Do you have pain during intercourse? A one-off experience with pain during intercourse is not a cause for concern. However, if you experience this problem regularly, it is essential to have it checked. Pain during intercourse can occur because of several vulvovaginal issues, so it is crucial to identify the medical reason for it and get appropriate treatment.
Pain During Intercourse? Consider These Vulvovaginal Issues
Painful intercourse is known medically as dyspareunia. The pain may occur only with penetration or continue long after intercourse is over. Pain during intercourse may be due to a condition known as vulvodynia.
What Is Vulvodynia?
Vulvodynia refers to chronic pain around the opening of the vagina (the vulva), which lasts for more than three months and does not have an identifiable cause. The condition is also known as provoked vulvodynia because it occurs in response to activity with intercourse or touch. Women often describe the pain as sharp, searing, burning, or stabbing.
Some women with vulvodynia have pain not only during intercourse but also when inserting a tampon, sitting, or exercising.
Other vulvodynia symptoms include irritation, rawness, stinging, and discharge.
How Is Vulvodynia Diagnosed?
For many women, the journey to obtaining a diagnosis of vulvodynia is a difficult one because the condition has not been well-researched and is therefore poorly understood until recently. As a result, patients often go misdiagnosed for months or years in some cases.
Dr. R. Stuart Fowler vulvovaginal specialist and founder of Fowler GYN International (FGI), conducted many years of research and clinical studies into the underlying cause of vaginal pain disorders like vulvodynia.
Based on his research, Dr. Fowler found that multiple vulvovaginal issues are caused by an altered vaginal microflora pattern. An altered vaginal microflora pattern is a variant of the known microflora patterns.
Dr. Fowler developed the vaginal fluid analysis (VFA) test to detect an altered vaginal microflora pattern. The VFA test is a diagnostic tool that provides a quantitative analysis of the constituents of the vaginal fluid.
The vaginal microflora consists of various microorganisms, including ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria, but the good bacteria (lactobacilli) usually dominate.
Lactobacilli play a central role in vaginal health because they produce large amounts of lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide, which help maintain the slightly acidic pH level of the vagina. Pathogens don’t thrive in this type of environment.
If there is a shift in the balance of vaginal microflora it can lead to a decline in lactobacilli, and result in an overgrowth of bad bacteria. This condition is known as an altered vaginal microflora.
The VFA test is used to detect the presence of an altered vaginal microflora.
Treating Pain During Intercourse
If the VFA test confirms that the vaginal microflora is in an altered state, FGI puts patients on a customized treatment protocol. The protocol is designed to move the vaginal ecosystem towards normal, and consists of medication and hypocontactant skincare products.
Hypocontactant skincare products are an integral part of treatment because they do not contain the chemicals normally present in traditional hygiene products, which can irritate the vaginal tissues.
It can take up to 8 months for patients to get the ideal response with the treatment protocol prescribed by FGI. However, patients can expect to see some improvement at around the 4-month mark.