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The Fenton’s Procedure for Painful Sex

By Joanna Karpasea-Jones
 
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The Fenton’s procedure (also called Fenton's repair) is an operation to remove scar tissue and widen the vaginal opening when a woman experiences persistently painful sexual intercourse.

Health problems that may require a Fenton’s procedure include:

• Lichen planus of the vulva or vagina
• Lichen sclerosus of the vulva
• Previous surgery on the genitals that results in painful intercourse
• Childbirth tears
• Episiotomy complications
• Radiotherapy to the genitals

If the genitals become scarred through a skin disease or trauma such as episiotomy, the scar tissue can cause narrowing of the vagina. In severe cases, it can obstruct the vulva altogether, completely preventing sexual intercourse.

For women with less severe cases, intercourse may be possible but will be painful and sore. Sometimes, there is no disease or scarring present, but the woman has been born with a vagina that is too small for comfortable intercourse or tampon insertion.

How is the Operation Carried Out?

A cut is made at the vaginal entrance, vertically towards the rectum and then stitched horizontally. This widens the opening to the vagina. It is usually done under a general anesthetic as a day case surgery.

Post-Operative Information

You will need pain relief afterwards as the recovery can be painful and you should take over the counter painkillers for a week or so afterwards. However, it’s not supposed to be severely painful so if you are in a lot of pain you should mention it to your doctor.

You can also relieve pain and swelling by applying ice packs to the area. Salt baths can be commenced 48 hours after your surgery. These may assist healing.

Check with your doctor, if you wish to use alternative therapies. Arnica homeopathy can be helpful in taking the sting out of the wound.

Stitches are dissolvable so you won’t have to put up with any discomfort having them removed from your most sensitive area.

It is advisable not to try and have intercourse for six weeks afterwards or later if you aren’t comfortable.

Side Effects

Add a Comment15 Comments

EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

After having pain every time I had sex due to a piece of skin at the base of my vagina that was being cut every time, then having to wait a few days before it healed. I had the fenton's procedure done a week ago today (03/01/2014) for the first three days I has no pain what so ever. The forth day I started to be uncomfortable and a little bit of pain but nothing pain killers solved apparently the pain is the stitches tightening and it all healing. I have been bathing in warm salt water twice a day and I found this helps numb the pain as well. I am so happy with the way that the procedure has gone!

January 10, 2014 - 11:01am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Hi, I have the same issue. A piece of Skin (like that flap that is suppose to stretch right at the base of my vagina) does stretch enough and it's very thin and it tears every time I have sex. My gyno removed some scar tissue there (from repeated tearing) but did not do a fentons (which made the tear even bigger now, it tears in the spot she repaired). I really need to know if this worked for you!and if you still tear during sex? If it actually widened the vagina? I do not have any kids, so this is not the result of childbirth tears and scarring due to being torn or cut during childbirth! I am very scared to have this done, thinking if it doesn't work the TEAR will be EVEN bigger! The size of the whole cut they do for the fenton's. Your story, success, advice would be greatly appreciated!!! Thanks so much!

March 17, 2014 - 4:45pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Hi, I have made a couple of posts here with my progress, 4 July and 30 December. I can confidently say the Fentons Procedure worked for me but if your gyno has done 'repairs' that have not worked, perhaps get a second opinion to ensure that it will work with what she has already done. I am definitely a success story! Debs

March 18, 2014 - 2:36am
smithrr (reply to Anonymous)

I actually saw my gyno today and she's telling me that it's the band of skin across the base of my vagina that isn't stretching enough. It's called a fourchette. She is going to removed that band of skin and stitch it up on the sides (rather than stitching it up in the center) so that the skin band cannot heal back together. The band of skin that doesn't stretch will be gone which will make the opening of the base of the vagina slightly larger and it won't have to stretch as much during penetration. This is not a fenton's but almost like the reverse of what someone has done to "tighten" their vaginal opening after childbirth, etc! Does anyone have any experiences with this?

March 18, 2014 - 2:53pm
anne89

Hi there, to all the ladies posting on this site. What was the reason you needed the Fenton's procedure? I have never had a child but I have the issue of tearing at the base of my vagina when I have sex. The type tearing someone would have if they gave birth but I didn't give birth! If I used lubricant it's was not as bad and in a couple days I could have had sex again. Although, sex wasn't that enjoyable because I always had a little tear! At first my Gyno said I had thin skin down there and gave me estrogen cream to thicken the skin. This did not work. I developed scar tissue (from repeated tears) and my gyno thought it was the scar tissue that was ripping repeatedly every time I have intercourse. She removed the scar tissue (not a full fenton's.. because she did this in her clinic with just a local anesthetic). Anyway, I waited two and a half months to have sex again and when I did, (which has been only once) I ended up tearing very badly (the whole area where she removed skin) which is bigger than my original tear site.. (I'm so upset by this as she said "It can't make it any worse and it did). So instead of having to wait 2 or 3 days now to have sex again, and being in pain when I sit down and move certain ways, I have to probably wait a good week and a half or two weeks to let it heal up because this tear is so much bigger. (I guess it's kinda like a cavity, the dentist has to drill a bigger hole to give you a filling, well she had to remove a bigger section to make sure she got all the scar tissue). Anyway, now I have a bigger tear (but I don't have any scar tissue, that was all removed). It's my actual operation site that is tearing! I'm at my lowest point! :( I'm so stressed out! I don't sleep or eat worrying about this! I've lost weight! My boyfriend lives away right now and he knows I have issues but he doesn't realize the extent! And how much more damage has been done! I don't know what to do. I'm scared to get the full Fenton's in fear it will only make me tear even more!!! or even bigger!!!! (with a longer heal time). I don't really understand the procedure either? does it remove scar tissue and WIDEN the vagina so there is more space ( less stretching at the opening). Because this is what I need. Less stretching and friction at the opening. Can someone give me some advice? or has anyone ever had this done with success to help the issue of thin skin??? or tearing (without Child Birth)... Thanks!

December 30, 2013 - 6:28pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to anne89)

You poor thing! How dreadful and stressful! I needed a Fentons as I had a hysterectomy and vaginal repair December 2012 (due to a prolapsed uterus). After waiting the right amount of time before engaging in intercourse again - it was excruciating and I just wanted to avoid. Turns out I had scar tissue which was stopping any stretch. (Took me a little while though to decide enough was enough and I should find out why) I had my Fenton's procedure in June under general anaesthetic (day surgery) and have not had any further problems. I would suggest you perhaps get a second opinion from a new gyno to see what will work for you. I do wish you much success with finding a 'cure' as I understand the distress this can cause. As my gyno said, "sex should not be painful". Good luck hun. Debs

December 30, 2013 - 9:04pm
smithrr (reply to Anonymous)

Hi Debs! I wanted to ask you, when you say you had scar that prevented stretching and it was painful to have intercourse, did you tear at the base of the vagina (on that skin band that's underneath the actual vagina hole, for better lack of words)? or was it just tight and uncomfortable? Just wondering?

March 20, 2014 - 8:06pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to smithrr)

Hi, sorry missed your question. The skin didn't tear thankfully, but there was no stretch and this caused excruciating pain and I literally cried everytime - thankfully I have a patient husband. I probably left the check up a bit longer than I should have to try and identify what was happening - I didn't ever imagine that my original surgery had caused a follow up problem!

April 7, 2014 - 4:22pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

I am waiting for my appointment to come through. I am a bit scared as not sure what to expect. Iv never had an operation before and I don't like needles. Glad I finally found a cure after waiting 9 months to
Get to this point. Going back and forth to doctors and gynocology. Do I need to take anything to hospital with me??
Thanx in advance

August 29, 2013 - 3:47am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Hi, only thing you should require is some pads as there will be a little bleeding to follow but nothing serious. Will subside within a day or so. You will likely be more uncomfortable than in pain following, but just follow your surgeons advice. I have since had my six week check and can confirm that my husband and I have been able to resume sexual relations without any discomfort, so I am relieved that this procedure worked for me. Good luck, relax and don't stress yourself. You will be in competent hands.

August 29, 2013 - 6:39pm
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