Q. I’m a 38 year-old menopausal woman wanting to know how to maintain a healthy body image after a hysterectomy. My partner is 32 and I feel I have the body of a 50 plus woman. I need tips on maintaining my confidence and sexiness, the struggle is real!
I can’t even imagine how difficult the process of going through a hysterectomy must be, especially at such a young age. So I want to preface my response by saying two things: I’m sorry you’ve been through this and well done for asking for help – it’s a true mark of strength.
To help me answer your question properly, I reached out to Lydia Brain, a Get Lippy ambassador for Eve Appeal. Having been through a similar experience, Lydia is an expert in hysterectomies and how to feel your sexiest self after having one.
Be gentle with yourself
First and foremost, please be patient with yourself. You and your body have been through a tremendous change, so it’ll take some adjusting – and that’s OK.
Although I don’t have direct experience of having a hysterectomy, I know a thing or two about the difficulty of not feeling comfortable in your own body.
The best advice I’ve ever received regarding the way we speak to ourselves is to imagine the person you love the most, maybe it’s a relative, a partner or a friend. Then think about what you would say to them if they told you they were struggling with their body image. Would you tell them they’re right to be horrible to themselves? Would you punish them with harsh words… or would you be gentle and kind?
I know it’s tough, I really do. But striving to be a bit gentler with ourselves is an admirable goal, and it really does help.
Talk it out
Another thing I picked up from your question is fear around what your partner is thinking or feeling. I can reassure you that all of the awful things you’re imagining are not likely to have even crossed their mind, but something tells me it would feel better if you heard it from them.
Lydia agrees, and encourages you to look for resources. “There’s a lot of information out there for people in relationships,” she says.
How you bring it up with them will largely depend on your communication style. Some people prefer to write things down, some to chat it out, and some find it easier in the context of couples’ therapy (if that’s financially available for you).
However you address it, I’d encourage you to share your feelings with your partner, because I’m willing to bet that they will be more concerned with your wellbeing than anything else.
As far as little things you can do to reclaim your feeling of sexiness, a good place to start is with yourself… and on yourself.
“It's a great way to work out where your body is at and what it needs,” says Lydia. “Start with just external masturbation,” she advises, “then you can experiment and find out what level of penetration (if any) is comfortable for you right now.”
Ultimately, the better you can get to know yourself sexually in this new stage of life, the better the sex will be when you eventually reintroduce your partner into the mix. I’ll add as a caveat here that keeping them in the loop about what you’re doing is the fairest way to approach this. Depending on your relationship, giving them permission to satisfy their own needs in the meantime might be appreciated.
When it comes to reintroducing a partner, take it slowly. Find ways to feel sexy in yourself, however that looks for you.
“I found getting back into sexting and sending nudes (safely) really helped,” says Lydia. “I bought new sexy underwear knowing it wouldn't get seen in person for a while, but trying it on and feeling myself again, sending photos to the person I was dating and knowing that I am still sexy, and that other people still find me sexy really really helped. It reminded me that I am still a sexual being.” It’s also a great way of gradually rebuilding the sexual chemistry with a partner in a very safe and controlled way.
And when it comes to partnered sex, listen to your body, Lydia says. “Be its advocate; if something doesn’t feel quite right, stop and try something else,” she continues, “have a break, come back to it at a later date.” Most importantly, she says, “don't push yourself – your body is recovering and it can be a slow process, so please look after yourself.”
As for penetrative sex (if that’s your thing) Lydia advises using a lot of lube, which, to be honest, I think is great advice for any kind of sex – partnered or otherwise.
Focus on the positives
A final note from Lydia is to remember that there are some benefits to acknowledge in your new post-surgery life.
For instance, she says, once her hormones began to come back post-surgery she went through “the horniest period of [her] life.” She also says that she found sex without a cervix had its benefits. “You do notice the fact you don't have a cervix, and I have to say, I prefer it. You never get the winding feeling of someone hitting your cervix too much, or that bolt of pain that's maybe a bit too much to be fun,” she says.
Your body has done a lot for you, and so it deserves your patience and kindness, as hard as that may be in practice.
Talking to your partner, going slowly and reducing the pressure on yourself to be anything other than what you are right now are all good ways of easing back into sex.
It may not be the same as it was, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be worse, just different. Remind yourself how strong and powerful you are daily, do things that make you feel good, stop if you ever need to and I am confident you’ll be where you want to be in no time at all.
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