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Women's Health

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.
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Vaginismus

If you have vaginismus -- a rare condition that fewer than 2% of women in the United States develop -- the muscles surrounding the vagina involuntarily spasm so tightly that you can’t have sexual intercourse or even insert a tampon.

The specific cause of vaginismus is unknown, but, as with vulvar vestibulitis and stress incontinence, physical therapy can be an invaluable “first line of treatment,” according to Erica Fletcher, PT, MTC, founder of Fletcher Physical Therapy in Narberth, Pa.

Fletcher and other physical therapists who specialize in pelvic floor disorders can correct structural abnormalities and design a manual therapy and exercise program that will retrain pelvic muscles that are too tight or too weak, depending on the condition. Their efforts can dramatically reduce symptoms-without the side effects of medication.

They also teach women the proper way to perform techniques at home, with dilators and their own fingers, to gently stretch and massage the muscles.

If a woman’s symptoms persist despite physical therapy, a doctor can inject Botox to paralyze muscles and prevent the spasms for up to six months.

Other treatments for vaginisimus include sex therapy, medications such as valium, and hypnotherapy.

Vaginal Dryness

Vaginal dryness can cause pain, irritation, and light bleeding during sexual intercourse -- and it’s a problem that can happen to women of all ages.

“The biggest misconception is that vaginal dryness affects only postmenopausal women,” says Kellogg.

For premenopausal women, common causes of vaginal dryness include breastfeeding, certain medications such as antidepressants and progestin-only birth control pills, and some chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis. For many women, OTC water-based lubricants such as Astroglide and K-Y can alleviate discomfort during intercourse.

For more severe cases, vaginal estrogen cream or a vaginal estrogen ring (inserted by your doctor) can help restore vaginal moisture and make sexual intercourse much more comfortable.

Stress Incontinence

A recent study by The Cleveland Clinic shows that more than a third of adult women have incontinence (involuntary leakage of urine) at some point in their lives.

For some women, incontinence occurs when there’s increased pressure or stress on the bladder or lower abdomen, such as when sneezing, when coughing, or during thrusting while having intercourse.

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