A Courageous Battle with Painful Sex

So a few weeks ago I was contacted by this amazing bright star named Amanda. Instantly her email hugged my heart and brought tears to my eyes. When people ask.... this is my why.... One part of her email hit me extremely hard.... "And it breaks my heart... I actually keep kicking around the idea of writing a blog post about my story and I think finding your foundation and seeing there are people who care and want to see others feel safe is the motivation I need. "

One this is ultimately what LSF is all about. We have big dreams and goals but at the end of the day we want these individuals to know they are not alone, we care, and you are safe with us. She wrote that blog post... and not only was she embraced by friends and family but SEVERAL people opened up to her about their struggle. I say it all the time and will continue to say it until my face turns blue. Vaginismus is EVERYWHERE, its not rare, its not unusually... its time we give it a loud and clear voice.

Talking about it is the first and biggest step... what Amanda did was so brave but we keep doing it one by one the millions of women will no longer feel trapped and alone. Here is Amanda's story, her blog.....

I was about to start this off with a “P.S.” but that wouldn’t have made sense, so this will serve as your pre-post script. 

P.S. I feel like I should issue a fair warning clause or a “whoa-wait-this-is-going-to-get-personal” warning to anyone that reads this.  So… there it is.  You’ve been informed, carry on.

I have a condition called vaginismus.  Yes, if you stare at the word long enough, you will have a good idea of where this is about to go.  After you’ve done that, please Google the word if you would like further explanation.  But, in layman’s terms, it is a condition that causes the vaginal wall muscles to spasm any time anything is attempting to be inserted.  If you wear contacts, think about the first 50 times you had to put them in and take them out.  If it’s less than 50, I guess I’m just really bad at it. ;-)  For you non-contact wearers, just try to touch your eye.  Instinctively, your eyes will shut on you because your eyelids know they need to protect your vision.  Unfortunately, the motive behind why vaginal wall muscles would spasm is not clear and is different for all women. While noble of them to try and protect me, it actually does more harm than good.

Here’s your second warning - personal story time…

I officially entered “woman-hood” in the 6th grade when I was of the ripe old age of 11.  I had already watched the awkward video in 4th grade - you know the one that you hold the hand of your best friend through because it’s going to be cringe-inducing? (Just me? Cool.)  Anyway, no dramatic story or tragic tale or embarrassments - just an awkward girl hitting an awkward time of her life. But one thing that wasn’t so “normal” (or it was, I don’t know, I didn’t really talk about it with anyone) was that I couldn’t wear a tampon.  Even those really tiny ones that are so small they don’t even come with an outer casing (is that what they’re called?).  And while I thought that was unusual, I just dealt with it and moved on like the champ of life I am.

Until I got married…

Pardon my French, but it sucks.  Vaginismus sucks. I make bullet pointed lists with the best of them so, humor me for a moment as I show you my skills…

  • Figuring out you have vaginismus right after you’re married is pretty awful
    • Being a virgin when you get married is rad and I’m all for that, so don’t mistake what I just said
    • Having proper sex education though, that’s a different story and something I think needs to stop being danced around with teenagers, especially in Christian circles
  • Being married to someone who is patient and caring and supportive made a big difference for me
    • Having friends I could confide in, even though they didn’t understand my specific struggle, mattered
  • Vaginismus makes you feel broken and alone
    • How do you tell your friends your vagina isn’t working how you thought it should be
      • I was very fortunate to have caring friends who listened to me and it was because of my best friend that I learned about this condition in the first place
    • How do you explain it to your family??  Especially when they want grandkids and nieces and nephews and cousins
      • (my family didn’t know for 7 years)
  • Vaginismus makes you angry 
    • at yourself, your feelings, your body, God (oh yes, I’ve been there and I will probably be back)
  • Vaginismus makes you feel worthless
    • And it’s a lie, but it’s so darn convincing, it’s easy to believe
  • Vaginismus delays desires
    • And this is why my story is going to have to be multiple posts
      • I set out to be authentic and vulnerable when I decided to write all of this out and I will follow through on that intent

There is so much on my heart and my mind that I want to share but I think this is a good place to pause and take a breath. I’m nervous to hit “Post” below and even more nervous because I will be sharing this on my social media accounts.  I know that this can be a taboo subject and there could be those in my life that may not approve of my sharing.  But I promised myself and God that I would not allow what I’ve been through to be hindrance and a source of bitterness, but a help to other ladies out there suffering alone and in silence. 

If you or someone you know of someone that suffers from vaginismus or something that sounds like it, you’re not alone, you’re not broken and you’re loved. 

I recently connected with an amazing foundation called Lady’s Sparrow Foundation…

This is the only foundation I’m aware of that is seeking to support women who have vaginismus.  Please check them out, share their link on Facebook and Twitter and help women know that it’s not just in their heads and that there is help available.  Lady’s Sparrow Foundation

Much love… 

http://amandamcnair.tumblr.com/post/153934906281/my-story

Lack of Information on Painful Sex

Research Study on the Inability to Have Intercourse

Adrienne Bairstow, MSW, MEd.

Sex Therapist and PhD Student

Center for Human Sexuality Studies, Widener University

 

As a sex therapist, I’ve seen the impact of vaginismus on women and their partners.  I work with individuals and couples, and frequently see people who are impacted by vaginismus.  While each couple is different, there are some common threads in their stories.  Many people report that they’ve had difficulty finding information about the condition, even from doctors or other service providers.  Couples often say that they feel isolated and alone, because no one talks about vaginismus.

 

My work with those who are unable to have vaginal intercourse, many of whom have vaginismus, prompted me to look at the research literature in order to better help my clients.  I found that there isn’t very much research on the topic, and even less from the perspective of those who are actually affected by the inability to have intercourse.  The lack of information and the isolation reported by so many in this situation prompted me to choose this topic for my doctoral dissertation.

 

As part of my dissertation for my PhD in Human Sexuality, I’m speaking to individuals in heterosexual relationships who have been unable to have penile-vaginal intercourse, despite wanting to do so.  My goal is to represent the experience of women and men in this situation.  The results of my study will be used to educate service providers.

 

Are you interested in sharing your story?  If so, you’ll take part in an interview with me, via online video call.  I’ll ask you questions about what it’s like to have this experience. Participants will receive a $20 Amazon gift card in appreciation of their time.

 

For more information about this study, please contact me: ambairstow @ mail.widener.edu.

 

A Story of Vaginismus and Triumph Due to Dr. Pacik's Treatment with Botox

My Vaginismus Story
Battling Vaginismus

Pretreatment Vaginismus
PLEASE DESCRIBE YOUR CONDITION (details) I have been battling vaginismus for as long as I could remember. I tried almost everything like therapy, taking Xanax, changing my diet, meditating and surgery including hymenectomy. At the age of 12 I couldn’t put in a tampon and now I can’t have sexual intercourse or put anything else in. It feels like a brick wall. I try daily and nothing ever goes through. I had a pelvic exam under anesthesia and they said it’s all in my head and everything is normal. I cry almost every single day, several times a day and feel like I am at war with my own body. I have a pretty high pain tolerance and I consider myself a pretty opened person with a free spirit. I am now 19 years old and quite depressed because of this condition. Penetration is one thing but more than that this, it gives me many thoughts such as: “will a man ever accept me with this condition?”, “will I ever be able to have kids?”, but most of all “will I ever be free and at peace with my own body?”. I don’t want to keep wasting months and years of my life feeling, desperate, hopeless and abnormal. I am sick of going from doctor to doctor with no answer, no help and false hope. This condition is obviously not life threatening but it has at times made me wonder if life is even worth it. I really hope that you will have the time to treat me before you retire.  
Thank you,
Alexa 19 years’ old
Post treatment Vaginismus
I didn’t want to keep wasting months and years of my life feeling desperate, hopeless and abnormal so on August 18, 2015 I finally received treatment. I have an infinite amount of gratitude towards Dr. Pacik and the procedure he has created. Throughout treatment, he showed genuine compassion and still to this day, stays as a dedicated support system to myself and all of the other women he has previously treated. I look back at the struggle I went through and now have the chance to greatly appreciate what many women may take for granted. I am finally a fully functional woman! The joy I feel from having overcome this obstacle never gets old. Thank you Dr. Pacik for you have truly changed my life and brightened up the path ahead of me. I am very confident that there is hope and a solution for you all. 

Alexa, 20 years’ old

This patient wrote her own story and gave permission to publish it so others can better understand vaginismus. I encourage women to visit my website www.PacikVaginismus.com. Though I am retired now I continue to advocate for women with vaginismus and continue to be involved with the scientific community. We have made enormous headway with vaginismus treatment. I felt it important to develop a one-hour film “Understanding and Treating Vaginismus” to summarize the many years of work I did in this field and to help women in some small way towards a path of recovery.
Peter T Pacik, MD, FACS

Dr. Peter Pacik - Vaginismus: The Importance of Giving

Peter T. Pacik, MD, FACS
Vaginismus: The Importance of Giving
Peter T. Pacik, MD, FACS
During the many years I treated women for vaginismus an overriding impact has been the lack of self-esteem, the shame and embarrassment, the destruction of budding and established relationships and the inability to have a family. These emotions weigh heavily on these women and their partners. As so many women have told me they think about their vaginismus day and night.
There are a number of treatments available however many physicians are not yet trained in diagnosing and treating vaginismus despite the description of this condition as far back as the 1500’s and given the name in 1861 by Dr. J. Marion Sims [1].
Vaginismus was re-defined by the DSM 5 as a pelvic pain/penetration disorder [2]. This allowed treating clinicians to understand that difficulty with vaginal penetration was more than inability to achieve intercourse and delineated the inability to achieve any form of penetration such as the use of tampons, fingers and a GYN exam. Yet to this day insurance companies often do not cover treatment, especially the use of a Botox multimodal program used for the more severe forms of vaginismus [3].
The result of this is that many women know that something is wrong yet are unable to get a correct diagnosis and treatment. There are a great many women who cannot afford treatment and go on for years and years suffering.
Lady Sparrow’s foundation provides a means for raising money so that vaginismus suffers can get proper treatment. To my knowledge this is the only foundation in the US that makes this possible. We still have a great deal of work that needs to be done to help educate physicians in the understanding and treatment of this debilitating disorder. Any donation, large or small, will help these women get proper care from diagnosis to treatment. 

1.    When Sex Seems Impossible. Stories of Vaginismus & How You Can Achieve Intimacy by Peter T. Pacik, MD, FACS available at Amazon.com
2.    American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Washington D.C. (2013)
3.    Pacik PT “Understanding and Treating Vaginismus – a Multimodal Approach” International Urogynecology Journal. 2014 10.1007/s00192-014-2421-y

More information about vaginismus can be found on the website www.PacikVaginismus.com

4.    More information about vaginismus can be found on the website www.PacikVaginismus.com

Life After Vaginismus

So you finally faced your fears, faced vaginismus head on, and are able to start rebuilding yourself.... now what?? For many this can be extremly exciting but full of the unknown. Many of you have never had sex or have not had sex (at least pain free sex) for years. You feel like a full on adult stepping back into the teenage years on wobble legs. Lets put to rest those insecurities and embrace the passion that life is going to give you, the passion you so deserve!

1.) Don't be so hard on yourself - Embrace this new journey. Know that you will stumble. Some days, especially at the begining, that things will not go so smoothly. Be okay with that, expect that. On those days either take your time to slowly move forwad (never rush) or explore other ways for that day to further intimacy. Do not let the little bumps get to you... it is part of the journey... do not close yourself off from your partner during those moments. Instead open yourself even more... talk to him or her. Same for the partner, hold her during those moments. Do not make a big deal out of them. These rough patches will smooth themselves out if you are patient. Enjoy getting to know your partner again!

2.) Communicate - This is crucial!!! Communicate on what feels good, where your comfort zone lies. Talk through the entire process, especially at the begining! Communicate during foreplay. Pay attention to other subtle clues on what is going on between you two. For many this part of your life has been closed off for so long you both have to figure not only each other out but yourself out again. The women need to listen to their partner as well. Both people have to completely understanding of where each person is coming from. Enjoy the process!!!

3) Be Playful - Don't be so serious. Intimacy used to be such an uncomfortable topic but now is the time to start breaking down those walls. Laugh, play, giggle. Sex is suppose to be fun, if both people can laugh at the not so perfect moments you will both start to relax and enjoy the process.

4) This is a Process - Take your time!!! If you only get half way there on certain days or even much less than that... that's okay and completely normal! Remember how far you have come. Do not let yourself get down. That only brings stress and will set you back further. Recovering from vaginismus is a process, not something that is just fixed over night and different for each individual. That is what makes us all special. Enjoy each moment you now have with your partner. Use these moments to bring you closer.

5) Learn Each Other And Yourself - Start to explore each other... what feels good for your partner, what feels good for you. Communicate that.... remember intercourse is just part of it. Enjoy foreplay... that is where you really create that intimacy with your partner. For many, because sex was off the table, all forms of intimacy was also off the table. Bring that back. Explore eachother's bodies fully.... enjoy each other fully. This is an exciting time... you two are getting to know each other on a whole other level. Take advantage of it!

6) AND MOST IMPORTANTLY HAVE FUN!!!!!

I cannot express all these points enough. Enjoy the process, celebrate your triumphs, and brush off or even laugh at your stumbles. Fly free sparrows!!! You are now embarking on a life without walls. A life to embrace. Love your partner... love yourself!!!!

10 Benefits from a Healthy Sexlife

Many people do not realize the benefits from a healthy sexlife besides pleasure (which is important!) and why Vaginismus is a problem that goes beyond the surface. So lets take a closer look shall we...

1) Oxytocin, is the bonding hormone. It is commonly known for its higher levels during breastfeeding to enhance the mother and baby bonding. This hormone also increases during sexual intimacy between adults which therefore enhances bonding between partners in a relationship.

2)Fewer Strokes and Lower Blood pressure! Once again Oxytocin is to thank. Sexual intimacy has been shown to increase this lovely hormone, particularly in women. Higher levels of Oxytocin has been shown to lessen the reaction to stress by the body. Also Oxytocin decreases how narrow blood vessels become during stressful situation, therefore decreasing blood pressure and strokes. 

3)Lower Stress Levels! Once again with sexual intimacy Oxytocin is increased resulting in decreased anxiety, stress levels, and pain sensations.

4) Stronger Immuned System! Excessive stress can have negative effects on the immune system. Having sex on a regular basis decreases stress and so therefore adds to it positive booster to the ability to fight illness.

5)Higher well being and positive additude! Lower levels of cortisol and higher levels of oxytocin are associated with high feelings of well being, it stands to reason that activities like sexual intercourse has a positive effect on people in feeling more self-worth with regular sexual activities.

6)Fewer Heart Attacks! Lower bodily reaction to stress associated with higher levels of oxytocin equals fewer heart attacks. 

7)Fewer disabilities with age! Those with a more active sex life seem to be less likely to develop disabilities as they age compared to those with a less satisfying sex life.

8)Less often congintively disable with age! The aerobic exercise involved in having sex can help slow aging of the brain which helps prevent everything from mildly congnitive to dementia

9)Longer life! Studies have shown that overall health has a positive correlation associated with being interested in having sex and engaging in sexual activity. studies have also found that living with an unsatisfying sex life has a direct correlation to poor health.

10) Because its fun and fun is always good for your health!!

 

What is the difference between Primary and Seconday Vaginismus?

Every women's experience with Vaginimus is going to vary and can be experienced at any age or time in life. There are two types of Vaginismus classifications. One is called Primary and the other Secondary. They are used to identify the time of onset within the medical community although there are subtle differences between the two. 

Primary Vaginismus typically is referenced when first attempt of sexual intercourse or use tampon is painful and/or impossible. Their partner is unable to achieve successful penetration and is often described as hitting a brick wall. Women also experiencing primary vaginismus can have trouble with gynecology exams. 

Secondary Vaginismus is refered  when sexual intercourse becomes painful/impossible later on in life after they have had a period of time with pain-free intercourse. Secondary often occurs after a temporary pelvic issue such as a hard transistion with menopause, cancer related issues, or as something as simple as a yeast infection.  Those issues can be treated or managed but the woman continues to experience painful sex, difficult gynecology exams, and/or trouble with the use of tampons. Seondary Vaginismus, could then escalate  to a severity of intercourse being impossible.

Primary and Secondary can be confusing to some women in reference to not knowing what classification they fit in with. Many women may experience painful intercourse at many different periods of their life but it is not consistent. As a result they are constantly worried about the control they have over their pelvic muscles, which could in time result in a constant presence of Vaginismus. There are also women who at the beginning experince painful sex but were able to tolerate it but as years have gone by that pain gradually increases resulting in the inability to achieve penetration.  

As far as treating primary or secondary there are very little differences. Primary typically involves more emotional triggers and anxiety. So they usually need to work through psycological issues in order to make a full and complete recovery. Secondary can usually bypass that work and just focus on a treatment in controling the pelvic muscles. Although if negative feelings towards sex has evolved whether by sexual trauma, long periods of painful or absent sex, or relationship turmoil emotional issues should be addressed. 

Connecting to the right phyicians and therapists  is critical to ensure a successful recovery. They should have a indepth understanding of Vaginismus in both the physical compontents and mental components. 

Our Launch Day Is Here

Im sitting here going through all of our last bit of the todo list and I am honestly overwhelmed with emotion. We have invested over a year to give this foundation everything it has needed to make the biggest impact on our world possible. During that long but fast journey so many amazing people have entered my life and embraced LSF. I have sat infront of HUGE CEOs that are inspired by our mission and I have unknowningly spoken to lost souls who literally breakdown in front of me in tears. 

I have sat down infront of professionals in the women's sexual health industry that tell me how countless women come to them truly broken and have had no where to turn. As we developed this foundation I knew the numbers but to see the numbers is honestly astounding. For a disorder to be so unknown yet so common shocks me to the core. We have big plans for the future. From attending medical conference to not only obtain better education on this disorder but to give Vaginismus a stronger voice, to creating an eviorment for women all around the world to receive the treatment, to building a world that doesn't make Vaginismus so shameful, scary, and lonely. 

I cannot stress this enough that I have no doubt that each and everyone of you know someone who is suffering with this disorder, or that as you are reading this you are that person and had no idea that was what is wrong. There is no other organization like Lady's Sparrow Foundation... so for so many we will be that one ray of hope. We cannot do this alone. Any big movement takes an army but it is individuals that make up that army. Join us in this movement. Join us in the mission to empower every single individual on this planet that is suffering to conquer Vaginismus. 

It is going to take a lot of support and power to make this happen but at the same time we are fully capable of making this change.  Life is too much of a beautiful thing to live it within closed walls. LET'S BREAK DOWN THOSE WALLS!!!!