Here’s an interesting fact! Did you know that the World Health Organisation classifies a satisfying sexual life as a fundamental human right? They’ve actually highlighted that reproductive rights and sexual rights go hand in hand and I must agree. Part of one’s right to reproduce includes having a healthy, fulfilling and safe sexual experience. Sadly, this is not the case for many women. Dyspareunia or painful sexual intercourse is a reality that some women face on a daily basis.
Dyspareunia is pain that occurs in the pelvis, abdomen or lower limbs upon arousal or during and even after sexual intercourse. Causes of the pain can be psychological, medical or physical. Potential physical causes include: vaginal dryness, hormonal issues, episiotomy scars, nerve impingement and hyper tonicity aka tight pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor is made of connective tissue and skeletal muscle, just like our hamstrings or biceps. In order to carry out their functions effectively, pelvic floor muscles (like any other muscle) must have optimal length and strength. During intercourse, these muscles need to be in a relaxed state. However some women have difficulty relaxing these muscles due to various reasons such as pelvic floor injuries from pregnancy/birth, endometriosis or in some cases psychological and or physical trauma i.e. sexual abuse.
Women who are affected by dyspareunia typically lose interest in sex and dread the thought of it, thus placing a strain on their relationship. This strain usually leads to increased anxiety, emotional stress and feelings of resentment towards their partners, which in turn creates more tension within the pelvic floor.
Stay tuned for part two as we discuss how patience, communication and understanding can be restored in a relationship suffering as a result of dyspareunia.
Jasmine Evelyn is a Chartered Physiotherapist and Pelvic Health Physiotherapist residing on the sunny island of Barbados. For more of her expertise check out Mindful Movement: Yoga and Healthy Lifestyle and Pelvic Health Physiotherapy Barbados.