Vestibulodynia and other sexual disorders affect many, so let’s speak openly about them
When you picture a woman’s face in the middle of safe, consensual sex, do you envision strain in her eyes, tears rolling down her cheeks, lips tightening until they finally part to let loose a loud “OUCH!”?
Neither did I, until I became sexually active. Sex, which had always been described to me as a fun, painless and natural process was an uphill battle.
I first had sexual intercourse at the age of 18. As many had warned me, it was rather painful the first time. However, a few months later, I entered a long-term relationship with my partner, and when it came time to be intimate, something unexpected happened.
Instead of my sexual experience being basically pain-free, the pain persisted. The more we tried to have intercourse, the more painful it got. I thankfully haven’t been stabbed in my life, but it honestly felt quite similar to what I imagine it would feel like: a sharp, centralized, intense pain. It was in fact so incredibly agonizing that just the thought of it made my knees lock together in perfect, crazy-glued unison.
If I had been dealing with tendonitis or migraines, I would have marched into my doctor’s office and explained my symptoms with not even a flush in my cheeks. I was mortified to be struggling with sexual dysfunction.
I waited two months before seeking medical attention. During that time, I tried everything the Internet suggested. I learned that sexual pain is incredibly different from person to person, as everyone’s anatomy and nerve endings are constructed differently. Weird juice concoctions (drinking three bottles of cranberry juice with a squeeze of lime makes sex pain-free in no time according to the Internet), vitamins, massages—you name it, I tried it, but in vain, all it did was make me pee all the time.
I was lucky enough to have a partner who suggested making a gynecologist appointment and attending it with me to ease my mind. The day of the appointment, I was a nervous wreck. Before the nurse even had time to weigh me, I was a puddle of tears. This lonesome journey hadn’t only been physically difficult, but it had riddled me with guilt and shame.
After a quick gynecological exam, my partner and I sat down in front of the gynecologist, and she said very simply: “I know what you have, and I know how to fix it.”
It turns out I had vestibulodynia, a type of sexual dysfunction disorder that made my muscles contract at the presence of anything at the vestibule of my vagina. It also turns out that this condition is pretty common. In fact, according to the Florida Hospital Center of Female Sexual Dysfunction, about 40 per cent of women suffer from female sexual dysfunction, which includes problems with sexual pain, desire, response or orgasm.
I went through a few months of pelvic floor physiotherapy, which consists of breathing, stretching, dilating, strengthening and targeting muscle exercises with a professional, on your own and with your partner. It was the right option for me but there are multiple solutions to everyone’s individual needs. I am happy to say that I am now able to have pain-free sex.
Vestibulodynia, along with other sexual dysfunctions, can occur at any time. Whether it’s during a person’s youth, before or after pregnancy or during menopause, just because you aren’t experiencing any symptoms at the moment doesn’t mean you or your partner are immune forever. Hence, increasing awareness of these all-too-common conditions benefits everyone in the long haul.
The person I described at the start of this article doesn’t have to be you or someone you know. Speaking openly about sexual dysfunction will hopefully have us all screaming something much better than “OUCH!” during sex.