Sexual intercourse isn’t supposed to be painful, but it is for some women. Pain during intimacy is a concern that affects about 10-20% of women in the US. While the condition is usually temporary, some women experience painful sex for extended periods. Unfortunately, finding a solution for painful sex can be challenging because the problem is not well researched or fully understood.
What Causes Painful Sex?
Painful sex that persists for a long time is often the result of a condition known as vulvodynia. Vulvodynia is chronic pain at the opening of the vagina that generally lasts for more than 3 months and is not caused by an infection or skin disorder.
Pain is the primary symptom of vulvodynia. The pain is constant for some women, while for others, it occurs when pressure is applied to the vestibule, e. g. during intercourse or when inserting a tampon.
Vulvodynia pain has been described as burning, stabbing, and searing. Other symptoms of the condition include itching, soreness, discharge, rawness, and irritation.
What Causes Vulvodynia?
Vulvodynia is caused by an altered vaginal microflora pattern, which is the result of a shift in the bacterial milieu.
The vaginal microflora consists of a combination of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria. The good bacteria or lactobacilli are dominant when the microflora is in a healthy state. They maintain optimal pH levels and prevent the growth of pathogens that can cause infections.
However, problems can occur if the balance in the vaginal microflora is upset. When there is a decline in lactobacilli levels in the vagina, it can cause the harmful bacteria to multiply.
The secretions that arise from the altered vaginal microflora flow down and bathe the tissues at the vaginal opening, resulting in a range of symptoms, including itching, irritation, burning, and abnormal odor.
Treating Painful Sex Caused By Vulvodynia
Painful sex caused by vulvodynia can be treated by restoring balance to the vaginal microflora. It is possible to detect an altered vaginal microflora pattern using a Vaginal Fluid Analysis (VFA) test.
The VFA test is an advanced diagnostic technique developed by board-certified gynecologist Dr. R. Stuart Fowler of Fowler GYN International (FGI). The VFA test provides a quantitative analysis of the constituents of the vaginal secretions.
If an altered vaginal microflora pattern is detected and inflammatory vaginitis is diagnosed, FGI uses a customized treatment protocol to restore balance to the microflora.
The treatment protocol – vaginal rejuvenate therapy – contains a mix of medications and hypocontactant skincare products. The medications included in the treatment protocol vary based on the results of the VFA test.
The hypocontactant skincare line recommended by FGI is the FeminaRx Pure Skincare Collection. Hypocontactant skincare products are beneficial for women with vaginal symptoms associated with vulvodynia, as they are free of ingredients that can irritate the vaginal tissues.
How Soon Will You See Results?
After starting the treatment protocol, it typically takes most patients about four months to experience a response. However, the pain generally stops after 8-12 months.
The treatment protocol is reviewed and revised as needed to ensure that the expected targets are being met. Patients must be willing to adhere to the treatment plan to get the relief they desire.
When vaginal microflora is once again in balance, pain with sex and other symptoms of vulvodynia will resolve.