When you are suffering from vulvar symptoms, it can impact your relationship and affect the sexual intimacy between you and your partner. Sexual pain should not be ignored. Vulvar health and care are important for your overall health and sexual wellness. Your time may have been occupied with seeking out health care professionals who are aware and able to diagnose your medical condition. Your work environment may have been impacted since you have required much time off of work for medical appointments and follow ups. Some women may even find that their finances have been directly impacted by many medical bills.
Relationship concerns and sexual life can also be impacted by one’s vulvar conditions. Your spouse may feel frustrated by your medical condition as it has impacted your sex life. Sexual pain and discomfort can also take their toll on your love life. Fatigue, stress and time management are issues that must be addressed in order to achieve a satisfying sexual relationship as well. You may feel distant or depressed about how your relationship has been affected, but there are some helpful suggestions to help maintain sexual vitality during the course of treatment and recovery.
Often, women feel isolated when it comes to painful sex. They may have sought care from multiple health care professionals who were ill-trained or ill-equipped to address their sexual health concerns. Sometimes health care professionals may be dismissive about sexuality because they are uncomfortable addressing these personal concerns. Financial concerns may affect the couple as health care bills often pile up. In addition, work obligations may be a problem as women need time off of work for medical appointments. Partners are often frustrated with the time-consuming nature of the disorder, not fully understanding the issues surrounding the condition.
Obtaining a correct diagnosis from a specialist is often the first and most-important step for overall care. Once you have a diagnosis, you can work together with your partner and health care professional to develop a comprehensive treatment plan. Putting this treatment plan into action can bring relief to couples. It is important to do your homework and seek out well-trained health care professionals who have experience dealing with your condition. Do not be afraid to ask detailed questions, and remember that a second opinion may be helpful.
There is emerging data supporting the notion that physical activity among men and women can improve fatigue and stress issues which may lead to stronger sexual intimacy. Seek physical exercise that both you and your partner enjoy and can do together. Try a new sport. What about salsa or ballroom dancing? Go back to the gym and work out together. Try tennis or even go on a nature hike together. It will improve cardiovascular health, address weight issues and help you reconnect with your partner.
Get Enough Sleep
We tend to be a fatigued society with most of us not sleeping enough hours in the night. Sleep is critical to help recharge your battery, and those who fail to sleep will often feel excessive fatigue throughout the day. If you’re exhausted, sex is often the last thing on your mind. Make certain you are sleeping well, avoid excessive alcohol use, and maintain excellent hydration by drinking a lot of water.
We all face stress on a daily basis: the yelling boss, the washing machine overflowing, the teens misbehaving in school, and financial pressures can all impact our mood. Learning effective stress management techniques can be helpful to keep your mood uplifted when faced with life’s challenges. Some techniques include mindfulness training, exercise, meditation and visualization.
There are often simple solutions to help minimize painful intercourse:
- If arousal is a concern, you may consider using a non-hormonal over-the-counter sexual arousal product like Zestra® or Escalate®.
- Use vaginal moisturizers that can help hydrate and revive dry vaginal tissues. However, read labels and avoid products with additives like warming, flavors or colors as they may irritate a dry and sensitive vagina.
- If the vaginal opening is feeling excessively tight, you may consider using progressive dilators to help stretch this tissue. Many sexual medicine specialists have formalized dilator programs where one can work with their health care professional to overcome a vaginal tightness problem.
- Sometimes sex is very painful in a particular position so an easy solution could be to avoid some positions and use other ones which are less painful.
- Some women find missionary position (man on top) particularly painful as this position facilitates deep penetration. Alternative sexual positioning such as side to side or female superior may be enough of a change so sex is no longer painful. Try to experiment with different sexual positions.
- There are many books available online or at local books stores to help with sexual positions. Many couples prefer “The Joy of Sex” by Alex Comfort.
Most couples think of sex as vaginal penile intercourse. However, vaginal penetration may not be feasible sometimes. A return to foreplay or incorporating “outercourse” activities may be helpful in maintaining sexual intimacy and excitement. Oral sex, manual stimulation and digital stimulation can also be very erotic and sexually satisfying. Explore other areas besides the vagina and vulvar by trying to discover some erogenous zones that have been previously neglected. The nipples, underarms, face, eyes and lips can be sensuous. Discuss your sexual script (what you actually do with your partner during sexual activities) with your partner. Try to shift the focus from sexual goals of intravaginal penetration with ejaculation to one of sexual pleasure and satisfaction.
When faced with pain during intercourse, redefining sex is important. Since many couples face sexual boredom when they have been intimate with the same partner for many years, experimenting with a variety of new positions and sexual activities can help enhance sex life. Not only does it change sexual hormones, but it increases the bond between couples. Even if sex is too painful, try a sensual bath together or an arousing massage surrounded by aromatic candles and mood lighting. New sexual adventures can also be exciting; try costumes or sexual accessories like self stimulators, enhancers or even role-playing.
Most enjoy sexual activity during a vacation where the scenery is different, so consider trying a “staycation.” Bring vacation sexual encounters to your home by trying intimacy in another room other than the master bedroom or intimacy with your clothes on. Change your routine from morning to night or meet at home midday for a short and quick sensual rendezvous. Using your imagination is all you really need to help spice up a ho-hum boring sex life.
Get Professional Help
Sometimes sexual communication does break down and many couples feel despair because they see themselves drifting further apart. It is important to know that there are sexual healthcare professionals who are specifically trained and certified to address relationship concerns when it pertains to sexual problems. Do not be afraid, embarrassed or feel isolated that you are alone. Seeking professional help is not a failure, but may be the first step toward success and sexual recovery. Some important resources to find qualified sexual counselors and therapists include: The International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health (www.isswsh.org), The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (www.aasect.org) and The International Society for Sexual Medicine (www.issm.org).