Talking About Painful Sex
Last updated: June 2022
A common symptom of endometriosis is pain during sex. Not only can sex be painful, but there can be shame and guilt felt by the person with endo as well.
This can lead to conversations being avoided, or health concerns being pushed to one side, and can ultimately put a strain on a relationship. But there are ways to address painful sex, both the act and the feelings around it.
Painful sex with endometriosis
Endometriosis can cause pain during sex for several reasons. First, people with endometriosis tend to have higher levels of inflammation in the pelvic region. They may also have pelvic adhesions from multiple surgeries that can cause pain during sex.
Endometriosis can also lead to pelvic floor dysfunction and a tightening of the pelvic muscles can lead to painful sex.
Sex is an intimate part of a relationship, and not being able to enjoy it or participate as fully as you would like can be difficult emotionally. People who experience painful sex often report feeling guilty that they can’t offer their partner enough sex, or shame their body isn’t cooperating with them.
Communicating your thoughts to your partner
If this isn’t spoken about openly, like all things in relationships, it can lead to feelings of resentment and misunderstandings. So the first step to helping painful sex is talking about it.
There isn’t an easy shortcut to talking about something you find difficult to talk about. My only advice is that once you rip off the initial band-aid of starting the conversation, it only gets easier.
My partner has endometriosis and experiences painful sex. We share the intimacy of having sex, being naked and vulnerable together, so I want her to know that she can be vulnerable in other ways, including talking about difficulties with sex.
Sex is more than just physical. There is an emotional connection, so see talking about it as an extension of this and a way to strengthen your relationship.
Other ways to feel connected
After the conversation has been opened up, there are also physical ways to help. Firstly, sex doesn’t have to include vaginal penetration.
There are plenty of ways you and your partner can get intimate without endometriosis getting in the way, and I won't list them here. You can get creative.
Secondly, my partner has a couple of products that have helped. The Ohnut is a silicone set of rings that fit on the penis to alter how deep penetration can go.
You can start with wearing all four, then remove rings as sex becomes less painful. She also has a massage wand that can be used for internal muscle release or as a sex toy.
Finally, visiting a pelvic floor physiotherapist may help. These specialists are trained in (primarily female) pelvic floor health and can offer massage and exercises to help relieve pelvic pain and tension, reducing painful sex.
Whatever you choose, do it together.
Speaking as a partner of someone who experiences pain during sex, I want to know what’s going on with my partner.
I'd hate to feel that I'm unknowingly hurting her during something that's meant to be pleasurable for us, and her health is my top priority.
I'm sure partners all over feel the same, so don't be afraid to open up this conversation and talk about pain during sex.
Do your endo symptoms ever cause you to feel socially awkward?
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