About one-third of women experience pain during sex, says a new report. But treatment is available.
About one-third of women say they have pain during sex, according to a comprehensive new series of reports on the sexual lives of Americans
published this week in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
Debby Herbenick, one of the study’s authors, told me that number “surprised” her — she didn’t think so many women would report that kind of pain.
But it doesn’t surprise me — because I’m one of them.
Here’s my story:
Earlier this year, to put it bluntly, I started having pain during sex. For a while, I ignored it, telling myself it was probably just a passing problem that would resolve on its own. It didn’t.
I went to see my fantastic ob/gyn, Beth Hardiman, the woman who delivered my two children, and whom I trust with the most intimate details of my life. She did an exam and told me my vaginal muscles were locked in permanent spasm, like if you gripped your shoulders up to your ears and never let go.
“You need pelvic floor massage,” she said. (You can imagine what I envisioned.) “I’m giving you a prescription for pelvic floor physical therapy.”
Now, I thought I was a savvy health care consumer, having written on the topic as a journalist for the past 10 years. Plus, I’ve had two babies, so I thought I was fairly familiar with the pelvis. Wrong. I had never, ever heard of pelvic floor physical therapy. And I never realized how many complex systems — reproductive, urinary, gastrointestinal, neurological, psychological, and musculoskeletal — can be involved in pelvic pain.
Dr. Hardiman told me that many doctors hadn’t heard of it either. And if they did, they pooh-poohed the field as a bunch of amateurs blithely assigning kegel exercises to their patients. But she said so many of her patients complain of painful sex and related problems that pelvic floor physical therapy, as a specialty, should be far more recognized and respected. She gave me a list of 25 pelvic floor physical therapists in the region. The first five I called were completely booked and not taking new patients.
Then I found Rachael Maiocco, a pelvic floor physical therapist in Chestnut Hill, at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Department of Rehabilitation Services. There was a three-month wait to see her, but eventually, I was scheduled for eight visits. Continue reading