a new, sexy, and figure themselves out as a sexual being, is the partners alongside them too. I work with lots of partners, um, who, uh, feel the same way. They don't know how to figure out, um, who they are as a sexual person. They have aged, they have changed. Their priorities are different also after a child enters their life. Um, and so again, let's normalize this and say, high five, let's do this. We can do this.

Nicole: Absolutely. Absolutely. Just such excellent, excellent advice. So as we wrap up, what would you say is one of the most frustrating parts of your work? I ask all my guests.

Juliana: Oh, it's a good question. Um, frustrating is, um, having to really balance, not giving so much of my support and advice and empathy for my clients that I don't have anything left for my friends and family, um, intimate life. Um, there are there, it took a long time for me to not feel the end of the day. Like a lot of us in our jobs. Like I am so done. Uh, and like, I don't want to hear any more talking or, or I can't out of advice and thoughts and holding space for others. Um, and then for the ones who are really in my intimate life, not having enough to give them, and I don't want that didn't want that. And so I, I found that to be a real edge point for me to find that balance. Uh, and another thing too, that isn't necessarily related to the Ms with pregnancy, but I had to really learn because I hear lots of secrets. I, um, I hear, uh, lots of, and especially with, with couples work, I hear lots of, um, cheating stories and, and betrayal things I had to really work on. This is selective of the population and this isn't everybody. Uh, and, uh, and so that, that was something I had to learn along the way, too.

Nicole: Not everybody is cheating in that,

Juliana: That's right. And I know it. But I realized that I was like hearing that everywhere. So that, that was a frustrating part. So, yeah.

Nicole: Yeah. And I can see also, like you said about, I mean, if you're pouring yourself into your work all the time, like what you have left for others could be challenging. Yeah. Finding that balance. So on the flip side, what's the most rewarding part of your work?

Juliana: It is. It's such an honor for me to like, it actually almost makes me want to choke it now. Like, I, I I've been doing this for so many years. I still am in awe of people who are really trying to make their life different and life better. I find that the person who calls or emails a therapist to be some of the bravest people, um, that they're like, I need, I need help. I, or I need to change something in myself and I don't know how to do it. And I, I want, I want to change this, um, that I just, I just find that to be very brave and I wish more people could do that. I also, um, love, I, I really believe stories matter and I am always in awe that people want to trust me with their stories and that it's beautiful to hear.

Juliana: I learned so much about myself and humanity. And I, although I said that about like the cheating part, although I don't condemn, you know, I see the humanity in that situation also, I, I have the privilege of hearing so much, um, so many variety of people's lives and perspectives and experiences I've been online for over six years because I, my niche is so specific that I wanted to reach more people. And so I work with people all over the world and I, I have been so enriched in my life for meeting different cultures and, um, hearing different life stories. And I, I often think if you sit with somebody long enough and ask questions and just listen, you will be amazed by the beauty in the world. And by the beauty of people that you don't get to hear in the news a lot, and you don't get to hear on social media. Um, and I feel really fortunate that I do

Nicole: It is really beautiful, really beautiful. And you know what I realize, I forgot, forgot to ask. When do you recommend that people consider seeing, uh, uh, someone who specializes specifically in a sex therapist?

Juliana: Well, my first answer is always be proactive, I think should be preventative. I think it should be in crisis mode. All, all of those things. I have that, like, I do have people, um, who, um, who come to me like, you know what, I'm at a good place in my life. Let's, let's work on some things. And I love that. Um, I come to people that like, you are my last hope you are our last hope. I'm desperate, please help us. And, and thank goodness they're getting help then. Um, and then I have people in between that I work with. I've had some clients that I've worked with for years, and the beauty of having consistent care is that, you know, I know them really well and I know their ups and downs. And so I have a very intimate view of patterns and perspective, and have I become like institutional knowledge for their life, then that's really helpful.

Juliana: I also think it's really great to have short kinds of therapy that you're going in for one specific thing and you're in and out and you can get different perspectives. Um, I, I think it's really great to, um, like I go and I, we joke that like I have a therapist, so I, my therapist is like the grand therapist to my, my people, as they say, and it's really good. It's, it's, I think it's just so helpful to have other people's perspectives. We can become so myopic in our own life. Um, and so it's, it's helpful to do that when we're talking about sex and sexuality. W where I often see people coming most often, like the biggest trend is when you're in transition. So a new parent, um, newly dating, somebody newly divorced, um, going into menopause, um, having a realization about a history that like changing their job or needing to change your job, those kinds of things, transitions seem to be places where people are ready to make change and to get perspective and to seek support.

Juliana: So I find that to be the case and then with sexuality and in particular, I think if you have any interest in the topic, like if it just, if you start thinking about it more than you typically do, that's the time to seek somebody to get support. And there's different ways there's therapists, there's counselors. There are courses that you can take that are like, do it yourself. There are books you can read. There's lots of ways to, to educate yourself on a deeper knowledge of who you are as a sexual being. Sometimes that needs to involve somebody else. And sometimes that's something that you can do in an individual endeavor. And I actually recommend both.

Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. All right. So the last thing, what's your favorite piece of advice? Did you like to give to folks expectant moms or anyone about sex and sexuality?

Juliana: Ooh, that's another good one. Favorite piece of advice is, and this may sound redundant, but, but this really is, um, is it is, uh, your responsibility and privilege to prioritize who you are as a sexual being. And if you do, your life will change. And if we keep creating communities where we have our own agency, then I think the world will change. Sexuality is one of the few things we all have in common. And it is one of the most divisive things that we put upon each other. And when we can change that in a way that becomes a model for so many other things, um, that we have discord in our communities and in our world and sexuality, isn't something like my advice is don't look at sexuality, something that has to be behind closed doors. And that is only about what you do with your body and what, who you do it with. It's the essence of who you are.

Nicole: That is absolutely beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. So where can people find you? Cause I know they're going to want to look for you after this episode. So

Juliana: I hope so. Yes. Um, so Instagram, @drulianahauser and, uh, same, uh, uh, Facebook, uh, and then my website is doctor-juliana with one N.

Nicole: Alright, and we will link all of that in the show notes. Well, thank you so much, Juliana for coming onto the podcast. This was such great information. I really appreciate it you being here.

Juliana: Thank you so much. And again, thank you for honoring this topic. Uh, it's brave for you to enter it into your podcast and, um, and I thank you for that. And thank you for having me on here.

Nicole: Yeah. All right. Wasn't that a great episode. She is really passionate about her work in helping women really reclaim their power around sex and sexuality. And I appreciate her coming on to talk about that important topic that isn't always discussed very openly and well in our society or in a way that is supportive as she did. So I appreciate it. Now, after every episode, when I have a guest on, I do something called Nicole's Notes, where I talk about my top three or four takeaways from the episode, here are my Nicole's Notes from my conversation with Dr. Juliana. Number one, I love how she talked about trusting yourself to make decisions it's so important that you tap into that inner wisdom that you have, that we all have and use that and touch upon that to trust yourself, to make decisions okay. Not just surrounding sex, of course, but in your life, trusting yourself to make decisions.

Nicole: And actually all of the things I'm going to talk about can apply to birth as well. The second thing, or the second Nicole's Notes is not only do you trust yourself to make the decision, but then you actually make the decision and go forward with the decision and you do so with the understanding that things may not necessarily go the way you intended, but that is not a reflection that you necessarily made a poor decision or that you did something bad, or you did something wrong trust that you are going to make the best decision at any given time based on the information that you have. Sometimes things change, sometimes things evolve, but trust yourself that you're actually going to make those decisions and make the right decisions. Even if things don't necessarily go the way that you intended. And then a final point that I loved is how she talked about how sexuality is a window into finding your power.

Nicole: This is just a great opportunity to exercise, um, your power and your strength, not just there, but in all areas of your life. And I love the analogy or using this smaller setting in order to help strengthen and build that power and build that, um, decision-making muscle. Now, as I said, all of these things apply to birth as well. You need to trust yourself, or you can trust yourself to make decisions during your birth. You can make decisions and understand that even though things may not go exactly how you want them to go, you can actually make those decisions. And birth is also a great window to finding your power as well. Now, of course, one of the things that helps you do that and help support you in finding that power in making the best decisions and helping you to trust yourself and making decisions for your birth is of course, great childbirth education.

Nicole: And so do check out the Birth Preparation Course, my childbirth education class, that as I say, gets you calm, confident, and empowered to have that beautiful birth, especially in the hospital. I made the course with the specific intent for talking about hospital birth. And specifically for first time moms, it helps you to prepare your mind, which is so important, understand all of the details of labor and birth and the things that are happening in your body. You'll get prepared for those possible curve balls that can come up because birth is an unpredictable process. And then of course, I get you off to a great start postpartum because having the baby is just the beginning. So do check out the Birth Preparation Course at drnicolerankins.com/enroll. I would be delighted to serve you inside the course. All right. So there you have it.

Nicole: Be sure to subscribe to the podcast in Apple Podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, wherever you're listening to me right now. And I would love it. If you leave an honest review in Apple Podcast, in particular, it helps the show to grow, helps other women to find the show. And I do shoutouts from those Richie reviews from time to time. And if you're not already with me on Instagram, do come follow me there. I'm on Instagram @drnicolerankins. And there I post lots of useful information just about every day, helpful tips and things about pregnancy and birth. I do videos I'm even doing reels. Y'all I'd said it for a long time. I was never going to do reels, but even started doing reels. I just had to do them in a way that works for me. So do check out all of the content I have for you there on Instagram @drnicolerankins. So that's it for this episode do come on back next week. And until then, I wish you a beautiful pregnancy and birth. Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the All About Pregnancy & Birth podcast. Head to my website, drnicolerankins.com to get even more great information, including free downloadable resources on how to manage pain and labor and warning signs to look out for after birth. You'll also find information on my free online class, on How To Make A Birth Plan That Works as well as everything you need to know about my signature online childbirth education class, the Birth Preparation Course. Again, that's drnicolerankins.com and I will see you next week.