You Are Not Alone: Q & A on Pain with Intercourse
Take Home Messages & Nuggets
1. One on one questioning with women who experience painful intercourse
2. Real questions and real answers
3. How pelvic PT can help
The questions asked in the following post were all asked by me and these answers are real. The lovely participants who answered these questions will remain anonymous to respect their privacy. It is important to note that even though they had certain experiences with medical providers - this DOES NOT mean all medical providers think this way.
1. When did you start to have pain with sex and is it still ongoing now?
"I’ve always had a bit of pain with sex that I was able to ignore for the most part, but it got really bad when my boyfriend and I went months without seeing each other (and months without sex). Each time I saw him after a long break I experienced more and more pain with sex, to the point where it got unbearable. Unfortunately, I’ve been dealing with this issue for the last two years, and it is still affecting me now."
2. How long did it take you to seek help once you felt that something was wrong?
"I sought help from two gynecologists in the beginning of my journey with this pain, who both did not give me very useful advice. When I learned about pelvic floor therapy in physical therapy school, I decided to find a pelvic floor therapist. Also, I will note that not one of the gynos referred me to pelvic PT and one actually told me she didn’t think it would help me. One doctor told me to drink wine along with using lubrication."
3. Did you feel as if there were enough resources out there to help you?
"Not really. I did a lot of my own Google searching and convinced myself I had a number of different things wrong with me before seeking help. The two gynecologists I went to said conflicting things about what was wrong. It wasn’t until I went to a pelvic floor therapist that I finally felt like I found the right resource."
4. Did you have to research about pelvic floor therapy yourself? If not, how did you hear about it?
"I did all the research myself, but I was lucky that I was pursuing a doctorate of physical therapy at the time and had exposure to what pelvic floor therapy was. If I hadn’t had this exposure, I’m not sure I ever would’ve found my way to pelvic floor therapy."
"As a PT, I knew about the courses. I just didn’t consider my problem 'serious enough' to seek out help. I realize how silly that sounds now."
5. What exactly did the pain feel like? Was it on insertion or further along during intercourse?
"The pain feels mostly like burning and sharp upon insertion."
6. If you were to rate your comfort level when you speak about this topic 0 being completely comfortable and 10 being extremely uncomfortable (not wanting to talk about it at all) - how would you rate it?
"I would probably say 8. I’m comfortable talking to my pelvic floor therapist and my partner, but that’s about it. It is an uncomfortable topic for me that I find most people in my life can’t relate to."
7. If you are still with your partner or if you think of previous partners - were they receptive to the pain you were feeling and were they understanding?
"Yes, my partner was very understanding. They were more so concerned that I was feeling pain each time we tried to get intimate."
What could have been different about these scenarios and how can pelvic PT help?
Personally, these women had answers that hit home a bit because they are not the only ones who feel this way. I have heard from too many patients that they feel as if there are not enough resources out there to understand what is happening within their bodies.
Did you know that other countries REQUIRE women to go to pelvic floor therapy after they give birth?
That is a WHOLE other blog post in itself, but I needed to note that real quick. To the men, your posts are coming too. I didn't forget about you!
Back to the topic at hand. During a pelvic PT visit, there is usually an internal examination if a patient feels comfortable and gives their consent. INTERNAL? Say what? This is where the therapist uses their digits or fingers in order to internally assess the vaginal or anal muscles. When assessing internally, we can determine the strength, overactivity, tone and trigger points of a muscle. When we are stressed about something, we hold that stress in certain areas of our bodies (our necks and shoulders for example). What do we do? We massage, we stretch, we move. What if I told you our pelvic floor acts in the same way? Remember, the pelvic floor is a sheet of muscles and should be treated like any other muscle in our body.
Now there are a few reasons why these women were having these symptoms and there would need to be a true evaluation in order to figure out the details.
Either way, this was NOT all in their heads and they were able to get help.
If we keep spreading the knowledge we have, more and more medical providers will begin to educate patients on the benefits of rehabilitation to prevent further pain and improve function in all patients. What if it was as simple as having a pamphlet in the gynecologist's office?
AM I RIGHT.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, please reach out to your primary care provider along with reaching out to a pelvic floor physical therapist. Remember it is fine to get more than one opinion. If you feel as if this is hard to talk about, please know that this topic is more common than you think and it should NOT be considered normal. If it helps, find comfort in your partner, friend or family member first and then seek help.
Break the silence and advocate for yourself because we definitely need more of that in this world.
Signing off and will answer any questions you may have. I will be writing a future blog post with product recommendations for those who are experiencing painful intercourse.
Next week's theme is on pregnancy! Stay tuned for the mama posts
With love always,