A Candid Conversation with Sexologist Laura Miano
We talk about the three Ps - periods, pain and pleasure - with Laura Miano, sex therapist and co-founder of Posmo. Laura opens up about her role in helping women navigate sexual concerns, the nuances of desire throughout the menstrual cycle, and practical tips for enhancing intimacy.
Name: Laura Miano
Day job: Sex Therapist and Co-Founder of Sex Toy Concept Store, Posmo
I work with a lot of women, vulva-owners and fems in my role as a sex therapist. Primarily I help them overcome common sexual concerns such as low sexual desire, sexual pain, orgasm struggles and general sexual anxiety. I often help them to identify factors that are unique to their pleasure blueprint; we may discuss sexual communication skills, and we often explore and reshape sexual beliefs that are unhelpful to them.
Prioritise time to connect with your partner, practice open communication and foster a culture of comfort around being vulnerable. Working on these outside of sex, makes it easier to tap into during sex.
We lead busy lives and when our partner also becomes the person we run a house with, raise kids with, pay bills with, it can really suck the pleasure and intimacy out of a relationship. Setting time to connect with each other’s mind and body is super important. This may be date nights, taking a bath together, bedtime cuddles, opening up about hopes, dreams and fears, and appreciating you don’t have to go ‘all the way’ every time you express intimacy with each other.
Women, and other people who get periods, can experience shifts in their desire for sex based on which stage they are in their menstrual cycle. Commonly it aligns with the increase and decrease of levels of estrogen and progesterone, which shifts at each phase of the cycle.
It is important to note that many other factors can impact desire such as medications, general mental health, relationship satisfaction and more, therefore the menstrual cycle should only be used as a rough guide.
While the research is still developing and not exactly conclusive, it has so far found the following over each phase of the cycle:
It really does depend on what is causing the pain and how the pain is presenting. As a rule though, sex should not be painful - it is about pleasure after all! If sexual pain is occurring, move away from the activity and try another sexual activity that doesn't cause pain. This might be a massage, slow kissing or gentle body caressing. Focus on these activities, communicate to your sexual partner how these bring up more pleasure and see where your body takes you from there.
Often I will recommend deep breathing exercises, where they breath in for 6, hold for 3, and breath out for 9. This helps calm the nervous system down. I also encourage them to tune into their emotional needs in the moment and pursue what they need to calm down. This might be a nurturing hug from their sexual partner, voicing their feelings to them or asking to slow down.
It is important to note though, these techniques are for when sexual discomfort is within a manageable window, such as a 3/10 level of pain. If the pain is over that threshold, I would suggest taking a break and utilising the above techniques, before returning to the sexual activity only if it has dropped to a 3/10 or lower level.
Talk with your partner about how you’re feeling, discuss why you might be falling into a pattern with sex. Prioritize play, fun and vulnerability in your broader relationship - the better you are at doing this outside of sex, the easier it is to tap into during sex. Reflect on whether there are unresolved conflicts in your relationship that may be acting as a barrier to deeper connection during sex. Be introspective during sex - if you feel a small urge to try something else, notice what’s holding you back. Is it fear of changing the status quo, is it fear of communicating your feelings or are you afraid your partner might shoot it down? You could communicate what you discover with your partner, and individually, you could also work towards shifting the internal narrative you have about these barriers. Sex therapy may also be a great option if you struggle to address some of these factors on your own.
It’s okay to guide a sexual experience towards what you want. You aren’t being difficult, you aren’t being too dominant. And your partner will love sex more if you love it more too :)
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