I HAVE VULVODYNIA

Treating vulvodynia is a rollercoaster ride. You will have good days and bad days.

Vulvodynia causes nerves to be super sensitive and much too prone to send pain signals to the brain. Nerve receptors are placed in different layers of the skin. Implying that depending on which nerves are causing you trouble a light touch to the afflicted area may hurt, or maybe pain shoots by applying a little pressure to the area. The pressure will push into the skin enough to trigger your pain receptors wherever they are situated. Vulvodynia treatment aims to keep the pain receptors from provoking stimuli that are not meant to be painful.

Causes

A lot about Vulvodynia is yet not known. It might be caused by multiple factors or by something we do not know of yet. Is it not a full list, just a bit of information.

  • Nerve problems: Nerves are responsible for how we feel touch, pain, hot, cold, and many other sensations. They are built to be able to move, get pinched, pressed, and used frequently. Unfortunately, when a nerve gets pinched too hard or too long, it can get injured, causing more constant pain in a specific area
  • Skin reaction: Some women naturally have super sensitive skin. Sometimes, when a woman gets a lot of infections, like yeast infections, and have to endure harsh treatments repeatedly, the skin can become inflamed and red. A painful sensation often described as burning or stinging appears. Bothersome clothing or high-pressure activities, like biking, can provoke sore skin
  • Allergies: Allergic reactions, can happen on the surface of the vulvar area. Just like you can have allergies to food or flowers. Perfumed soaps and detergents can cause a reaction, resulting in pain. Antihistamines in the blood cause the swelling, redness, and irritation as they try to protect your body from the allergen

Living With

Here are some ways to cope with your vulvodynia in everyday life.

The following is not a final list. And always talk to your doctor about alternatives.

Relaxation techniques and coping techniques

  • Deep breathing techniques – regulate pain by focusing on controlling breath and relaxing your entire body and mind. Read Breathing
  • Biofeedback – become a pelvic floor superuser. A pelvic trainer with biofeedback can teach you to focus on letting go. When you let go, blood will flow and help the inflicted area to heal. 
  • Meditation – Some people benefit greatly from increasing their mindfulness through meditation.  Meditation can be a calming, therapeutic choice for some.

Desensitizing

  • Try and use dilators to stretch the mucosa of the vagina. The more you use dilators, the more used to them your body will be, and hopefully, the pain will subside.
  • You can also try using your fingers or small massaging vibrators to stimulate the vulva (the area around the entrance to the vagina). Some belief massaging/stroking the Skene and Bartholin’s glands might help. Read Know Yourself 
  • Use a balm or lubricant. (Props & Pearls recommends)

Decrease irritation in the vulvar area

The following is not a conclusive list. And always talk to your doctor about any alternative you will want to try.

  • Use dermatologically approved detergent and don’t use fabric softener
  • Use unscented toilet paper that’s soft
  • Go commando (no underwear) or wear silk/white cotton underwear without tight elastic
  • Avoid getting shampoo on the vulvar area
  • Avoid perfumed creams or soaps, pads and tampons
  • Avoid hot tubs or pools with lots of chlorine
  • Rinse the vulva with cold water after urination and intercourse
  • Look into food’s possible interaction with vulvodynia. Be sure to stay hydrated
  • If urination is painful, apply some balm to the area beforehand 
  • Wear loose-fitting pants and skirts; go easy on pantyhose
  • Decrease pressure on the area: bicycling and horseback riding if it irritates you
  • Use lubricant during sex
  • Sleep with a pillow or cushion between your legs
  • Sit on a foam rubber doughnut

Relieve pain parallel to the treatment

  • Soak in lukewarm or cooling baths.
  • After intercourse, apply ice or a cold gel pack. Never apply ice or cold items directly to the skin!
  • Apply warmth with a heating pad to reduce pain, but do not let it get hot. Always keep some cloth between the heating pad and the skin.

Single With Vulvodynia

First off, do not worry. You will find useful ways to be sexually active.

Take time to focus on treating and improving your symptoms. You need to work on your sexual possibilities and limitations. Be aware, if you have a sexual-pain-grey-zone that it doesn’t grow and take over all of you love life.

When you find a sexual path, it will be beneficial for you to get some positive nerve messages of pleasure and enjoyment instead of only the painful ones. 

Sexual awareness is like a river, if it doesn’t get any water it will dry up. Make sure you keep watering your perception. If you start working on your sexual antennas, they will make you glow. But maybe remember to put it on the calendar in the beginning.

Being sexually active will make future encounters that much easier for you if you have kept the pot simmering. Everything is a work in progress, do not get discouraged. 

Lots of people are single, but be aware you are for the right reasons and that you don’t restrain yourself from dating because of vulvodynia. 

Relationships are not perfect, and couples deal with problems regularly. A couple without difficulties is either new and obliviously in love or living in a fairy tale.

If you want to become physical with someone, it is essential to be open and honest about your pains.  Remember sex is much more than penetration. It is mostly about having fun.

Get inspiration from The Love Bit;  Penetration has no veto power 

Dating

The good guys are out there. And yes, you might risk meeting a jerk but don’t we all. Hopefully, you will find the very right guy.

If you start dating and feel uncomfortable telling about vulvodynia, you can choose to build up to the story about vulvodynia. Start by explaining that you have pains around your tailbone then slowly add to the story. Do what you feel most comfortable.

If you suddenly yawn to be sexually active with someone, and you don’t know how to get quickly around it, it is super to have a few prepared sentences on hand. Maybe start to set expectations low:

  • we can make out and have a blast – but that is as far as it will go
  • intercourse is not my thing – but I am game on alternatives
  • kiss me, hold me and I’ll hold you too
  • sex hurts me, but believe me. It is still possible to have lots of fun

Relationship

Focus on the positive and learn to talk through your wanting and desires positively and openly. If you can do that, you can do a lot more than many couples.

Communicating with your partner about what you want or need from them is a healthy way to open up your sexual dialogue. Ask them what they want, as well. The aim is that both of you have a good and fun sexual time without pain.

Be generous in telling your partner what feels right and what you enjoy.  Instead of only expressing what you don’t like.

Let your partner know if you have had bad experiences so they can go slow and help you feel good and safe.

Sex isn’t going to become easy all of a sudden, so talking about how your relationship and sex life works in this challenging time can help to facilitate better sex and better understanding.

Get inspired by The Love Bit. As a Couple

Tips’n’tricks

It isn’t all about penetrative sex. Intercourse does not have to be the only way to show that you care.

Both of you can find other ways to express affection. Touching with your hands, using your mouths, and giving massages or stroking each other can be ways to get close. Be naked and playful with each other.

When touching each other, get used to expressing what amount of pressure is okay to put on different parts of your body. Find a positive way to guide their touch; no one likes to hear that what they are doing is wrong all the time.

Always do your best to be present in the moment and try not to focus on what might hurt. If it happens and it did hurt. Remember to tell your body; you are sorry but that it isn’t the end of the world.

Please do not get wrapped up in an orgasm race. Enjoy each stage of sexual pleasure without feeling pressure to move to the next. Read Test Your Sexual Perception.

If intercourse is within reach, modify positions to be pain-free. Make sure you are both adequately aroused so intercourse will not necessarily be a lengthy endeavour. 

Get inspired by The Love Bit.

Pregnancy/Fertility

Getting pregnant with vulvodynia can be challenging, especially if intercourse itself is complicated. Natural conception and childbirth are possible if you work on your symptoms first. Intercourse is a start to get pregnant without the help of fertility treatments possibly. Know your most fertile days by measuring your temperature or by calculating the most fertile days in your menstrual cycle. 

If you find that sex or fertilisation is impossible naturally, you can go to a doctor to discuss fertility treatments.  But be prepared for some internal exams and ask if it is possible to use pain relievers in preparation for them. You will have to work with your symptoms and improve them to the point where internal exams are possible and, hopefully, without pain.

Ask whether internal exams are necessary if pregnancy succeeds. It might not be required if you had no prior problems with menstruation, you have no bleeding and have normal discharge.

Remember to get your trusted healthcare provider write you a referral to get an epidural during your labour to decrease pain.

Keep your hopes up! Women with vulvodynia can and do get pregnant!

Read Pregnancy