BBC News recently highlighted that nearly one in 10 British women suffer from painful sex, however little is still known about how much Women's Health Physiotherapists can help treat and relieve these symptoms.
The recent survey of nearly 7,000 sexually active women aged 16 to 74, in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, suggests this medical problem - called dyspareunia - is common and affects women of all ages. The survey results highlight that many find the subject embarrassing and taboo which acts as a barrier to seeking help. Despite the recognition of the problem in the media, there is little mention of how us Women's Health or Pelvic Floor Specialist Physiotherapists can help. As a consequence the Pelvic, Obstetric and Gynaecology Physiotherapy Association (POGP) is running a 'Pucker up your Pelvic Floor' Campaign for the month of February to try and signpost women and men for sexual dysfunction this valentines day.
Painful sex is particularly reported amongst ladies in their late 50's and 60's which can be linked to menopausal changes and vaginal dryness issues. Followed by young sexually active ladies. I for one can vouch for dyspareunia issues for the first six months postnatally (for those of you that know me, sorry for the over sharing but I wouldn't be doing my job fully if I didn't acknowledge this!) After having a kiwi suction delivery requiring an episiotomy I bruised horrendously which caused me to sit down consciously and tentatively for at least 6 weeks followed by months of cautious touch and tenderness. Thankfully I can say that things have healed well and any discomfort has been relieved, but had I not 'physioed' myself and applied all the advice, exercises and treatment I would give to a client in a similar position things may be very different now.
Painful sex was seen to be strongly associated with vaginal dryness, feeling anxious about sex and lack of enjoyment of sex. Vaginal dryness is a common byproduct of the menopause but it is also apparent in the early months postnatally related to hormonal level changes and breastfeeding. There are many other emotional, psychological and physical factors contributing to painful sex which can be complex to treat.
People may associate pelvic floor exercises (kegals) with prevention of incontinence but may not know that strengthening, toning and knowing how to relax the pelvic floor muscles has an impact on sexual enjoyment and performance too. A condition called vaginismus can develop as a consequence of a vicious cycle of experiencing pain (i.e from childbirth and healing tissues), anxiety and fear, causing tension in your body including the pelvic floor muscles which causes tightening around the vagina and pain during intercourse.
Pelvic Health and Women's Health Physiotherapists specialise in completing assessments and examinations of the pelvic floor to help you understand what your pelvic floor is doing and if it is contributing to your symptoms. It is very common for you to not know what your pelvic floor muscles are doing, this is partly related to the fact that you cannot see them in action like you can with your biceps on an arm curl. Therefore, if you are in doubt, don't delay and seek a Women's Health Physiotherapists advice. You can download a free pelvic floor exercise booklet from the POGP website http://pogp.csp.org.uk/publications.
For the month of February The Powder Room Physio is offering 10% discount on purchase of a Mummy MOT postnatal assessment gift certificate. If you are suffering from pain during sex, regardless if you had your child 6 weeks ago or 6 years ago then contact The Powder for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org, 07734455184.
For more information on how you can get involved in the Pucker up campaign, visit: http://pogp.csp.org.uk/news/2017/01/31/pucker-your-pelvic-floor-pogp-campaign-february-2017