Enjoying Sex after Ovarian Cancer

Enjoying Sex after Ovarian Cancer

Many people believe that having ovarian cancer means their sex life has to end, but it doesn’t have to. There are so many ways to enjoy great sex, it may not feel the same, it may be different or even better as you explore new ways to enjoy sexual intimacy and pleasure alone or with a partner. It is just about finding what works for you that is fun and feels pleasurable.

Take it slow

Remember, you don’t have to go all guns blazing, take your time, talk to your partner, tell them how you feel. You don’t have to have penetrative sex if that is the sex you normally enjoy, start by kissing and cuddling, gentle stroking, play together, enjoy mutual masturbation, use good skin safe sexual lubricants such as YES or Sutil Luxe, invest in a simple bullet vibrator or sex toy for your partner, most of all, have fun.

Why Don’t I Feel Like Having Sex?

Having your ovaries removed will send you into a surgical menopause, bringing on menopause symptoms. Not everyone experiences the same symptoms and some may be affected to a greater extent than others.

Being diagnosed with ovarian cancer and undergoing surgery to remove your ovaries and cancer treatment is extremely stressful. For younger women, treatment may mean they are unable to have children or any more children, creating anxiety and stress.

Discussing all your fertility options prior to treatment is important such as freezing your eggs or egg donation and your consultant or Oncology Nurse Specialist will be able to offer help and advice as to what you can do.

A decrease in sexual libido can affect your desire and it is completely normal to not want to have sex or sexual intimacy, but discussing how you feel with your partner can help them understand what you are going through and enable them to support you during this time. They may have their own feelings of anxiety or confusion about what you are going through and might avoid sex because they’re worried about causing you pain.

Wanting to have sex can depend on your general health and recovery from cancer, your relationship with your partner, your levels of stress, fatigue and your body image confidence. Making time for sex, getting enough rest and takign the focus off penetration is this is how you enjoy sex can all help, sex is so much more than penetration, something healthcare professionals often forget.

Fertility Options

Younger people who have cancer can experience a surgical or medical menopause, which can affect their sex lives. Coping with a cancer diagnosis and going through debilitating treatment, to be left with a low or no libido and physical symptoms, is life changing. However there are ways in which you can overcome sexual symptoms of the menopause.

More advice is needed for younger people about their fertility and what options are available to them to preserve their fertility. A Psycho-Oncology analysis of the published literature (2017) indicates that many cancer patients are not receiving support for fertility sparing choices or advice and recommends that all cancer patients of reproductive age should be provided with fertility information and referrals for fertility preservation. One of the reasons is that oncologists oncology may lack appropriate fertility knowledge and be unsure whose role it is to provide fertility support.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists published a scientifc paper about Fertility Sparing Treatments in Gynaecological Cancer (February 2013) offering options for women undergoing gynaecological cancer treatment and surgery.

Sex Is Whatever Feels Pleasurable For You

Sexual intimacy and pleasure is whatever feels good for you. Sex isn’t just penetrative sex, there are so many ways to enjoy sexual pleasure including:

  • Mutual touching, manual masturbation and oral sex. Often couples find that by spending more time enjoying mutual masturbation, playing with sex toys, enjoying bondage, blindfolded sex, they enjoy a greater level intimacy. Show your partner where and how you’d like to be touched, what feels good, where to avoid, take their hand and show them what to do and give them encouragement whe it feels great.
  • Intimate touch such as cuddling, massage, kissing and spending intimate time in each others’ company can be just as satisfying and important for some couples than the act of sex.
  • Using sex toys during sex play to increase sexual pleasure and intimacy- sex toys are great during sex play, when non penetrative sex isn’t possible or you don’t feel like it. Trying new techniques and experiencing different sexual sensations can increase levels of intimacy. Choosing sextoys together can make sex more fun.
  • Talking intimately about how you feel can help you both find ways in which you can enjoy sexual pleasure. You may be surprised at what your partner is willing to try to enable you to both enjoy sexual pleasure and intimacy so be brave and start talking to each other. You may not want to jump from the wardrobe but incorporating a little light bondage or using a small sex toy in your sex play can be exciting.

What Can Help Vaginal Dryness?

Vaginal dryness can happen to any women whether you have had cancer or not. Hormonal changes affect vaginal secretions throughout the month and during periods of stress, illness, disease, post pregnancy and during the menopause.

The myth that lubricants are only needed for “fixing” a sexual problem needs to be dispelled and people of all ages should be encouraged to use vaginal lubricants whenever they feel the need and to increase the sexual pleasure felt by both themselves and their partner.

A surgical menopause causes a decrease in the production of oestrogen, affecting the elasticity and vaginal secretions of the vagina, making sex feel uncomfortable or painful. Using a good lubricant, such as YES organic lubricant or SUTIL Luxe can make sex feel more comfortable and pleasurable and help to reduce vaginal tightness. Following cancer treatment it is so important to look after your intimate health and this includes using skin safe sexual lubricants, vaginal moisturisers and only washing your vulva with water or a gentle emollient if you think you need it. Avoid intimate products as many will irritate the delicate tissues of the vulva and vagina and can even cause thrush.

Skin safe, odourless and tasteless, YES organic lubricants are similar to your body’s natural lubricant and do not contain ingredients which may cause allergic reactions and genital irritation. SUTIL Luxe interacts with your own natural lubrication making you feel more lubricated and sex more pleasurable.

Avoid using products that are not designed for the vagina. Just because a food stuff can be eaten does not mean it is good for your vagina health

Some products designed as vaginal lubricants, even those available on prescription from your GP may cause vaginal irritation or infection as many contain glycerin which can cause thrush and alter the pH of the vagina.

Often recommended and prescribed by GPs and HCPs, KY Jelly and other waterbased products contains both parabens, glycols and glycerin, which can cause thrush. KY jelly also has a higher osmolality than the cells in the body, drawing moisture out of the walls of the vagina rather than hydrating them, exacerbating vaginal dryness, not helping it. This can leave the body vulnerable to infection, such as thrush which is often more prevalant after cancer treatment.

Using a good vaginal moisturiser free from all the irritating ingredients mentioned above such as YESVM or SUTIL Luxe can help the walls of the vagina and the tissues of the vulva hydrated and moisturised to prevent shrinking and tightness. You may be able to use local oestrogen but this is a conversation you need have with your oncologist, clinical nurse specialist or GP.

Why Is Sex Painful?

Sex should never feel painful, but if it does, stop. The tissues of the vagina can shrink due to depleting oestrogen levels making your vagina feel tighter and any penetration feel uncomfortable or painful. They also become less less lubricated. Having a simple intimate health regime which includes using a good vaginal moisturiser several times weekly, a good sexual lubricant for any sex play and using local oestrogen if you are able to, can all really help.

You may find it takes longer to become aroused or that you simply feel less well lubricated so take your time, enjoy longer foreplay or even make this the main event if penetration feels painful or uncomfortable.

Use plenty of lubricant, add more if you need it, wetter is always better whoever you are. You can pop it on before foreplay, as part of foreplay and enjoy an intimate massage or just apply it when you want to enjoy penetrative sex or when using a sex toy.

Try different positions that prevent deep penetration if you find it uncomfortable or painful. Often being on top or snuggling are a good way for you to control depth of penetration. Taking it slowly can be highly pleasurable and very intimate.

A slim vibrator, such as a Picobong Zizo, Lelo Liv and Slinky Kama Blue can really help if you have scar tissues or vaginal tightness following surgery or treatment. Used with lubricant, it can help promote healing of scar tissue by increasing the blood supply to the area. Gentle manipulation of the vibrator over the scarred area can help to stretch the tissue and make it feel less tight. It also promotes vaginal secretions, lubricating the vagina and making it feel more comfortable and pleasurable.

Used on your clitoris it can help you to relax and it feels good too! You can also use many of our sex toys in the bath, lots of fun and so relaxing too!

If you prefer not to use a vibrator, our Inspire Silicone Dilator Kit is incredibly soft and is a great way to ease vaginal tightness. You can use them alone or in combination with one of our slim sex toys, the Slinky Kama Blue fits through the loop handle turning the dilator into a vibrator which is great for promoting blood flow, lubrication and sexual sensations. The smallest dilator or Slinky Kama Blue is great for massaging YES oil based lubricant, YESVM or Sutil Luxe around the entrance of the vagina where the skin can become thinner, feel sore or split especially on penetration to help gently stretch the tissues to become more flexible.

Cuddle Up

A simple cuddle causes the release of oxytocin, a feel good hormone. When we’re sexually aroused, oxytocin levels increase significantly, a main factor in achieving an orgasm, which in turn, causes the release of more oxytocin.

A brief stroke on the back of the neck, along your arm, your ears, even in the palm of your hand can help you reconnect.The gentle breath on the back of your neck, a brush of the knee or feather like kiss on your hand can produce a sexual sensation as skin is one of the most erogenous zones in our body

Using the lightest of touch, being caressed or caressing your partner, even through clothing can sent pulses racing. However and wherever you enjoy being touched, finding your own erogenous zones is fun and will increase your sexual stimulation, so start exploring

Tell your partner where and how you would like to be touched, guide their hand so they know how to touch you and what pressure they can use if your genitals feel sensitive to touch.

Sensory Deprived Sex

Our sense of touch, hearing, smell and taste are all heightened by sight deprivation. Not knowing what is coming next increases sexual arousal, so try combining blindfold play with slow sensual all over body massage. Touch your partner or be touched with a feather-like caress, using a feather, silk scarf or tickler. Feed them or be fed with with tiny morsels of chocolate, honey from your fingers or lips or trace an ice cube or drizzling champagne over your partner’s stomach, penis or clitoris.

What’s Happened To My Orgasm?

Sexual sensation can diminish following treatment or drug therapy, making it difficult or longer to orgasm. However, using a vibrator can help. The gentle vibrations can stimulate the numerous nerve endings in the clitoris and vagina, creating waves of pleasure.

As 75% of people with a clitoris orgasm through clitoral stimulation, they can often struggle during penetrative sex because they are not getting the right clitoral stimulation so try using a bullet vibrator or clitoral stimulator on your clitoris and great for playing on nipples, a partner’s clitoris or penis. It’s so simple to use and inexpensive, such as great toy to introduce into your relationship .Your partner could wear a vibrating penis ring, such as a Je Joue Mio which can make their penis feel firmer whilst stimulating your clitoris at the same time.

You may like using a Rabbit vibrator like Rocks Off EveryGirl to enjoy blended orgasms.

LELO SONA 2 is a sonic wave stimulator relying on SenSonic technology. The silicone absorbs sonic waves and pulses and transmits them back to the clitoris. These waves stimulate the internal and external parts of the clitoris, gently teasing and caressing you to an all consuming climax, the like of which you have never experienced before. Being waterproof, SONA 2 is a fun way to enjoy a very relaxing bath!

Satisfyer Pro 2 is a true innovation in clitoral stimulation, offering touch-free massage that you blow you away. Using sound wave technology, it engulfs the clitoris and creates gentle pressure waves that gently suck and tease the clitoris. People who really struggle to orgasm find that this product really helps them.

Satisfyer Curvy 1 Plus App Enabled combines air pulsation wave stimulation with vibratory power which creates a completely unique sexual sensation. Being app controlled you can let your partner be in charge, such a great way to get warmed up for sex too.

Wand massagers are really powerful sex toys that also double up as body massagers so versatile and great to use alone or with a partner.

Finding a sex toy that works for you can transform your sexual intimacy and pleasure so it is important to do your research, always buy skin safe products from reputable retailers like Jo Divine who really care about your sexual health and pleasure.

Don’t Give Up On Your Sex Life

You don’t have to give up on your sex life after ovarian cancer: there are so many things you can do to continue to enjoy sexual pleasure and intimacy with your partner by being a little imaginative and creative about the way in which you have sex. You can have lots of fun too!

Sex is meant to be noisy, messy, embarrassing, concentual, pleasurable and most of all, fun so be adventurous and start enjoying better sexual pleasure and intimacy!

At Jo Divine we’re always happy to help and believe that sexual health and sexual pleasure go hand in hand. We created a health brochure with suitable products to help people with sexual issues. Working with healthcare professionals and severalc ancer charities, we hope to encourage patients and HCPs alike in talking more freely about sexual problems. A health issue doesn’t mean your sex life will have to stop!

Useful websites

We work with the fantastic Ovarian Cancer Charity Ovacome who support so many people going through treatment and beyond, offering evidenced based information, handy booklets, practical advice and helping so many people of all ages going through ovarian cancer.

Target Ovarian Cancer : www.targetovariancancer.org.uk
Eve Appeal : www.eveappeal.org.uk/gynaecological-cancers/ovarian-cancer
Ovarian Cancer Action : www.ovarian.org.uk
Dr Louise Newson, menopause specialist : www.menopausedoctor.co.uk
The Daisy Network- www.daisynetwork.org.uk- charity for premature ovarian insufficiency
British Menopause Society- thebms.org.uk
Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology- www.rcog.org.uk
Menopause Support : menopausesupport.co.uk
Henpicked : www.henpicked.net
Jennifer Young : www.beautydespitecancer.co.uk
HipHeadWear : www.hipheadwear.co.uk
Dr Hannah Short, Menopause Specialist : www.drhannahshort.co.uk
Pelvic, Obstetric and Gynaecology Physiotherapy

Cancer and Fertility : www.cancerandfertility.co.uk This has been set up by Becki McGuinness who was left infertile by aggressive cancer treatment when she was just 23-years-old. Now 30, she’s launching a national campaign to ensure women facing cancer are given all the fertility options she should have had

I spoke at the Daisy Network conference about sexual intimacy and pleasure in June 2017, had a stand in 2018 and joined them in 2020 via Zoom for a webinar about Sexual Health, Intimacy and Pleasure.

I spoke at the Ovacome Day in 2019 and joined them via Zoom in 2020 to talk about Ovarian Cancer and Sex

I joined the panel at Trekstock “Lifting the Lid on Menopause” event in February 2020.

I spoke at the Guys Cancer Academy Sexual Wellbeing and Cancer in February 2020 about sexual health, intimacy and pleasure.

I spoke at Cancer Creativity workshop created by Cheryl Johnson to talk about Sex and Cancer in December 2020.

I have recorded a podcast with Dr Louise Newson about Sex and Menopause.