Vaginal Problems That Affect Your Sex Life
Vaginal disorders ranging from chronic infections to vaginitis, fibroids, and stress incontinence can damage your sexual health and general well-being.
Stress Incontinence continued...
“To me, leaking during intercourse is equally as problematic and bothersome
to women as leaking when you’re jogging, or playing tennis, or swinging a golf
club,” says Jennifer Berman, MD, a urological surgeon and director of the
Berman Women’s Wellness Center in Beverly Hills, Calif.
The most widely recognized cause of stress incontinence is pregnancy
(especially if you have a prolonged or traumatic vaginal delivery), but chronic
straining from constipation, obesity, and previous pelvic surgeries are factors
While Berman says that, in her opinion, “Kegel exercises [which build up
pelvic floor muscles by repeatedly contracting and relaxing them] generally
aren’t enough to strengthen weakened muscles from childbirth,” a physical
therapist specializing in pelvic floor dysfunction can help correct structural
abnormalities and weakened muscles that are causing the leakage.
Berman says some women can manage this problem with “simple conservative
methods such as emptying their bladder just before sex.” Other women find
success by inserting a small, custom-designed silicone plug into their urethras
just before intercourse.
“About 77% of women are estimated to have fibroids, but most don’t realize
they have them,” says Cynthia Morton, PhD, research director of the Center for
Uterine Fibroids at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “In many cases
there are no symptoms.” The growth and development of these uterine tumors,
which are cancerous only 0.1% of the time, according to Morton, is fueled by
the surge of hormones women have during their childbearing years.
Fibroids may regress naturally after menopause. But if you develop cramping,
excessive bleeding during menstruation, and painful intercourse, treatment is
in order -- and a hysterectomy isn’t your only option. If a surgeon can’t
remove a fibroid (and leave the uterus intact), he or she may recommend a
procedure called uterine artery embolization, which cuts off the blood supply
and forces the fibroid to shrink.
Even less invasive is a newer nonsurgical ultrasound treatment, which
dissolves the fibroid with heat. “From my perspective it’s one of the most
promising treatments,” says Morton. “Women are generally able to return to work
the next day and report minimal or no side effects.”
For me, 11 years have passed since my diagnosis, and my journey with vulvar
vestibulitis hasn’t been easy. But thanks to a dedicated group of health care
providers, my symptoms are manageable today. If you can relate to my experience
-- or if you’re suffering from another condition mentioned here -- take hope
that you can find relief. It will make all that I’ve been through worth