Enjoying Sex When Your Vagina Hurts

March 28, 2019

My issues started in 2012 with something that felt like a UTI. It wouldn't go away. Months went by and eventually years passed. I was suffering a lot. I constantly felt like I had to pee, urgently. I'd be in so much pain I'd go to sleep with a hot water bottle in between my legs and wake up during the night, crying. Pelvic pain can have many different symptoms: pain during or after sex, pain when you pee (or in my case even when I didn't pee), lower back pain, ovulation pain, cramping before or during your period, just to name a few. I'll only be speaking of my own personal experience of course. I'm not a professional, I'm just a girl who wants to help out. My pelvic pain became so severe that I started self diagnosing on Google. I wanted things to make sense, I was desperate. Suffering from pelvic pain really can take a toll on you, your self esteem, your self confidence - and being intimate when your vagina hurts just isn't that simple. I'd always had a great sex life and I was determined to have that back. Here's how I did.

You're not crazy

Pain during sex, unfortunately, is something that a lot of women experience, before it happened to me I never really had any issues - apart from those good old yeast infections, which to be honest can also be pretty nasty. If your vagina hurts, for any reason, please see a professional. Be kind to yourself, take care of yourself, understand that you deserve to be happy and healthy. You're not crazy, you're in pain and you're going to do something about it. The reason why I titled this blog post the way I did is because I was told 'it was all in my head' but that didn't mean I was going to give up. My pelvic pain was the start of a new journey for me, one where I got to know myself, my triggers and my strengths. Being told something's in your head is devastating - because what do you do when your doctor implies you made it all up? Find people who believe and respect you and more importantly - respect yourself.

Find a supportive OBGYN

A good OBGYN believes you regardless of what the (negative) test results say. They try to help you, listen to you and try to figure things out, no matter how much medicine they've prescribed to you. My OBGYN was the first person who suggested that I talk about my pain with my therapist. There were some inconsistencies with some of the samples she took and sent to the lab but what they found wasn't supposed to affect me the way it did. She still prescribed me a creme and oral tablets to take, referred me to a urologist (who found nothing) and kept checking in with me scheduling a new appointment every 3 months. I honestly could not have wished for a better doctor. I took her advice and talked with my therapist about my pelvic pain, the way it affects me and my relationship, it has helped tremendously. As I'm writing this article my pelvic pain is better but it's not gone. Turns out a lot of it is related to anxiety and my personal happiness. The happier I am the less it hurts. I did have an actual UTI a while back, where I started peeing blood, that's when I realised my pelvic pain probably wasn't ever a UTI to begin with. The pain was different. It might have started with a UTI but all the discomfort I had experienced over the years wasn't.

Lube, Lube & More Lube

Before a couple months ago I wasn't a big fan of lube, also - I'd only tried one brand, Durex. Turns out not every lube is the same. Yes, you're right, I was pretty ignorant about the subject. The one I have stored in my bed side table now from Feminine is great (available for purchase in Belgium at Di), it's organic, it isn't sticky, it doesn't make you slip and slide all over each other and it's pretty close to feeling like it's the real thing, like it naturally came from you. It's awesome. It doesn't sting or burn or itch, I honestly wish I would have bought it sooner.

Touch Yourself

If you suffer from pelvic pain and you'd like to have a sex life, I find things are a lot easier when you have an actual sex life with yourself. Especially when it comes to having and/or restoring a healthy relationship with you and your body. To (maybe) discover (all over again) what you like and don't like. To know that you can still enjoy your body. To be honest, sometimes it's much easier to have sex with yourself than to have another person involved, because you're the one who is in complete control and you know where it hurts and where it doesn't. Toys can also be a great idea, if that is something you are into or would like to try. They are softer and way more gentle than any human body parts. Do make sure you are purchasing toys that are body safe, sex toys aren't regulated in Europe. Those made out of body safe silicone are the ones I see recommended the most often.

Trust Your Partner

I've been in a relationship with the same man for a very long time and that of course makes trusting my partner a lot easier than when you're still dating or don't know each other that well. This goes hand in hand with how open and honest you can be about sex. Things can get awkward. Unfortunately, if you want to be able to trust whoever it is you're going to be intimate with, you'll have to talk about your concerns. It is important to have someone who will respect your boundaries, will always be kind, understanding and not let your issues affect their self esteem or confidence in the bedroom. Even though I've been together with my man for already 7 years, I started having issues just months into our relationship. It sucked, balls, but he has always been great about it.

Try Something Different

Having pelvic pain means you're going to get real creative when it comes to having sex. You literally will have to reinvent your sex life and that can be really fun. Looking at porn can help, porn made by professionals in the industry who are together or actually married is even better in my opinion, also movies or books with elaborate sex scenes, show each other things you'd like to do that seem cute and playful. Being comfortable and having fun means you're going to be in a lot less pain. Laugh, it takes down the stress levels. Also, having sex doesn't mean that any kind of penetration needs to be involved, no need to be shoving things in there when it hurts.

Have Sex When You're In The Mood

I know, being in the mood can be hard when it hurts but it can happen - and if it does happen - I suggest you get the ball rolling. It's not that romantic, true, but there's honestly no better time to do it. Think of it as if you were making babies, you just need to get it done right then and there.

Try Yoga & Pelvic Floor Relaxation Exercises

I'm not gonna lie, I didn't do these for long because quite frankly I'm just lazy when it comes to working out, but hey, they did help. They're great to relax and feel more in tune with your body. I liked doing them right before going to bed on a little yoga mat, while listening to a podcast or some music. You can find plenty of free yoga routines on Youtube, I researched some specific pelvic floor exercises on Google and picked a couple of my favorites.

Take Care Of Your Down There

I don't remember the last time I had sex without a condom. I used to take birth control pills but after 8 years I felt like it was affecting me negatively both physically and mentally, so condoms it was and to be completely honest, I'm very happy about it. I love using the latex free Skyn Originals, I'm not allergic to latex, they just feel a lot nicer, not only for me but also my partner. I think, they're smoother and thinner than other brands. We mainly use condoms because the process is a lot more hygienic, it doesn't cause any friction, we obviously don't want children just yet and we don't have to worry about possible conditions such as thrush and/or yeast infections which is something I definitely had issues with when we wouldn't use them.

Apart from always using condoms, there's a number of other things I do, simply for my own peace of mind: I always pee after sex, I have quit using tampons, I only use sanitary pads made out of actual cotton, I don't wash my underwear with softener and I like to take an oral probiotic containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC14. This is an over the counter supplement you can find at your local drugstore or pharmacy. Taking probiotics honestly, was the best thing I could have done for my vagina, she went through a total transformation. Right now I mostly take them when I'm on my period, that's when I feel like I need them the most. Food I like to supplement with (if that's something you believe in I guess) are turmeric and cinnamon. Both have anti-inflammatory properties and help fight fungal and bacterial infections. I mostly just mix them in with my yoghurt in the morning, easy. I also drink tea that has relaxing and calming properties, like verbena and fennel. I don't go to the pool and I rarely take baths. Basically anything that could upset my ph levels I try to avoid as much as possible. My advice is: make your own personal self care guide, take precautions but most importantly do what works for you. These are just a couple of things that make me feel better. Don't let your vagina control or affect your personal happiness. If you like baths, take baths! Everything is going to be okay. Keeping your stress levels down really is the message here - and a bath can definitely help with that.

Talk To A Mental Health Counselor

Talking helps, a lot. A mental health professional really can put things into perspective. They can give tips on how to manage your stress and anxiety levels, help you regain trust and figure out what might be causing or aggravating your pelvic pain. To this day, I genuinely can't believe how much your mental health can impact your physical health. As it turns out, many of my physical symptoms are simply caused by stress and my anxiety disorder, somehow my vagina has always been the most problematic. I've undergone many physical exams with a handful of doctors and nothing was ever found, which meant that my pain was most probably psychosomatic, and it is. It hurts to hear when you're told your pelvic pain is in your head, but the truth is - that doesn't mean you're not sick or unwell. You still need (professional) help. I've been in therapy for 3 years and it is only in the past 6 months that my pelvic pain has finally subsided. If it wouldn't have gotten better, my next step would have been to book a consultation at a pelvic pain clinic but so far that hasn't been necessary. It could of course still happen - but so far, I'm happy with my therapy sessions and the support I have from my OBGYN. I still recommend talking to a mental health professional - even if you have a diagnosis from your doctor, it will help you to cope a lot easier.

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