The Sexual Pain Advancement & Restoration Care Clinic, or SPARC, is a sexual health clinic designed to help our patients understand and embrace their own sexual health! We know that discussing your sexual health or asking questions about your body can be uncomfortable, embarrassing, or even painful. That’s why we created SPARC.
Because, at The Woman’s Clinic, we believe in creating a safe environment for women to expand their communication and knowledge regarding their sexual and reproductive health. It is our passion to enable women to regain power over their bodies and intimacy concerns. As health care professionals, women, and allies, our staff works hard to create a safe and comfortable environment through active listening and non-judgmental support.
It can be intimidating to get started in person so in this article we’ll be covering a few common questions and concerns about sexual health and painful intercourse.
What Kind of Issues Does SPARC Cover?
When you make an appointment with SPARC, we open the floor for any and all questions about your body, your reproductive health, or your sexual health. Some of the areas we’ve helped other patients with and that we cover daily include:
- Arousal disorder
- Intimacy concerns
- Orgasms disorders
- Pelvic floor therapy
- Decreased libido (sexual desire)
- Vaginal pain during intercourse or intimacy
- Any sexual pain (before, during, or after pregnancy)
- Recurring or long-lasting pain after pelvic or vaginal trauma
If you don’t see your question or area of discussion on this list, don’t worry. You cannot embarrass us and we will not judge you, no matter what you have questions about or need to discuss. We can pretty much guarantee we’ve seen it all after over 80 years as an OBGYN clinic.
If you are experiencing issues with any of these symptoms, we urge you to make an appointment today. Pain or difficulty during intercourse is often a sign of a more serious underlying issue. Protect your health and your peace of mind by trusting one of our skilled and compassionate practitioners. At The Woman’s Clinic, we believe that every woman deserves to live a life without pain, trauma, and shame.
Why Does It Hurt When I Have Sex?
This is one of the most common questions we get–both through SPARC and as individual gynecologists. Painful intercourse is incredibly common. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, over 75% of women experience pain during sex at least once in their lives. For many women, it’s a recurring or chronic problem.
First, it’s important to remember that sex is not supposed to hurt. Sadly, many women have come to accept painful intercourse as “normal” for them. But consistently painful sex is a sign of a deeper underlying issue. If you’re experiencing pain during sex, it’s time to talk to your partner and your doctor about it.
Common Causes of Painful Intercourse
The most common cause of pain during sex is a lack of lubrication. Dryness can occur at any age, but it is most common in menopausal and post-menopausal women. Dryness increases friction, decreases sensitivity, and can damage the bacterial balance of your vagina. If your pH is thrown out of whack, you can end up with infections that result in even more painful intercourse!
If you experience chronic vaginal dryness, try using a water-based lubricant. If this causes irritation or your pain persists, talk to your gynecologist. Several conditions can also cause or contribute to painful sex.
Fibroids are benign uterine growths that can cause painful cramps, heavier periods, pelvic pressure, and painful intercourse.
Whether you’re suffering from a yeast infection or a sexually transmitted disease, infections cause inflammation and swelling that can result in painful intercourse.
Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled pustules that develop on the ovaries. They often have no symptoms, but when they rupture they can cause severe pain and bleeding. The movement and positions of sexual intimacy can often lead to the rupture of an ovarian cyst, resulting in intense pain.
Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
If your pelvic floor muscles become too tight, it can cause an ache in your pelvis and intense pain with any kind of insertion.
This is a condition that causes the muscles at the opening of your vagina to contract, making your vaginal opening smaller and tighter which results in significant pain during penetration.
Vulvodynia is chronic pain around the vaginal opening. This pain may present as itching, throbbing, rawness, stinging, or burning.
Your gynecologist will go over your symptoms with you and, if necessary, perform a physical examination to make the correct diagnosis.
Treatments can range from hormone therapy and medications to pelvic floor therapy and referrals to resources like counseling and physical therapy. With open communication and personalized treatment plans, we’ve helped many patients experience pleasurable sex again.
Pelvic Floor Therapy
SPARC offers pelvic floor physical therapy, as well as supplemental resources for pelvic therapy products and health.
When we discuss pelvic floor therapy with our clients, they often picture Kegel exercises. And while these are very helpful in restoring pelvic floor health and reducing pain, pelvic floor therapy is so much more.
Pelvic floor physical therapy utilizes the principles of typical physical therapy to safely recondition and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. The ultimate goal of pelvic floor therapy is to decrease pain while increasing strength and control in the muscles.
After your initial assessment, pelvic floor therapy sessions may include activities such as:
- Stretching exercises that target the legs, abdomen, and pelvic muscles
- Relaxation exercises (for tight, shortened muscles)
- Coordination exercises
- Applications of ice, heat, or electrical stimulation as needed
- Prevention education
Therapy may include internal and external stimulation of the pelvic muscles. Depending on your specific diagnosis, you may also receive trigger point therapy or anesthesia/Botox injections to help relax muscles.
Strengthening your pelvic floor can reduce pain and increase sexual pleasure for many women. Uterine reconstructive surgery can be non-invasive and there is some recovery time, time off work would be recommended. For the first few weeks, you should avoid vigorous exercise, lifting, and straining. You also should avoid sex for several weeks after surgery. We almost always recommend pelvic floor therapy before prescribing long-term medication plans or suggesting surgery.
Everyone has that one burning question they need to ask. Make an appointment with one of our experienced and compassionate practitioners—we’re here to listen and give you the answers you need. Take control of your sexual health with SPARC.