With today’s question, I’m leaving a lot out, because the wife’s explanation of her heartbreaking circumstances was over 1000 words. But to give you an overall picture, below are her words in italics and my summaries in between.
From the very start, sex was painful for me, but not in the usual way I suppose. I am able to withstand/ even enjoy when my husband penetrates my vagina, but once he ejaculates, I suffer from severe pain and burning that lasts for up to an hour after we have finished….I mentioned this to my OBGYN within a few months of being married, but she was unconcerned stating that we just needed to use more lubrication. We were using lubrication from the get-go, and using more did not seem to help my problem.
Orgasms were rare, took great effort, and left her sore for days.
More recently, she began having problems with severe urinary tract infections. Given that she is on oral contraception, she and her husband refrain from sex while she is on antibiotics. With illness and antibiotic use, they’ve had sex twice in six months and she contracted UTIs both times. Her physician encouraged her to try sex again, noting the possibility of a third infection is small.
At this point, I am so terrified of getting a UTI again, and starting antibiotics again, and having the whole vicious cycle start over again that I flat out told my husband a month ago to not even try, I am done with sex! I know that this is the wrong attitude to have, and it is not something that I truly desire in my heart…
She eliminated parabens from her beauty products, after hearing of Jennifer Smith of Unveiled Wife attributing this to resolving some sexual problems in her marriage. She’s also willing to drink a lot of water, use cranberry supplements, etc. But…
I am so afraid of getting another UTI, that I have emotionally shut down to the idea of attempting sex again.
Both husband and wife are distraught and have prayed and questioned God about this issue. She wants to express love to her husband, but her body is not cooperating, her heart is hurting, and she needs answers.
Oftentimes, when pain in intercourse is discussed, certain conditions come to the forefront — vaginismus, dryness, infection — but what if your pain isn’t due to one of those? Not only are you frustrated by lack of intimacy and experiencing extreme pain, but no one seems able to tell you what’s going on.
I consulted a physician and did a bit of research to determine what’s happening. My research showed several possible diagnoses for burning during sex: inflammation of the vagina (vaginitis); vulvodynia (ongoing vulvar pain); contact dermatitis (allergy); sexually transmitted diseases; pelvic inflammatory disease; vaginal thrush; hormonal changes; etc.
When you present to a doctor with a common problem, they tend to rule out the most likely causes first. Which is why you might get advice to use more lubrication, relax your body, etc. Because honestly, some pain in intercourse really is about that. BUT having been brushed off by a OB-Gyn twice myself for extreme pain during intercourse, I’ve learned you may have to “go the mat” on your issue and demand better answers. You are the one going through the horrendous pain and you must be your own advocate for your health.
With that in mind, here are some things to consider:
Birth control pill. The most common form of contraception is the birth control pill — which fakes out your body and keeps you from ovulating the way you normally would. In other words, it messes with your hormones. Given how I often I saw menopause, hormonal changes, and medication side effects listed in possible causes for intercourse pain, I have to wonder if the pill might be up to some mischief here.
The pill works perfectly fine for some women, but more and more couples have concluded in recent years that it’s not the right choice for them. It can cause a dip in libido and mood and produce other not-so-fabulous effects. It seems reasonable to at least play with this as an option, since you’re considering other possibilities like the presence of parabens.
Physical issues. Your OB-Gyn should be doing a thorough pelvic exam, cultures for fungal and bacterial infections, and/or vaginal ultrasounds. Among the burning-during-sex possibilities, I noted adhesions, vaginal thrush, vaginitis, ectopic pregnancy, endometriosis, and more. Something internal could be causing your sexual pain.
Ask for a thorough work-up. Explain how incredibly painful the experience is. Remember that question, “How bad is the pain on a scale from 1 to 10?” I give you full permission to tell your doc it’s a 12½! Whatever it takes to get the point across that you need to quickly rule out common reasons for pain in intercourse and find out what’s really going on down there.
This one’s hard, I know . . . but if your physician will not perform a full exam and tests to find the source of your discomfort, find another physician. At that doctor’s office where I was brushed off, I finally saw the physician assistant who immediately diagnosed and resolved my issue. Of course, that’s the last time I went to that OB-Gyn, and my new doctor was far more attentive to my concerns.
Aversion to him? One interesting idea I saw floating around out there is you could have a hyper-sensitivity to his ejaculate. Meaning that something in the composition of his semen irritates your vagina.
Before you panic, (1) I suspect this is rare, (2) I have no idea if this is the issue, and (3) there are options for dealing with it. Interestingly enough, our body’s sensitivities and his semen can change somewhat based on what we do and what we eat. If this were the issue, you might be able to tackle it by changing up diets or activities in ways that alter this interaction. Also, there are condoms. Now, I know this doesn’t work for when you want to reproduce someday, but it could be a temporary fix for still engaging and not risking irritation.
Mental blocks. I have a friend who got food poisoning once from shrimp and will not eat shrimp ever again. Though she knows it’s illogical, she has a (reasonable) mental block about that food — because it made her so sick she wanted to die! Likewise, if every time you have sex, you end up in pain and with a horrendous infection . . . well, how many more times would you want to do that? Probably zero.
And yet . . . You want this intimacy with your husband. You want to bless him with sexual satisfaction. You long to have a normal sex life in your marriage. Which means, at some point, you have to forge ahead and leap over that mental block. But I will not tell you to grit your teeth and do it. You and I both know God wants more for you than chore-like sexual encounters. Thankfully, your husband is also unwilling to put you through a painful encounter (mine was too). Instead, this is something that needs to rebuilt brick-by-brick, not thrown up like prefab housing.
The Bible phrases it as “awakening love” (Song of Songs 2:7, 8:4). Think of it like the blossoming of a flower. Plant the seeds by reawakening your sensuality, your pleasure in his touch, your sense of safety and peace. Spend time being affectionate, with slow touch and/or mutual massage, passionate kissing, soft fondling. Make that your physical intimacy for a bit while you return to relaxing in your husband’s arms. Then let your desire sprout into letting him arouse you externally, through manual play, and oral sex if you’d like. Bring him pleasure through hand jobs, or “blow jobs” if you wish. For the time being, let it be okay for him to finish himself off if needed, as long as you are completely part of the experience — continuing to be present and engaged.
Will this be difficult? Yes. But it’s certainly preferable to the nothing you and he are dealing with now. While you seek answers for your difficulties, expand your definition of sex to include all kinds of passionate touching, kissing, and satisfaction that can kindle the fires of your sexual love. When your body is once again ready, your mind and heart will be too.
I wish I had a single answer for you. I wish I could say, “Aha! I know what you’re going through. It’s _____!” I don’t. I threw out a bunch of possibilities here, mainly to show you there are genuine medical explanations for why a wife would experience such consistent, difficult pain. And I encourage you to pursue answers wholeheartedly. If you don’t get answers in one place, look in another. You may need to see a specialist. Just don’t give up. And keep your beloved husband beside you — as your fellow teammate in this quest and your ever-so-wonderful lover-man.
I pray you find answers soon and move into the beautiful sexual intimacy God desires for your marriage!