Emma Howard discusses the topic of sex and pregnancy, with the author of The Sex Book.
[Music Playing] Emma Howard: Hello and welcome to Baby Talk. I am Emma Howard and today we are talking about a subject that's close to all our hearts, sex. And little later on the show we will be hearing what our famous mums and dads have to say on the issue and taking a look at some sexy underwear styles for pregnant moms. But first up I am joined on the sofa by Suzi Godson who I think is not wrong to say is an expert on sex and author of the very fervor sex book. Suzi Godson: Hello! Emma Howard: Thank you for coming in let me -- that is the most amazingly thorough book on sex, this is fantastic. We will be talking about it in just a moment. Now why would say you are an authority of sex because you have had four children? Suzi Godson: Well that means I have had sex three times because I had three. No I write for The Times relationship column and I have written this book and I also used to write for The Independent, I have been researching this subject for years and I have worked with doctors, experts, scientists, pharmaceutical industry. Emma Howard: And they were all in here. I mean it's amazing and you have got a fantastic Foreword by Professor Robert Winston. So I think this is a book that will reach across to many people because this is a subject that most people think well it's nothing to do with me, even though they might be desperately trying to conceive or be pregnant if they worry about sex. Suzi Godson: Well I think the thing that's different about that book, is it's really-really broad, it's not a sort of salacious book on, your Top a 100 ways to have an orgasm. It's actually looking at the whole subject of sex, so it takes sex right through life, whatever age you are, it looks at teenagers, right through to old age, it's gender neutral. So it applies to gay people and straight people and it's got all the kind of hardcore information but it's also looking at help and, you know, the peripheral aspects to the subject that often get overlooked in the sort of media, sort of super sexy... Emma Howard: Because those are all the less interesting basing sex for the media. Now we've got to say that you are holding little Grover, here she is three four months old isn't she? Suzi Godson: Yeah. Emma Howard: So your latest edition! She is lovely! Actually I think she is so good because she is sleeping. So you have come in today to talk to us about sex and pregnancy which I think is a very difficult issue for a lot of people. Some people glide through it very easily, sex is part of that pregnancy, not a problem at all. But for the people who it is a problem; it can be terrible problem, can't it? Suzi Godson: Well I think so, and I also think that as with all aspect of sex iys so hyped, the expectation that you are meant to have a certain amount of sex, and if you don't, you feel like you are not conforming to what's normal. The reality is we all overestimate what is the average amount of sex. I mean really a 20 year old might have sex twice a week, a 30 year old have sex once a week, a 40 year old have sex maybe once every couple of weeks. By the time you are in your 50s and 60s, they don't even statistically register the amount of sex that you have because it starts to slide off the scale and... Emma Howard: yeah, and suddenly when we have it more than the 20 year olds. Suzi Godson: So when you are in pregnancy it becomes an area where you realize that you should be having sex through pregnancy, because obviously every single pregnancy book that you read, it says, don't let it go, stay in touch with your partner. But the reality is partners often have a problem with it. A man is looking at his wife or his partner changing shapes so dramatically, carrying his child, it could be incredibly intimidating for them. They feel threatened both by the sort of physical changes but also by anxieties about damaging the baby. Emma Howard: And that's a huge one, isn't it? Fear of damaging the baby, it's just not true? Suzi Godson: I mean the reality is that it's you know, guys are overestimating that. In practice nature is smarter, it's laying the beds to fit. Emma Howard: It's not going to refer it off to damage anything else whatever you might want to think. Yes -- Suzi Godson: Yes, but the psychological concern is very real and that's coupled with the fact that many women experiences a surge of hormones when they are pregnant which makes them more interested in sex, and they then - because women are built to interpret the fact that their husband doesn't want to have sex with them as rejection, it becomes a huge emotional issue and it sets up a barrier between the man and the women and if they don't have good communication skills, it can actually kind of run out of proportion. And then by the time the baby arrives, they are at such a distance from each other that it can be very difficult to resume normal sex when a woman is starting to feel like she is getting back to normal. Emma Howard: Now you just said that in pregnancy that women - you said often, you said always, you know, the sex drive is high. That's not always the case, as in sometimes when we can go the other way and not want any sex at all during pregnancy. Suzi Godson: I think -- I mean actually that's true. A lot of women are so tentative about being pregnant, they become so sort of protective of themselves and their body and their unborn child that they become almost sort of -- Emma Howard: like a more... Suzi Godson: Yeah, absolutely, quite religious about sort of self preservation and making sure their child is okay and in that they will distance themselves from their partner and that can carry on after the baby is born you know there is -- Emma Howard: Especially when you are having not enough sleep. Suzi Godson: Absolutely. And so those problems can continue and it is a real test of any relationship regardless of how much you love each other, having a baby is a test and I mean I am sitting here with this baby today, all couples that have a new baby every evening they spent shoving the baby from one partner to the other, you are sleeping with the baby in the room, you are tired, you know it -- you become fractious with each other, that's not conducive to sex. Emma Howard: No as you say it's a huge test. Suzi Godson: Sex and intimacy do require a certain degree of privacy that is just taken away from you. So you have to try and work around that and everybody finds different ways. But I mean I don't think people should be too hard on themselves, I don't think their expectation should be that they have to have sex a certain amount. I think as long as you remain intimate with each other, it doesn't really matter if the sex goes out the window for six months or a year. As long as you stay connected and communicate with each other. And after you have had your baby and you feel ready and really you should only be engaging in it when you feel ready, only about three percent of women have sex within six weeks of giving birth. Emma Howard: Oh I was going to ask you for figures, because often it's a question asked put to GP and to be polite. I have just had a baby, how soon can I have sex again, and would you say it's horses for courses, it's when you feel ready? Suzi Godson: well I mean I think a lot of women actually feel pressurized in to having sex sooner than they would like to because they feel oh my God! I have had my baby now; I really owe my husband sex. So they go into it before they are actually personally ready. But that's something that could be applied to sort of sexual relationships between men and women across the board. But the majority of women wait; will wait six weeks or longer and the majority of men won't be ready to have sex, really before then because it's cooping with, there is huge overload with the arrival of this baby. Emma Howard: And of course there a lot of men sleep deprived as well. Suzi Godson: Absolutely, absolutely! Emma Howard: Well the good ones are, I will actually say, the ones who get up as well and do their bit. Suzi Godson: I would recommend to people to try and anticipate this and I think what really helps is when you find out when you are pregnant to anticipate all the downsides, all the negatives and how they are going to impact on your inter-personal relationships, on your relationship with your partner and on your sex life. If you can anticipate all the changes and even write a plan, you are so much prepared, so much more prepared for it and you are going into it as a team and then when things turn out to be actually easier it's a pleasant surprise. Emma Howard: So you think actually talking about potential problems for instance the one that women often took amongst themselves about is when they are in labor, will they keep their husbands head-end or will they let them go to the business-end, because of the stories that we hear about men being very effected by what they see. But that's not true for all men, how are you going to know what type of men if they- Suzi Godson: I think you have to know your partner to some extent, you have to take their feelings into account, I mean I knew my husband would faint if he saw anything so - I was absolutely adamant that he wasn't going to go anywhere near anything - Emma Howard: -- and did he comply, did he stay head-end? Suzi Godson: Well he accepted that about himself, so he stayed and held my hand but we knew that - I knew that about him and he accepted it about himself and I was not prepared, I was prepared to not even having him there if I felt it was going to impact on our relationship. I personally don't see why men have to be exposed to everything, you know if it's going to have a negative effect on them. Emma Howard: I think the danger could be when they think that they can see everything and then it has an effect on them that they weren't well prepared for it. Suzi Godson: Well and that does happen, you know, that does happen. I mean it's awful to watch -- I mean, can't imagine what it's like to watch your partner in terrible pain and... Emma Howard: Although I know that my husband just like he said you know, my father saw me being born and I have to see my children being born -- he was absolutely fantastic, it didn't have an affect on him at all, it's all so scary. Suzi Godson: He has always been a more little robust character than mine is. Emma Howard: It must have been! Don't sue me on that, we didn't register when I was in pain, right to that - so ask something else is about it. But it is interesting that people have different levels of what they are able to say because you say watching your partner in pain can be very disturbing for people and that can have an impact on sex later. But do you have a kind of therapy that you offer to couples if they do have a problem, the babies bombard, this has been quite a traumatic experience. Suzi Godson: well I think as I said, I think you should brace yourself for the worst, so prepare a plan and to recognize if things are difficult afterwards, there is a sort of subtle recognition of when things are slightly worst than they should be. When communication is difficult too, people are avoiding the whole topic of sex or avoiding any kind of intimacy and it starts to bother one or both parties or if one person is pulling away or you know, to actively avoiding it. And then I think you have got to kind of bite the bullet and go and get some counseling and get it out in the open, because I think once these things are addressed and taken out of the bedroom and into a neutral space where a third party can help, they can be resolved quite quickly but too many people allow them to stew. Emma Howard: It's good to be acknowledged before you get to that stage. You have kind of got to sit down your partner and say, we have got to talk about sex which is a are very cunningly to pronounce because you've done so well and then know of another thing to do as well. But it has to be done, you certainly can't get to - I'd say help before you have done that. Suzi Godson: No! I mean, you know, communication is the key to all of it and it maybe that the women has to be the one that's persistent about it or the man and the trouble with post-baby is that there is too many, it's so easy to kind of make excuses or say you are too tired or it's very easy to sort of allow it all to slide, the longer it goes on for the harder it is to get it back. Emma Howard: Yeah, I think everyone kind of knows that they might - now something in your book which is fascinating, I wanted to ask you about, you said when you talk about breastfeeding, you talk about it bringing a whole another dimension to your sex life, what on the earth do you really? That is what the breastfeeding can actually - Suzi Godson: Well I mean, I don't know about you but I think breastfeeding is utterly fascinating, in terms of - your whole body changes. Emma Howard: Because you are feeding another human being? Suzi Godson: Yeah and so this incredible connection between you and your baby but you can actually use it to your advantage sexually as well, during orgasm, using kind of the subsequent little spurts of milk or just using it as part of sex. It's really-really nice. If you are into exploring it in that way, I think it can be quite effective. Emma Howard: So you are very bold in the book, aren't you? It is very scientific, it's very practical but it's kind of - it's got something in it for absolutely everybody, doesn't it? Suzi Godson: Yeah, it really does. Emma Howard: Including a legislature which I am sure a lot of people would want to learn that. It's been very-very well received, as I say, you have a stunning foreword by Robert Winston and we should say that this is a re-print; it's not that it's a new book? Suzi Godson: The first print went into 15 different languages and it's now being reprinted in a smaller format because the larger format was quite bulky, so they feel that the smaller format will be more practical fro people. Emma Howard: This is handbag size. Suzi Godson: That's it! Emma Howard: This is very good, read it. I mean the final thing, I mean it's about making time for each other, the hardest thing to do when you have got a little one like you have. Suzi Godson: It is and I would say, I mean one of my top tips for anybody who is looking after a small baby or who basically just needs to kind of change the script with their partner is to get some really good child care, leave the baby with expressed milk or bottles or with somebody that you trust, or even two people that you trust, and go check into a hotel, because often it's the whole environment of being at home that is killing everything. You are so booked down with the nappy changing unit in the corner or the baby change over -- you know if you take it out of the house. Emma Howard: Remind yourself of who you were before the baby come in up. Suzi Godson: Absolutely, check in get some Champaign, get some linen, most clean linen sheets in room service and you will often find that just changing this grid, to changing the environment you are in will give your sex life the kind of kick start it really needs after having a baby. Emma Howard: Now we are talking about it as if there is just one baby. What happens when this baby, as in your case is your second or your third or your fourth baby and you have got little ones and nearby that may wakeup in the nights, sometimes that can be the excuse too. Isn't it? Suzi Godson: Absolutely! Emma Howard: How does that all fit together? Suzi Godson: It's really difficult, it's really difficult and you might have to scale down from the rest of the travel lodge but I'd say -- I'd still say get the hell out of there and try and reconnect to each other. Family is fantastic, it's the most important thing, it's fabulous, but you have to remember that those babies didn't come along without sex. You have to get back to basics. Emma Howard: So really that's the same advice, however many children you have got. Suzi Godson: Absolutely! Emma Howard: Suzi it's been wonderful, and I have really dived into this book, but I am going to get away and read it, I can't wait. Thank you very much for coming and to talk to us. Suzi Godson: Thank you! Emma Howard: Now after the break we will be joining our yummy mummies and real dads to find out exactly what they think about the issue of sex but before that here is a look at some of your baby photos and if you want to send in a picture of your little one, stay tuned because we will tell you how to stretch after these.