Anna had stopped by my office today for a six month follow up. Anna is a 25 year old woman who complained of chronic pain with sex a year ago. Anna lives in Texas and had come to see me because she did not feel that the physicians she had seen for this problem in Texas were able to help her with her condition. After a complete history and physical evaluation, the source of her condition became clear to me. She had suffered with this pain for so long that any thought of penetration or manipulation of the genitalia created anticipation of pain which magnified her condition. With detailed explanation of the findings, a course of action was planned that gradually resolved the source of the pain and allowed Anna to enjoy intimacy with her partner.
This is a common occurrence in my office. On a daily basis, I see women who have suffered from pain with intercourse for years. The oldest patient, who was 73 years old, wondered why no one diagnosed the problem that had given her so much pain and led to an avoidance of intimacy.
At any one time, 30 million women complain of pain with intercourse. One third of all women have pain with intercourse that lasts more than 3 months. The pain can occur with arousal, penetration, intercourse and sometimes even after intercourse. It is also possible that the pain during intercourse overlaps with other pelvic conditions such as endometriosis, fibroids or interstitial cystitis.
In my experience, women with chronic pain with sex feel confused and frustrated. As a result, they have low libido, avoid sexual activity, suffer from increased anxiety and depression and increased relationship difficulties. A third do not seek care and those that do are usually not satisfied with the treatments received because very few physicians, even OB/GYNs, understand or have any experience in treating chronic pain with sex.
Fortunately, as Anna and many of our patients can attest, with expert care, sexual pain can resolve or improve, normal function can be restored, and quality of life can improve.