Unexplained pain during sex? Seriously get your pelvic floor checked – I should know

Young woman undergoing ultrasound scan in modern clinic

Young woman undergoing ultrasound scan in modern clinic

Unbelievable. Addictive. Unforgettable. This is what I expected sex to feel like.

Bloody. prick. bluntly. Combustion. Unpredictable. Adjectives cannot mimic all of what it feels like.

Although I felt perfectly comfortable and safe with my partner, it felt like erratic stabbings against an inner concrete wall, coupled with a tight burning sensation – and lots of blood.

I apparently had no reason to experience this type of pain in my early twenties.

This physical pain became a regular occurrence; but the psychological toll hurt the most. Inadequacy.Fault. Frustration. Hopelessness.

I was at a loss with what my body was trying to communicate. With every failed touch of intimacy, I conjured up the idea that my partner was one step closer to breaking away from our relationship. I felt increasingly distant from him.

Sex usually ended with me in tears in my partner’s arms, his thoughtful, loving comforts and patience doing little to calm my persistent self-criticism and growing confidence.

I felt a numbing anger and an aching desperation at not being able to enjoy the one activity that had a seemingly universal stamp of guaranteed enjoyment – especially for young people. I’ve never told my friends, the cloud of shame hanging over me is too overwhelming to break through.

Finally, I admitted to myself that the pain was real not normal if my symptoms persisted and I felt increasingly alienated from my body. As I looked them up, I panicked, thinking I had cervical cancer, PCOS, an STI, or some other condition. I booked an appointment with my gynecologist.

I remember the confused look on her face as she looked at the inconclusive ultrasounds. She booked me to see a pelvic floor therapist, who examined my weak vaginal muscles and remarked, “You poor thing,” before explaining that pelvic floor dysfunction was the culprit for my pain and bleeding.

I gave the diagnosis a questioning look, as angry at my embarrassing unfamiliarity with it as I was relieved of the acknowledgment of my frustration. She assured me that what I was experiencing was consistent with the pain felt by her other patients and admitted it was an issue not often talked about.

After a quick psychological evaluation, it was concluded that my natural tendency to overthink and obsession with rushing contributed to my tension, that my hips and pelvis probably show some traces of trauma (the extent of which I’m still unwrapping). other probabilities.

Then I was given some exercises aimed at targeting and strengthening the trigger points in my weak pelvic floor muscles, a list of yoga positions that would relieve the pain, and I was instructed to meditate twice a day. Since this holistic therapy approach, the pain has decreased significantly.

The confirmation was overwhelming – but I still felt a mythical cloud around the possible causes, like that moment after waking up from an unexpected nap and not wondering where you are or how you got there.

And I’m far from alone in this experience.

1 in 3 women will encounter pelvic floor disease in their lifetime. And in a survey of 2,000 British women for aStudy conducted by Opinium for the RCOG, half of those suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms never sought professional help; with 39% of them believing they were normal and 21% avoiding help out of embarrassment.

“Pelvic floor dysfunction is a general term for any type of problem that occurs with this muscle group,” he saysStephanie Rutherforda licensed physical therapist specializing in pelvic healthAdvanced women’s health Clinic in Bloomington, Illinois. She found that burning, sharpness, a dull ache, and bleeding from tissue friction are all sensations during sex that indicate pelvic floor dysfunction.

Most of the online resources I later researched about this condition only pertained to women going through the postpartum period or menopause – neither of which applied to me and just added to the loneliness of it all.

Maria Eliot is founder ofMaria Elliott Physiotherapy Services – one of the UK’s leading pelvic health clinics. She said there are several possible causes of pelvic floor dysfunction — from growing up with family trauma to falling on your tailbone.

Addressing the detrimental effects that not having partnered sex can have on mental health is crucial. Elliott said that once someone finishes an activity that gives them pleasure and reward, they get less dopamine and adrenaline, which creates anxiety that fuels mild inflammation—both of which I was all too familiar with.

“I am aware of every movement during intercourse. What if I’m at a certain grade and it starts up again?”

This discussion unearthed a wealth of new information to process regarding my own dysfunction—for example, how the inflammation in my chronic kidney disease correlated directly with the tissues in my pelvic area.

This discovery process could be lonely—but that feeling quickly dissipated when I found a community of other young women with similar experiences.

Shortly after Poppy*, 24, started having sex, a one-night stand ended abruptly with her feeling a wall inside her being hit by a “blunt object,” like her vagina clenched teeth and a lot would have blood. “I get up and it’s babbling like a fountain.” Her gynecologist’s first advice after her inconclusive ultrasound was Just have sex again.

Eventually, she was told the problem was her pelvic floor, which Poppy knew “literally nothing” about, such as “I haven’t given birth to a child, I’m only 20 years old…why?”. For Poppy, sex remains characterized by fear and insecurity: “I am aware of every movement during intercourse. What if I’m at a certain grade and it starts up again?”.

Yaz Neri, 24, began experiencing similar dull and stabbing pains during intercourse but is unsure of the cause. Her uterus is retroverted and the only advice given was that the pain will subside only after birth – something she has no plans to do any time soon.

Rutherford said that pelvic floor dysfunction can “make or break a relationship” and tears people down when they “can’t make a physical connection.” This is a feeling Yaz experienced when she started contemplating asexuality and questioning her feelings towards her boyfriend: “I’m never the one who initiated it. I always feel like I only want to do it because of him.”

Describing the exhausting mental preparation women go through in order to enjoy sex, she said: “Even if I try now and it doesn’t hurt, I’ll still have this mental block. I’ve actually thought about starting therapy for it.”

Bella, 30*, has genito-pelvic dysesthesia and has suffered from pelvic pain for over 20 years, the symptoms of which began many years before sex: “I have intense pain during penetration and constant pain in my vulva, labia, perineum and mine clitoris.”

She craves and dreads intercourse. For her, sexual liberation only comes through partner sex — a fact she finds “very disempowering.”

“I’ve worked with trauma therapists and sex therapists to find a place where I can accept that this is what my body is doing,” Bella said.

From sadness, anger, and confusion to “dissociation and disembodiment,” the condition has brought her “mental suffering and torture.”

Prior to my own diagnosis (and ongoing recovery) of pelvic floor dysfunction, I was unaware of the connection to my mental health.

Elliott advocates the importance of “creating a recovery plan that involves a multidisciplinary team,” noting that meditation plays a key role in releasing pelvic floor tension: “Down regulating and calming the autonomic nervous system through breathwork, releasing the jaw, and pelvic floor.” are all enormously beneficial.”

There is no magic solution or cause for pelvic floor pain. At 23, I’m still exploring how my mind and body work together to affect my pelvic floor — which has also strengthened my relationship with my partner as we prioritize communication much more than we already do.

Painful intercourse for women, especially younger women who are not going through menopause or postpartum, is a quiet, uphill struggle to better understand not only our bodies but more importantly our psyches.

Poppy puts it well: “Fight for your right to avoid medical negligence to the damn end.”


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