Steps to Health
Take Care of Your Sexual Health
Most women who suffer from vulvar pain have concerns about their sexual health – loss of sexual interest, diminished sexual arousal and or ability to achieve orgasm. Many of these women did not have any concerns prior to the onset of vulvar pain and are unprepared to cope with these changes. Studies have found that women who suffer from vulvar pain are not more likely than other women to have a history of sexual, physical and or emotional abuse. However, if there is any type of abuse in a woman’s history it does make it more difficult for women to cope with this type of pain.
When sex becomes painful, women will understandably start to avoid sexual intimacy. They may experience anxiety and fear when their partner suggests sexual intimacy. At first, many women continue to try and have sexual intercourse, but the pain they experience interferes with their ability to enjoy the sexual activity.
Many women cope with the pain by “tuning” out of their bodies during love making. Over time women find it harder and harder to become sexually interested, aroused and or orgasmic. Of course, having sex in an unaroused mental and physical state hurts. Women become caught in a vicious cycle of pain that shuts down their sexual feelings, physical, and sexual response and thereby makes the pain worse.
Sexual partners also suffer, as they are often aware that the experience is not pleasurable to the women. This makes the partner feel bad about his/her own sexual feelings and performance. Both partners may feel frustrated about the lack of sexual intimacy within the relationship, and this frustration may affect other aspects of the relationship. Couples are often unprepared to cope with their sexual concerns, and the lack of sexual intimacy can lead to diminished physical and emotional intimacy as well as be an enormous stressor on both.
Couples should avoid painful sexual activity. This often means removing penetrative sexual activity from their sex lives at least temporarily until the pain is under control. This will not make the pain go away but will stop the association that “sex = pain”. Couples should continue to find ways to exchange pleasure with each other. Many couples will benefit from psychological counseling focused on sexuality to help them enhance their sexual intimacy. In fact, studies have found that women with vestibulodynia who went for psychological counseling reported a significant decrease in pain associated with sexual intercourse.
To find a sexual counsellor ask your family doctor for a referral or go to www.counsellingbc.com for a list of counselors.
More suggested reading to enhance sexual intimacy:
- For Each Other; Sharing Sexual Intimacy (1982). L. Barbach. New York: Signet, 1984 ISBN:1-57224-089-X
- Pleasures: Women Write Erotica (1985). L. Barbach. New York: Harper and Row, 1985 ISBN-10:0060970022
- My Secret Garden: Women’s Sexual Fantasies (2008). N. Friday. New York; Gallery Books, ISBN-10: 1416567011
- Becoming Orgasmic: A Sexual and Personal Growth Program for Women (1987). J.R. Heiman, & J. LoPiccolo. New York: Prentice Hall, 1988 ISBN-10:0671761773
- Rekindling Desire: A Step-by-Step Program to Help Low-Sex and No-Sex Marriages (2003). B. McCarthy & E. McCarthy. New York; Brunner-Routledge, ISBN-10:0415935512