Pain with intercourse is a troubling condition that often leads to feelings of frustration and inadequacy. Getting a proper diagnosis is often difficult because it is not easy to identify the source of the pain. As a result, women are often desperate for a solution to the crippling pain during intercourse.
What Causes Vaginal Pain During Intercourse?
Vaginal pain during intercourse is often caused by a condition called vulvodynia. Vulvodynia is chronic pain in the vestibule (opening of the vagina) that lasts for more than 4 months and does not have any obvious clinical findings on physical exam or standard laboratory analysis.
Pain is the overarching symptom of vulvodynia. The pain is not the same for every patient but is typically described as burning, rawness, or stinging.
The pain associated with vulvodynia may be continuous or may occur only when pressure is applied to the vestibule (the entrance to the vagina). The latter is known as provoked vulvodynia, which is usually the cause of pain during intercourse.
Other symptoms of vulvodynia include soreness, discharge, odor, irritation, itching, and urinary frequency or urgency.
What Causes Vulvodynia?
The underlying etiology of vulvodynia is an altered vaginal microflora pattern. An altered vaginal microflora differs from the known healthy microflora patterns.
The vaginal microflora or vaginal microbiome is composed of a diverse mix of microorganisms, including ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria.
The good or friendly bacteria known as lactobacilli generally dominate the microflora and play a critical role in maintaining vaginal health. Lactobacilli helps to inhibit the growth of harmful microorganisms by secreting lactic acid keeping the vaginal pH slightly acidic, by secreting hydrogen peroxide and bacteriocins.
However, there are instances in which the balance of microbes in the vagina is disrupted. This change can shift the vaginal pH to alkaline and cause pathogens to multiply. When this happens, the structure of the vaginal fluid changes, causing the secretions to irritate the vestibular tissue.
The irritation caused by the vaginal secretions can lead to a range of symptoms, including burning, rawness, and pain with intercourse.
How Can I Reduce Vaginal Pain During Intercourse
Reducing vaginal pain with intercourse begins with an accurate diagnosis of an altered vaginal microflora.
Diagnosing an altered vaginal microflora pattern can be done using an advanced diagnostic tool known as the vaginal fluid analysis (VFA) test. The VFA test was developed by vulvovaginal specialist Dr. R. Stuart Fowler of Fowler GYN International (FGI).
The VFA test provides an analysis of the characteristics of the vaginal constituents. This information will determine if there is an altered vaginal microflora present.
The experts in vaginal health at FGI treat an abnormal microflora pattern by formulating a customized treatment protocol for each patient. The protocol consists of a combination of medications and skincare products.
How Soon Will I See Results?
Most patients experience a response after about four months on the treatment protocol. However, it can take up to 8-12 months for the symptoms to resolve.
Follow-ups are done every 4-6 months, and the treatment protocol may be adjusted if required. Patients must be committed to following the treatment plan through to the end to get the ideal results.
When balance is restored to the vaginal microflora, patients will get relief from pain during intercourse and other symptoms of vulvodynia.
If you are experiencing pain with intercourse that has not been diagnosed, it’s best to consult with a vulvovaginal specialist for an assessment and treatment.