Let's talk about sex

By Fiona Patterson

Do you remember the first time you had sex? 

  • Perhaps it was a romantic experience with your high-school sweetheart. 
  • Perhaps it was spontaneous and you were nervous. 
  • Perhaps it was something you’d rather forget. 

Now, fast forward through the years. Do you remember the first time you had sex after you had a baby? 

Odds are, you had a lot of reservations, hoped for a pain-free and possibly intimate experience, and the outcome was unforgettable. 

But aside from the discomfort and simply trying to find time to have sex between feedings, diaper changes, and the never-ending quest to get baby to sleep, there’s a bigger concern haunting a woman’s sex drive post baby: desire. 

Your relationship with sex changes across the lifespan. 

During some seasons of life you may be more interested in sex, or more inclined to be experimental and playful. 

In other times, you may have little to no interest and struggle to engage fully during sex. For many women, the latter occurs after pregnancy and can be a source of turmoil for a marriage. 

Women assert that it’s not as though they aren’t attracted to their partner any more, or that they don’t want to have sex, it’s that the spark, the fire, the desire, just isn’t there. 

So what happened?

There are so many hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, the shift in estrogen and progesterone being a major one. 

Estrogen, a hormone responsible for the growth and development of female sex characteristics, reproduction, sexual function, and has an impact on mood, increases in pregnancy.

Progesterone, a hormone predominantly responsible for the nourishment of the fetus through the placenta and plays a role in mood, also increases during pregnancy. 

As these hormones increase dramatically, blood flow strengthens to the genitals and libido can spike. But as estrogen and progesterone increase during pregnancy, many women also experience mood changes, emotional instability, headaches, and a host of other unpleasant symptoms.

While a pregnant woman may feel sexually charged, she can, simultaneously, also feel like she doesn’t want to be touched.

After pregnancy, there is a sharp decline in estrogen, progesterone, and also testosterone (yes, women have testosterone, too), the hormone often cited as the hormone of desire. 

Normally, these hormones work in harmony with one another to impact sexual desire, but their levels become so dysregulated in the days, weeks, and months after pregnancy that sex and desire may completely fall off a woman’s radar. 

These changes are physiological and largely out of a woman’s control. 

Combine these radical changes with breastfeeding, fatigue, navigating the needs of a newborn, mood changes like post-partum baby blues or even depression, physical changes to the body, maybe caring for additional children, and the mere idea of being intimate is the very last thing on a woman’s mind. 

Undoubtedly, at some point, the lack of sexual intimacy catches up to a partnership. 

As empathic and patient as partners can be, their sexual needs are going unmet and this can have a negative impact on a relationship. Spouses and partners may feel rejected, unloved, undesirable.  

Sexual withdrawal from a new mom and the rejection felt by a spouse can result in a cycle of arguments and possibly disengagement from the relationship to a certain degree. So what can be done? How does a woman reclaim her sex drive, thus re-establishing a healthy sexual relationship with her partner? 

  • Communicate: Partners should communicate their thoughts, feelings and fears about intimacy and sex so that the challenges are clear and solutions can be explored. 
  • Explore Solutions: Couples can discuss the ways they can increase and improve sex, perhaps establishing a time and place, and boundaries with touch, foreplay etc. 
  • Try self-pleasure: Masturbation can be a healthy way to regain interest and desire in sex and intimacy. 
  • Fake It ‘til you make it:  Sometimes, it can be appropriate to try having sex even when you’re not totally up for it. This may sound controversial, and consent is always paramount, but every now and then, doing the sexual things you once enjoyed but are now avoiding may help reduce fears and discomfort and help move the relationship forward. Ask your partner to be gentle and patient. You may be surprised with this tactic. 
  • Be patient: It can take a year or longer for the body to heal fully from pregnancy and for hormones to level out. 
  • Talk to you doctor about alternative solutions

Sex after a baby will be different, but it doesn’t have to be scary, painful, or bad. Approaching sex and intimacy from a place of patience, openness, and curiosity can help re-establish a healthy sex life. 

Fiona Patterson has a master’s degree in counselling psychology and is a registered clinical counsellor in private practice in Kelowna. Visit www.counsellingkelowna.com for more information. 


Turning houses into homes

By Tracy Head

Why not make their house your dream home?

Have you thought about a home that has most of the items on your wish list, but needs a little TLC?

Many lenders offer a Purchase Plus Improvements program that is designed for people who want to buy a home that needs a little work. Maybe it needs a new roof, central air, a new furnace, new siding, doors, windows, a new kitchen, flooring or any other renovation that would increase the value of the home. 

This can be a great option if you find a house you love, but realize that it will take some time to save for the renovations you want to do.

Let’s assume that you are a first-time buyer and have a five per cent down payment. The way it works is this … before the mortgage financing is arranged, you gather written quotes from licensed contractors or suppliers for the work to be done.  

Your mortgage application is for 95 per cent of the total cost — purchase price plus the improvements.

At closing time, the lender will send the money needed to purchase the home as well as the money for the renovations to your lawyer.

The lawyer will take care of the purchase, and you will receive the keys to your new home. The lawyer holds the money for the renovations in trust until the work is finished.

Now the fun starts; you get going on the renovations. You will need to cover the costs for the short term. Most people use either a credit line or a zero-interest hardware store card to help with cash flow.

Once the work is done, an appraiser will come through to confirm that everything is finished. At this time the lender will give the lawyer the OK to give you the rest of the money to pay off the credit line or charge card and pay your contractor.

Let’s go through an example…

  • Purchase price:                $400,000 X 95% =     $380,000
  • Cost of improvements:     $ 40,000 X 95% =      $38,000
  • Total mortgage:               $440,000 X 95% =     $418,000
  • Down payment:                $440,000 X 5% =       $22,000           

In this case, your mortgage will be $418,000, which is 95 per cent of the purchase price plus 95 per cent of the improvements.

On the closing date, your lawyer will receive $418,000 from the lender. You will have already brought in your down payment of $22,000. ($418,000 + $22,000 = $440,000, which is the purchase price plus the cost of improvements).

Your lawyer will transfer $400,000 to the seller’s lawyer, and you are the proud owner of a new home. Your lawyer will hold the money for renovations in trust ($40,000) until you are finished the work.

If you bought this home and planned to do the renovations later, your down payment would be $20,000, your mortgage would be $380,000, and your monthly payment would be about $1,700. Somewhere down the road you would need to find $40,000 to do the renovations.

Using the Purchase Plus Improvements program, your down payment would be $22,000 and your monthly payment would be about $1,870.

At the end of the day, you have a mortgage of $418,000 and a beautifully renovated home.

Everybody wins. The lender is happy because the value of your home has increased. More importantly, you are happy because you were able to do major renovations to your home ($40,000) with a cash outlay of only $2,000 (five per cent of $40,000) upfront.

You get to enjoy an updated home right away.

The process generally goes very smoothly. If you have any questions about the Purchase Plus Improvements program, I’d love to go over it with you.

Tracy Head is a mortgage consultant with Verico Complete Mortgage Services. She can be reached at 250-826-5857.

Relieving migraine pain

By Michael Côté

Migraines cause throbbing or pulsating head pain that can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

They usually start on one side of the head and are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Some people experience visual disturbances, known as an aura, before or during a migraine.

Migraines can be moderate or downright debilitating, and are recurring.

According to the Mayo Clinic, allopathic medicine doesn’t really know what causes migraines. Genetics, environmental factors, and brain chemicals may play a role. Generally treatment focuses on managing migraine symptoms rather than curing it.

There are a variety of medications that may be prescribed for migraines like steroids, beta-blockers, antidepressants, anti-convulsants, botox, and pain relievers including opioids. 

Research has consistently demonstrated that acupuncture is significantly better for managing migraines than conventional care. 

Acupuncture is just as effective, if not slightly better, than prophylactic drugs and acupuncture has few, if any, adverse effects.

Interestingly, sham acupuncture (an attempt at a placebo for an invasive procedure for scientific analysis) was shown to be just as effective for migraines as conventional drug treatments.

Eleven acupuncture treatments given within a six-week period was just as effective as beta-blockers taken daily over a six-month period.

Clearly, acupuncture is a great option for migraines.

According to allopathic medical theory, acupuncture helps migraine symptoms by:

  • modulating cranial blood flow
  • promoting the release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors
  • releasing endorphins and other neurohumoral factors that change the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord
  • reducing the degree of cortical spreading depression, plasma levels of calcitonin gene-related peptide, and substance P
  • affecting 5-hydroxytryptamine levels in the brain

According to Chinese medical theory, pain is caused by a lack of circulation. This lack of circulation can be from a number of factors, and the way we treat migraines depends on the cause of the poor circulation.

Is the digestive system nourishing the brain properly? Are the liver and kidneys filtering blood adequately? Are the internal organs working together in harmony or are they quarrelling?

These are just some of the things we want to find out when someone has migraines.

It’s not possible to delve into all the nuances of a Chinese medicine approach in a brief article, but here is a case to help you get an idea of how we approach migraines in Chinese medicine.

An 88-year-old patient, we’ll call Eugenia, came to me complaining of head pain with nausea. Her migraines started with onset of menopause at 40. Her mother had a history of migraines.

The pain was constant and dull with occasional throbbing and mostly concentrated on the frontal region of the head. On a pain scale of one to 10, if 10 is the worst, Eugenia’s pain was 8/10.

She couldn’t sleep without taking a sleeping pill, which she started 49 years ago. Other medications she took were doxepin, fesoterodine, and multivitamins. 

She had seen her family doctor recently and hadn’t had any CT scans.  Her pulses felt normal, but her tongue was red with a yellow coating, and trembling.  

I diagnosed Eugenia with YangMing headaches from Wind-Heat and Kidney Jing deficiency. 

In layman’s terms, I thought her migraines originated from a pathogen she got when was younger that caused residual inflammation and she had a kidney system that wasn’t functioning optimally.

Because she had this problem for so long, I suggested a course of 20 acupuncture treatments starting twice a week and then less frequently as symptoms improved.

I expected Eugenia to notice a difference within eight treatments. I also prescribed the herbal formulas Chuan Xiong Cha Tiao San with Yi Guan Jian taken 1.5-2 hours apart from her medications. 

Eugenia saw me twice one week, but then didn’t come back for a month and complained that she still felt the same. On the fourth treatment one week later, she said the pain was 6/10. Eugenia complained that it was taking too long to reduce the pain, so she stopped coming to see me.

Even though she didn’t follow the treatment plan she still had a 20 per cent reduction of pain. If she had followed the treatment plan, I think she would have had faster results and even less pain. 

It’s important to understand that acupuncture doesn’t immediately fix everything, but with time and a little patience, it can lead to less frequent and severe migraines by addressing underlying causes while offering a safer option than many medications.

For a summary of the research on acupuncture for migraines, including the Cochrane Review, please visit the British Acupuncture Council website.

Michael Côté is a registered practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine. He can be reached at the Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St., in downtown Kelowna.


Life as an MP

Every week Parliament is in session our local MP is 3,274 kilometres away in Ottawa working. 

Have you ever wondered what exactly they do in Ottawa? How they fill their time? What they have influence on?

Last week, I had the unique opportunity to go to the Federation of Canadian Municipaities, our national conference for mayors and councillors, in Ottawa. While there, I spent some time with local MP Stephen Fuhr, who was kind enough to give me a tour of what his life looked like on June 1.

This will be the first of at least two videos that I will post showcasing life on Parliament Hill as an MP. 

What stood out to me in this first video is the significant role that he gets to play as the chair of the Standing Committee of National Defence. The official link for the committee can be found here

Looking at the site, you quickly get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of reports and meetings. So perhaps to make this story digestible check out this link.

In it, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan outlines the background for the upcoming request for an additional $29 million for the military in 2017. 

In our current news environment, I don't think this would ever hit the media, but let's at least tie it to something that has hit the news. 

You may have heard about U.S. President Donald Trump's request for NATO countries to increase their spending on military to two per cent of GDP. 

OK, so now look at the bottom of the minutes where Randall Garrison, MP for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, brings up that perspective. 

In the above video, our local MP notes that coming up next is a study of NATO. A timely review of NATO before making a decision on what our Canadian perspective on NATO's role, and the budget we give it, is a wise first step as the public debate turns to NATO's funding levels. 

It also then makes sense why the committee may be planning a trip to Europe to get a first-hand point of view of the lay of the land over there. 

So perhaps let me leave this column with a simple nugget of information. Politicians deal with a tremendous amount of information day in and day out. What gets reported in the media only a small fraction of what happens.

One take away that I walked away with is that the hours of chairing the defence committee means that our local MP will be an expert in this field. 

As a former pilot and instructor in the Royal Canadian Air Force, he will have a detailed and in-depth, big picture understanding of our military, their assessment of areas that need more attention/budget, and he holds a significant lead policy role in the future decisions of the Canadian military.

What a tremendous honour. 

I would like to thank Fuhr for hosting me and taking the time to help all of us understand a little more about what our MP's lives look like on Parliament Hill. 

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