Women’s healthcare begins in adolescence and includes gynecological and obstetrical care, and breast health.
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Unfortunately, pelvic pain during sex is all too common. And because of the reluctance to talk about it, many women are not seeking treatment that can resolve the underlying issue.
Even today, talking about sex may feel awkward for some, men and women alike. Women who have pain are often afraid to open up because they think they’re doing something wrong, it’s their fault somehow, or that nothing can be done about it. That’s simply not true.
Pelvic pain is very treatable when the woman has a very frank discussion with her physician, leading to a diagnosis of the underlying medical issue. Causes of pain can include infection, skin conditions, muscle weakness in the lower abdomen or pelvis, enlarged uterus or ovaries, cysts or fibroids, and injury after a vaginal delivery.
Medication is usually the less expensive and least invasive treatment, and is often effective in resolving many issues, including infection, skin conditions, and inflammation in the uterus caused by fibroids. Postmenopausal women may find relief with hormone replacement therapy.
Patients suffering from muscle weakness or injury may benefit from pelvic floor physical therapy. This well-established technique, performed in a private patient room by a clinical therapist, uses muscle manipulation to retrain the pelvic floor muscles so they are not triggered by intercourse.
Some patients who have an abnormal uterus or ovaries my require surgery. But because this option is more invasive, it’s considered a last resort after other options have been exhausted.
When a woman is hesitant to share with her partner — believing pain is her problem alone — she eventually avoids having sex altogether. The partner is then left not knowing what the problem is, which can affect the intimacy and quality of the entire relationship. All of these problems emerge when the only real issue is a medical one, not one of the heart.
Couples counseling can improve communication between partners on this very personal subject. And bringing the partner into the medical conversation early, especially during consultation and then even during treatment, can do wonders for the woman’s recovery and preservation of the couple’s intimacy.
If it is, remember that it’s not your fault or something that you’re doing wrong. Just like a broken bone, there is an underlying medical condition that needs medical attention to fix it. It’s nothing more than that.
If you are experiencing pain during intercourse, please speak with your physician or contact me at 317.944.8231.
Author of this article
Katherine McHugh, MD, specializes in gynecology and obstetrics. She is a guest columnist and located at IU Health Physicians Women’s Health, 550 N. University Boulevard, Suite 2440, in Indianapolis. She can be reached by calling the office at 317.944.8231.