Q&A with J: “Pain and UTIs Have Shut Down My Sex Life”

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.

Q&A with J: "Pain and UTIs Have Shut Down My Sex Life"  @Hot, Holy & Humorous

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!

19 thoughts on “Q&A with J: “Pain and UTIs Have Shut Down My Sex Life”

  1. Prov5:18-19

    Get another obgyn, find a specialist. My wife didn’t start getting better until she found a vaginitis specialist. Also, she did go off the pill, only wears white cotton undies and we only use coconut oil as lube. She is also on a continual preventative dose of antibiotics to keep the UTIs away.

    There are answers out there. Find an obgyn that will help find them with you. Speak up. You are your own best advocate.

    And know that you’re not alone.

    Reply
  2. Leandra

    Oh my sweet, sweet dear one! I will be praying for you. I can’t imagine being in you shoes. May the Lord bless you and encourage your soul

    Reply
  3. Melissa

    I have had this same thing. It was awful!! I found that antibacterial soap makes a negative difference so I only use Ivory. I even take it with me if we travel. And I never use a towel twice – I wash them and bleach then every day. And I also think that I had a hard time allowing myself to enjoy sex because of this. It happened every time for me, too, and eventually I believed I just wasn’t supposed to enjoy it. Pray. Pray for the answer. God wants you to enjoy it. We did a million things, mostly homeopathic, that worked. There is a way through. Just pray for guidance.

    Reply
  4. anonymous

    After several what I thought were UTI’s, and extreme pain after intercourse, I went to the dr. She had no idea what was wrong, but did a full work up and biopsy. This came back to show I had an auto-immune disorder that primarily affects post-menopausal women (I’m 34), called lichen sclerosus. Treatment has alleviated almost all of my symptoms, including the pain. I’m not suggesting you have this, but want to say don’t give up until you have some answers. You know when something is wrong with your body…pay attention to it!

    Reply
  5. Tonya

    I had the same issue. Turns out I developed an allergy to his semen. We began using condoms and voilà: all problems stopped!!

    Reply
    1. KarenR

      I was going to suggest condoms. If his sperm is causing an allergic reaction, I am surprised they haven’t tried this.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        Me too! That was my first thought — not that it’d be good to be allergic, but it would be a super easy way to diagnose the problem.
        If ‘no condom’ = pain AND
        ‘condom’ = no pain

        Then that seems like a great way to narrow down the possible causes!

        Reply
  6. Catherine

    You are not alone! I have been dealing with severe uti issues for my whole life. My ureatha is extremely small and my ureter is twisted. I have had several surgeries on my bladder and kidney plus dozens of dialations of my ureatha. So when I say I can relate to the question of UTI’s getting in the way of lovemaking I hear her. I have been always meticulous about bathing before sex and peeing after but was still battling many UTI’s.

    Something I learned last year after two more very painful UTI’s with tons of pain and blood. Was about an all natural product called D-Mannose. It is the thing in cranberries that helps remove the bacteria from the bladder. I also learned that each time I was tested for a UTI they were caused by E.Coli, not all are. The urologist told me about D-Mannose and I take it every day. Very sweet powder that you mix in water. You can take extra when sexual active. I also discontinued taking baths which was a huge sacrifice for me. Since making those two changes I have not had a UTI in over 9 months.

    Please share that information so others can talk to their urologist about the possibility of taking D-Mannose an over the counter supplement found in health food stores.

    Sincerely,
    Catherine

    Reply
  7. Ali F

    When I was on birth control pills and we used lubrication, if I didn’t douche immediately after intercourse, I would be in pain for days… burning, etc. This is not an issue since I stopped taking them.
    Prayers that answers can be found for you.

    Reply
  8. Ham

    I am rapidly approaching 70 years of age. My awesome wife is in her mid 40s. I have several medical conditions such as diabetes and arrhythmia that have taken their toll on me. I doubt that I will ever have another erection as long as I live. And yet, my wife and I enjoy an incredibly fulfilling love life! We have sex several times a week, and both of us experience shattering, satisfying orgasms. I believe you will ultimately discover the root cause of your problem with the pain and the UTIs, but until that happens, there’s no reason why you cannot satisfy each other physically as long as you realize it doesn’t have to include penile-vaginal penetration. In all honesty, I can say that I view my ED as a gift from God that has brought my wife and me closer together than I could have ever imagined!

    Reply
    1. Missy

      I was going to suggest using other ways of sexual intimacy until the intercourse situation is figured out/cleared up. There are so many ways to be close!

      Reply
  9. Kay

    Wow! What a tricky situation to be in. I’m so sorry.

    I hope this is elementary, but is she urinating after sex? My college roommate got 3 UTIs back to back because no one told her how important it is to pee after sex before she got married.

    My first thought was also that she needed to ditch the pill, and then I also thought of Unveiled wife (great minds think alike) and wondered if she OR HER HUSBAND is using a soap or other body product she could be reacting to, including the type of lube.

    Finally, I was familiar with the sensitivity to semen after watching the show “Sex Sent Me to the ER” (which I don’t recommend btw; it is borderline porn). But this particular wife ended up in the ER after oral sex and they finally figured out her life threatening reactions only happened immediately after sex or oral sex. It was definitely her husband’s ejaculate! Condoms or pulling out solved the problem.

    In the meantime, I highly recommend finding other ways to be physical and bond sexually. Maybe shower together every evening? That is a great way to stay close and occasionally lend a helping hand. Find other ways to please one another sexually and gradually work you way back up to sex.

    Reply
  10. Em

    I am so very sorry that this woman is experiencing this as part of her marriage. My mother-in-law has struggled with UTIs throughout her entire marriage and the past two years, they became pretty much unbearable. Antibiotics are not the answer. In fact, she has only found relief by stopping the antibiotics and starting a strict regime of probiotics and chiropractic care. She hasn’t had one in over 9 months. Here is just one study (from the Stanford School of Medicine) that documents the potential for preventing reoccurring UTIs with probiotics. Antibiotics, while they have their place, can wreak havoc on the body. Oh, and by taking probiotics, I do not mean eating yogurt. That is not enough. You need a quality supplement that has the recommended strains for urinary tract health. Check out Amazon or your closest whole foods store. I am willing to say that regardless of the issue, with all the courses of antibiotics her body has endured, her gut has been stripped of the good bacteria and probiotics could help. http://uti.stanford.edu/blog/archives/2011/04/more-evidence-t.html

    Reply
  11. Mel

    One additional person she should consider seeing is a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor/women’s health issues. They can use exams and gentle exercises to identify if any misled are too weak/tight in the pelvic genital region. When these muscles are out of balance they can cause intense pain. Additionally, these same muscles are involved in emptying the bladder, so it is possible that if they aren’t doing their job it could make her susceptible to UTis. I was shocked to find out that the cause of my pain (pain when emptying bladder and at orgasm) was caused by a pelvic floor problem. I am in my 20s and assumed these issues were only for women who were older/had given birth. It is possible the writer has multiple problems going on (I do) but there is hope! I would also encourage her to explore her sexuality without intercourse. It can really enhance intimacy and help to retrain her mind to think or sex in a positive light while she works through her physical issues.

    Reply
  12. Anonymous

    Could this be case of endometriosis? We have friend who has battled with similar issues until correctly diagnosed and had surgery to remove some of the offending lumps.

    Reply
  13. Jem

    In the first six months of my marriage I had four UTIs. They are awful, and being on that many antibiotics isn’t great for your immune system either. I looked online for home remedies to keep me from getting a UTI as urinating after wasn’t enough. I found if I take asparagus pills it helps. I haven’t had a UTI since. The asparagus changes the PH of your bladder so bacteria can’t grow. A probiotic is a great idea too, especially with and after a dose of antibiotics. I also rinse with soap and water after. We stopped using anything foreign too. It turns out if you don’t have clean hands when using lubricant, the bacteria from your hands can get inside and infect the whole bottle. I would definitely suggest talking to your doctor again or another one if you aren’t getting relief. God is the creator and he knows exact how your body works, if you ask, He will answer. Praying for health in your marriage. 🙂

    Reply
  14. IntimacySeeker

    In my experience, the chemical makeup in the semen caused trouble. My hubby used to enjoy brewing beer and had some trouble managing his consumption. Every time we had intercourse, a yeast infection followed. Every. Single. Time. He stopped drinking beer and no more yeast infections.

    More recently, I suffered from repeated UTI’s due to the thinning walls of the vagina that comes with menopause. A VERY small amount of estrogen cream works for me. One tube lasts nine months.

    I’m not trying to diagnose the problem for others, but join in letting others know there can be resolution.

    Reply

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