Not tonight, my love… remember I have Endometriosis!
Let’s be frank: Endometriosis and sex don’t mix well. This disease does not help to create an intimate and positive experience with our partner.
I’m one of those who often says, “Not tonight, honey…”, but over time I’ve learned how to manage this terrible side effect of endometriosis.
Make no mistake: endometriosis is a disease that not only affects the woman who has it; it also affects her partner (husband- boyfriend) tremendously, so it’s crucial to manage the disease together as a couple.
First, let’s talk about why some patients with endometriosis experience dyspareunia (pain during intercourse): endometriosis lesions can block, stick to, or even invade tissues and organs; they produce inflammatory substances known as prostaglandins and ehistamines that irritate the tissue around the lesions; they cause scarring that blocks blood vessels; and they can make our pain receptors more sensitive. One of the major causes of pain during sex, particularly when there is deep penetration, is endometriosis in the culdesac (the wall between the rectum and the vagina). If we combine these physical aspects of the disease with the treatments that usually affect our sexual appetite, add to that the fact that our hormones are through the roof, that we usually gain weight and that we don’t feel very attractive … we will have as a result the perfect recipe for a “Not tonight, my love …” to be heard soon … in a room near you … Moreover, let’s not forget that infertility is another important factor in this recipe.
Some of us live from month to month trying to conceive, while taking fertility drugs that make sex the last thing on our minds. When we are having sex just because our dreams of fertility depend on it, we sometimes forget in the process that sex can and should be an intimate sharing between two people, and also that it can and should be fun!
And then what can we do? Cover our eyes and try to ignore the frustration we feel? That won’t solve anything I know, I’ve done it. I want to share with you some things that I have learned over time, both from personal experiences and through conversations with other women who have endometriosis.
- You have to work hand in hand with your partner. This is the most important rule. Problems that are two can’t be solved by one. Work together to find what works for both of you as a couple. This includes having your partner go with you to medical appointments and encouraging your partner to ask his or her own questions of the doctor. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help if the problems between you are too big and complicated. Seek help from a professional (psychologist, sex therapist, psychiatrist) who understands this disease. Guilt, doubt, fear, anger, sadness, and even shame are common feelings that couples experience because of endometriosis. There’s nothing wrong with seeking psychological and emotional help, and seeking help doesn’t mean that “your pain is imaginary” or “this is all made up in your head.
- Seek treatment for endometriosis. Studies have shown that removing endometriosis implants from all affected areas can help completely eliminate symptoms and even help increase fertility. Finding a doctor who is skilled at treating endometriosis may be your first step to feeling better.
- There’s always a good time for everything. For example, many women feel better physically right after ovulation. Identify your best time, the days when you feel better, with less pain, and plan with your partner to do something special on those days. I call these moments ‘planned spontaneity.
- Lube, lube, and more lube… And then, lube more. Therapies for endometriosis can cause vaginal dryness, as can surgeries (for example, removal of ovaries). There are many products available on the market that can help with this problem, including KY jelly, Astroglide, and GineMoistrin.
Important note: If you are trying to conceive you should not use these products as they may decrease sperm motility or even destroy them. Similarly, if you are using condoms to prevent pregnancy, these products can weaken the plastic of the condom. Ask your gynecologist for a safe way to help you in your particular situation.
- Stop the pain before it starts. If you need to, take pain medication the day before your period arrives, but remember not to overdo it!
- Remember that making love is not limited to penetration. Intimacy can happen in many ways: hugging, kissing, caressing, touching… You can make the most of these experiences by using candles, romantic music, sharing a wine, dancing, bathing together, or doing any activity you both enjoy. Best of all, you can do these activities even when you don’t feel perfectly well, so that you can both enjoy your intimacy.
- Communication. Establish a signal that tells your partner when you are ready for penetration. Take it easy, and don’t rush.
- Have fun! Experiment with positions you can both enjoy. Women on top and side by side are very popular positions with “inbred girls”, but you can find the best ones for you.
Having endometriosis doesn’t have to mean the death of your relationship. In fact, this condition could even bring you closer together as a couple. I’ve found that there’s a great need to be honest and open to communication between partners.
Having good communication can make your relationship much happier, both in and out of the room… You may not be able to do this overnight, because it’s a slow process and there’s a lot to learn, but the most important thing is to learn together.
Translated by: Idhaliz Flores, Ph.D.
Based on the article titled “Not tonight, honey… I have endometriosis”,
by Heather Guidone, http://www.PowerProse.com