Pain – What is your body trying to tell you?
25th June 2020
Pain is your body’s way of communicating with you, sending out a flare to let you know that something isn’t right. All too often we ignore the warning signs, take some painkillers and try to get on with our day – especially in a culture which teaches us that pain is part of womanhood or having a womb. But pain during sex, our periods or peeing is not always normal and could be a sign of something more serious. It’s important we recognise potential causes of pain so we can advocate for ourselves and seek medical help when we need it most. Here are a few key reasons you may be experiencing pain, and advice on when you should seek medical advice.
Pain during sex
1 in 10 women report experiencing pain during sex, and yet it’s a topic that is often brushed under the carpet. The relationship between female pleasure and sex is a complex one, and still, in 2020, many women find it difficult to articulate what they enjoy when getting intimate. This toxic culture and shame around sex, often means that we don’t seek advice when we experience discomfort or pain and sometimes simply accept it as ‘how things are’. But painful sex – or dyspareunia – is not something that should be accepted or ignored. Not only is it important to address these issues so you can enjoy a happy, healthy sex life, but this pain can sometimes be indicative of a serious medical condition.
One of the most common causes of pain during sex is vaginal dryness. This can sometimes be caused by a lack of arousal or a change in hormones – especially if you are entering perimenopause. There is also a chance that you could be allergic to things like spermicide or latex condoms, so this is worth investigating. A sore vagina can also indicate an infection – such as thrush – or an STI, like chlamydia or gonorrhoea. Most of these conditions are easily treated with a course of antibiotics, but it’s important you seek advice from your GP as soon as symptoms start presenting.
Another condition that can cause sex to feel uncomfortable or painful is vaginismus. People with vaginismus will find that the muscles in and around their vagina shut tightly, making sex difficult or impossible. Whilst it’s thought up to 17% of women are living with this condition, many are embarrassed to seek help. However, treatment is not only available but, in many cases, successful, so it is definitely worth reaching out to your GP if it’s something you think could be affecting you.
For some, it’s not localised pain in the vagina that is impacting their sex life, but pain in the pelvis. There is a lot going on in your pelvis, so you should always speak to your GP if you notice discomfort in this area. However, if the pain is more acute during or after sex, it could be a sign that you are suffering from a couple of conditions.
Endometriosis is a condition where your womb tissue grows outside of the womb. This can be incredibly painful and can be agitated during intercourse – which might explain your discomfort. Fibroids – non-cancerous growths that develop in and around the womb – might also be causing you pain when you have sex, especially if they are growing near your vagina or cervix. Many women have fibroids which go undetected, as they may not notice any symptoms until they are trying to conceive. If you’re experiencing pain when getting intimate with your partner, it could be your bodies way of telling you to go and get it checked out.
However, it could be that this pain is being caused by something not directly linked with your reproductive health. You may experience pain after sex if you are feeling constipated, but if this is happening all the time, it could be a sign of a more serious condition linked with your excretory system, such as IBS.
Pain during your period
From the moment we start our periods, we are told – by society – to expect blood and gore and pain. Whilst light cramping and a bit of discomfort are generally normal at this point in our menstrual cycle, we should not accept painful periods every month as the norm. As always, pain is our body’s way of communicating a problem, so don’t feel like you have to ignore those warning signs because you have been sold a myth that pain is part of ‘being a woman or having periods’.
Much like pain during sex, extreme menstrual pain can be a sign of endometriosis. People with endometriosis often report a much heavier flow than usual, and whilst they can experience pelvic pain at any time during their cycle, this pain is often heightened around the time of their period. They may also notice that their periods are longer and their cycles are shorter. Fibroids and Pelvic Inflammatory Disease can also be a cause of menstrual pain – if you notice you are experiencing discomfort during sex and your period, it’s a good idea to consult your GP.
There are also, rarer conditions that could explain periods that hurt more than normal. Adenomyosis is when the uterine lining grows into the muscular wall of the uterus, causing inflammation, pressure, and pain. Like endometriosis, it can also cause longer or heavier periods. There is also a condition called cervical stenosis, where the cervix is so narrow that it slows down the flow of your period. This can cause a painful build-up of pressure inside the uterus.
Pain when you pee
Most of us have experienced that wincing pain of cystitis at least once in our lives, right? Cystitis is one of the most common urinary tract infections (UTIs) and often causes pain when peeing. Speaking of pee, once of the best ways to reduce your risk of cystitis is going for a pee after sex – so bear that in mind next time you’re getting intimate. Cystitis can often clear itself up naturally, but if symptoms persist it’s important to reach out to your GP, who can give you a course of antibiotics before it turns into something more sinister, and make sure it’s not a more serious UTI. Sometimes allergies – to hygiene products or sex aids – can also irritate our intimate area, which can make it uncomfortable when you go to the toilet.
However, it’s important not to dismiss all pain when peeing as a simple UTI or allergy – it could be a sign of a more serious condition. Kidney stones are a common root cause of painful peeing. Whilst you will often urinate out small kidney stones without noticing, larger ones can be extremely uncomfortable. Whilst kidney stones themselves are not particularly dangerous, if left untreated they can impact the functionality of the kidneys, which play a crucial role in our overall health. Like kidney stones, ovarian cysts are another example of something outside the bladder putting pressure on it and causing painful urination. If you have ovarian cysts it’s likely you will have other symptoms alongside pain when you pee – including painful periods and unusual bleeding.
If you are concerned about any of the conditions or symptoms we’ve spoken about here, we highly recommend seeking the advice of your GP. In the meantime, if you would like some support of advice from one of our experts, you can join Adia for free today and get in touch.