Vaginal Problems That Affect Your Sex Life
Vaginal disorders ranging from chronic infections to vaginitis, fibroids, and stress incontinence can damage your sexual health and general well-being.
For patients who have a secondary condition called lichen dermatoses -- a
group of skin conditions in the vulva that can cause severe itching and/or scar
tissue -- a mix of topical steroids with a tiny dab of estrogen cream can help
heal the damage to the vulvar tissue and decrease symptoms.
Physical therapy (with a highly trained specialist) is another valuable form
of treatment for some patients. By correcting misalignments, strengthening
pelvic floor muscles (the layers of muscles stretching between your legs and
supporting your organs, bladder, uterus, and ovaries), and working to loosen
muscles that have become painfully tight, these therapists can help
dramatically reduce pain.
If you have vaginismus -- a rare condition that fewer than 2% of women in
the United States develop -- the muscles surrounding the vagina involuntarily
spasm so tightly that you can’t have sexual intercourse or even insert a
The specific cause of vaginismus is unknown, but, as with vulvar
vestibulitis and stress incontinence, physical therapy can be an invaluable
“first line of treatment,” according to Erica Fletcher, PT, MTC, founder of
Fletcher Physical Therapy in Narberth, Pa.
Fletcher and other physical therapists who specialize in pelvic floor
disorders can correct structural abnormalities and design a manual therapy and
exercise program that will retrain pelvic muscles that are too tight or too
weak, depending on the condition. Their efforts can dramatically reduce
symptoms-without the side effects of medication.
They also teach women the proper way to perform techniques at home, with
dilators and their own fingers, to gently stretch and massage the muscles.
If a woman’s symptoms persist despite physical therapy, a doctor can inject
Botox to paralyze muscles and prevent the spasms for up to six months.
Other treatments for vaginisimus include sex therapy, medications such as
valium, and hypnotherapy.
Vaginal dryness can cause pain, irritation, and light bleeding during sexual
intercourse -- and it’s a problem that can happen to women of all ages.
“The biggest misconception is that vaginal dryness affects only
postmenopausal women,” says Kellogg.
For premenopausal women, common causes of vaginal dryness include
breastfeeding, certain medications such as antidepressants and progestin-only
birth control pills, and some chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and
multiple sclerosis. For many women, OTC water-based lubricants such as
Astroglide and K-Y can alleviate discomfort during intercourse.
For more severe cases, vaginal estrogen cream or a vaginal estrogen ring
(inserted by your doctor) can help restore vaginal moisture and make sexual
intercourse much more comfortable.
A recent study by The Cleveland Clinic shows that more than a third of adult
women have incontinence (involuntary leakage of urine) at some point in their
For some women, incontinence occurs when there’s increased pressure or
stress on the bladder or lower abdomen, such as when sneezing, when coughing,
or during thrusting while having intercourse.