Having sex with Endometriosis can be painful, but it does not mean your sex life has to be over.
I started experiencing painful sex right from the start of being sexually active. It was never pleasurable, and I was honestly quite confused as to what the fuss was all about. Even fingering felt uncomfortable; Cunnilingus was the only time I felt comfort during sex. Sadly, with a lack of sex education and being a shy teen, I never spoke up or asked why sex looked and felt different for me.
Movies depicted sex as this beautiful, sensual and mind-blowing experience. My friends spoke of sex as this exciting, can't wait to see them and shag them, exhilarating act that, to be honest, I was not experiencing myself. To make matters worse, I was such a horny teenager who loved watching sex on TV, secretly watching lesbian porn, consistently having sex dreams, and fantasising about sex every day. I was OBSESSED! But the sex in real life never lived up to my expectations, and the dreaded pain was a severe roadblock in my sex life.
I have been in very long-term relationships since the age of 15, and every time sex was something I had to do for them, I wasn't particularly bothered as I never felt any enjoyment when having sex with penetration. I just wanted to enjoy a bit of foreplay, and for the rest to be over and done with so I could go to sleep. Until my last two relationships, I would only orgasm from getting myself off once they fell asleep. But now, after a diagnosis, learning techniques, and investing in toys that work alongside my body, I can experience a whole new ball game regarding sex and pleasure. Now I want it to be about myself too, and I can fully embrace sex, face on and vagina on!
So what is the link between sex and Endometriosis?
So many people with Endo experience pain during and after sex or even both because the endometriosis tissue will grow in different places around your uterus, fallopian tubes, the back of the vagina and even the bladder and bowls. Penetration can pull or stretch the irritated tissue, causing pain and discomfort that may feel like burning, stabbing, aching and even lead to sickness.
Sex can also be notably worse at different stages in your cycle. So this is something to take into consideration when planning a more pain-free experience. Everyone's body will respond differently, so test what works for you, as period sex might even be more pleasurable.
Adhesions and scar tissue: Endometriosis can lead to the formation of adhesions, which are bands of scar tissue that can bind organs together. Adhesions can restrict the normal movement and flexibility of pelvic organs during sexual activity, resulting in pain.
Inflammation: The presence of endometrial tissue outside the uterus can cause chronic inflammation in the pelvic region. Inflammation can contribute to pain during sex by sensitizing nerves and increasing sensitivity to touch.
Pelvic floor muscle dysfunction: Endometriosis-related pain and inflammation can lead to increased tension and tightness in the pelvic floor muscles. This muscle tension can cause pain during intercourse.
Emotional factors: Living with chronic pain from endometriosis can lead to anxiety, fear, or anticipation of pain during sex. These emotional factors can contribute to muscle tension and make sex uncomfortable or painful.
Pain can affect your Libido and even your partner.
I was in a relationship with someone for nine years, and during that time, our sex life was a complete rollercoaster. It went from fun and exciting to slowly becoming nonexistent. As someone who has always felt strongly connected to their sexual side, I was very conflicted. I always wanted sex, but the reminder of pain left my sex drive plummeting in seconds. In the last two years of our relationship, I was finally diagnosed with Endometriosis, and as you can imagine, I finally had answers as to why my body felt broken. However, while this was progress, sex shifted to him worrying if he was hurting me. He knew what was going on in my cervix, which built a lot of anxiety during sex, so the roles became reversed, which wasn't helpful. We had to communicate and experiment, which most certainly helped. Fast forward four years, and over time I have tested with partners using tools and aids and learned to experiment with myself to help form a more healthy and helpful way of experiencing pleasurable sex.
I also went to therapy, watched many videos and read many books on how to retrain my mind not to fear sex. Because yet, whilst I could manage the pain, I was experiencing something called arousal non-concordance. I was experiencing physical arousal more than mental arousal, which meant while my body was ready for sex, my brain wasn't. My subconscious reminded me of the pain, so I had to unlearn this through meditation, self-exploration and months and months of self-care so that finally, my body and mind were a-tune.
My tips, tricks and tools for endo and painful sex
Track Symptoms and Triggers:
Keeping a journal or using tracking apps can help you identify patterns and triggers affecting your libido. Monitor your sexual desire, frequency of sexual activity and any symptoms or discomfort experienced during or after sex. This can provide valuable information for discussions with your healthcare provider and help identify specific triggers or factors affecting your libido.
Making healthy lifestyle choices can positively impact libido. These include regular exercise, stress reduction techniques (such as yoga or meditation), adequate sleep, a balanced diet, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
If you're dealing with a decreased or even non-existent sex drive, there are natural remedies out there that will get you rarin' to go. Herbs such as Tribulus Terrestris, Maca and Ginseng are know to aid libido and natural lubrication and can all be found in my supplement of choice Elle Sera.
Sexual Communication and Intimacy:
Open communication with your partner about changes in libido and sexual desires is important. Explore alternative forms of intimacy and prioritize emotional connection and pleasure. Remember, sex doesn’t equal a penis in the vagina. Sex is whatever feels pleasurable for you and your partner.
Try exploring your own body first and find what works for you without the pressure of someone else being there. Grab a toy or use your fingers and experiment with depth, angles and positions on yourself to better understand your limitations. It might also be worth investing in a dilator set which will help ease your body into internal play. I stick to smaller, narrower toys with a lot of bend in them, and for solo play, I tend to enjoy suction or clitoral-based toys only. Remember, sex doesn't equal penetration.
For some, every position may be uncomfortable, but I recommend experimenting with this in great depth. There are hundreds of positions, and you may find one that works for you. For example, for many doggy style seems to work perfectly, but if this isn't for you, then don't be afraid to download a Kama Sutra app and block out a night exploring your options. Elevating my lower half worked for me, and if you want to invest, grab yourself a Bang on cushion. Bang On cushions supports people with disabilities and medical conditions to gain support and help alleviate pain when in certain positions during sex.
Shop here - https://bangon.it/
Lube & CBD Lube
Lube is your best friend when you have Endometriosis because the last thing you want is dry, forceful and rough penetration. Many people ask me whether or not CBD lube helps with pain, and the simple answer is that you have to try it yourself. Unfortunately, my body will respond differently to yours when it comes to lube, and I have experimented with many over the years and found two that worked best for me. I wouldn't say they help with pain, but they make things more tingly for me, which feels good and is a helpful distraction.
lube 1 - byquanna
lube 2 - The Fleur Damour
This is a must for me, and most of the time, my partner and I enjoy watching each other do some solo masturbation without this leading to any penetrative sex. Remember, sex does not equal penetration and is more about enjoying pleasure in whatever form that takes for you.
I have two tools that I recommend you add to your wish list this year. The first is the Ohnuts which consist of four squishy rings that can be stacked so you can discover the depths that feel comfortable for you.
Shop here - Ohnut
The second is looking at toys by Mystery Vibe. This company uses research & engineering to build toys that address major sexual health issues such as erectile dysfunction, dryness & pain during intercourse. My personal favourite is the POCO.
Shop here - Mysteryvibe
When to seek advice
If you continue to experience painful sex, it's a good idea to ask for further investigation and even speak to your GP about your concerns. Painful sex is NOT normal and can be caused by many other things outside the conversation of Endometriosis. Including things like fibroids, cysts, or pelvic inflammatory disease, which must be diagnosed by a health care professional.