Endometriosis, Emotions, and Infertility
[This is also an episode of Friday Free Talk on The Tranquility Tribe Podcast on iTunes. Listen here.]
Hey Tranquility Tribe! Welcome to this episode of the Tranquility Tribe podcast! Today, Hehe talks to Carli Blau, a sex therapist located in Manhattan. In addition to helping individuals and couples through the variety of struggles that can result from sex, relationships, infertility, and even life in general, Carli is also working on finishing her PhD in Clinical Sex Therapy.
How did Carli become a sex therapist?
Carli has always had a loving and supportive family. However, at age 14 she found herself in a relationship with a partner who was controlling and emotionally and physically abusive, and she felt very isolated despite the support that her parents provided. In addition, Carli became sexually active at a young age and, in an effort to learn about what was going on with her body, read up on all things sex. Because she knew so much, she became the go-to person for anyone with questions about sex, periods, anatomy – you name it! She enjoyed being able to help others understand a topic that was often viewed as confusing and even taboo. Her relationship experiences and her wealth of knowledge inspired her to pursue a career in which she could enable others to cope with their feelings towards sex, relationships and commitments, pregnancy and infertility, and a variety of other topics.
Why sex therapy?
As Carli points out, not everyone is comfortable talking about sex. This holds true for therapists as well; you might find that even licensed professionals try to avoid the subject! The great thing about sex therapists is that they go through specific training that allows them to process the feelings and emotions that they may have around sex prior to speaking to clients. This way, when they are helping others, they have already developed an understanding of the topic and are comfortable having those conversations.
Nobody’s relationship is perfect, and if the idea of sex makes you feel stressed or unhappy, you are not alone. In the age of social media, it is incredibly easy to think that everybody else’s relationships are completely faultless. But in reality, everybody faces some sort of struggle within the dating/relationship world. This is especially true regarding sex, but because it is so often seen as such a taboo topic, it can be difficult to find a space to talk about your experiences (or even someone to acknowledge that your feelings about sex are valid). Sex therapists are a wonderful resource to allow you to process your attitude towards sex in a safe, comfortable, and open-minded environment.
Thanks to all of her experience as a therapist, a patient, and simply a person, Carli is full of helpful advice about a variety of topics. Both Carli and Hehe agree that it is incredibly important to feel validated by and comfortable around your doctor, but they both recognize that it can be difficult to find a doctor that respects your views and that you trust. Carli’s tip when dealing with less than empathetic doctors is to remember that they are people too, and approach a conversation with them on a human-to-human level. Keep in mind that they may have boundaries up for a reason, and let them know how you feel. It can be difficult to have those conversations, but it’s important to advocate for yourself because you deserve to be treated in an environment where you feel safe and comfortable. And if after expressing your needs, you feel like you are still not receiving the respect you deserve, it may be time to find someone new. As Carli points out, this can apply to any relationship - romantic, medical, you name it!
Infertility and Endometriosis
Dealing with infertility can have a serious impact on how you feel about sex and your relationship. Carli explains that when you begin to put a lot of pressure on getting pregnant, you may start to resent sex, which is entirely normal and understandable. While sexual anxiety is not a defined diagnosis, it is a common and very real feeling among people who are trying to get pregnant (and this doesn’t just apply to women - partners and same sex couples can feel anxiety around trying to get pregnant, too). If you are struggling with anxiety around sex, Carli recommends trying to see a sex therapist. If you don’t have access to a sex therapist, Carli also advises trying to gradually rebuild positive intimacy between you and your partner - start slow with something like a massage, and go from there.
Trying to get pregnant can be a scary, embarrassing, and confusing process. As Carli says, the most important thing to keep in mind during this process is to approach it in a positive light - not only will this make the overall experience more manageable, but maintaining a low stress level will keep your cortisol levels low, which helps support fertility. However, this is definitely easier said than done. To help get you through the lows of the pregnancy process, Carli recommends learning as much as you can about your body and pregnancy itself; knowledge is power, and having more information about what you are going through can help it feel less frightening or overwhelming. Carli also reminds listeners that as a parent, you will have the very important role of setting an example for your child. If you approach things with a negative attitude, your child will mirror your behavior - start practicing now by trying to maintain a positive attitude as much as possible!
Throughout the podcast, Carli opens up about her own experience trying to pregnant. Carli has endometriosis, which is a chronic benign disease that affects one in 10 women. Endometriosis is caused by excess tissue around the uterus and other reproductive organs, which can cause extreme fatigue, painful sex, bad cramping, heavy periods, and inflammation. Depending on where the extra tissue is, endometriosis can make it very difficult to get pregnant. Carli had a miscarriage in July of 2017. She has since undergone egg retrieval and is hoping to get pregnant at some point in the future!
With both endometriosis and egg retrieval, Carli stresses the importance of finding a doctor that you trust and who really knows what they are doing. Endometriosis can be very difficult to diagnose, so it’s important to go to a specialist if you believe that you may have it. When looking for a doctor for egg retrieval, Carli recommends interviewing doctors and asking about the protocols that they offer. Doctors who provide a wide variety of protocols are more likely to be able to work with you to find a process that is personalized for you. Egg retrieval is an expensive process, but as Carli explains it is worth investing in a good doctor that you feel comfortable working with.
If you would like to hear more from Carli and learn about the services that she offers, check out her blog at honestlynaked.com and her website, carliblau.com! Carli is also on Instagram at @sexdoccarli and can be contacted via email at email@example.com or by phone at 917-710-4497.
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Written by our Guest Blogger, Kyra Shreeve. She is a Biochemistry, Health Policy, and Music student at Brandeis University.