If you are experiencing regular pain during sex this can be a source of embarrassment and concern. Something that is enjoyable and a source of pleasure has become uncomfortable. Painful intercourse, also known as dyspareunia, has many causes and affects nearly all women at some point during their lifetime. While it may be a fleeting issue for some, for others this problem may become long term.
Causes of Painful Sex
If you suddenly experience pain during sex this could be a sign of a gynecological problem such as fibroids, endometriosis, or ovarian cysts. Other causes of painful sex include:
- Hormonal fluctuations (e.g. perimenopause)
- Vaginitis: inflammation of the vagina
- Vaginismus: tightening of the muscles near the opening of the vagina
- Skin conditions
- Urinary tract infections
- Vulvodynia: a pain disorder that affects the vulva
Pain can take on many different forms. Some women experience deep vaginal pain, while others may notice muscle spasms or cramping during or after sex. While painful sex may often be physical, when there are no physical problems it’s also important to consider that the problem may be psychological.
The goal of your gynecologist is to pinpoint what’s causing pain during intercourse as soon as possible so that a treatment plan can be created. During your checkup, your OBGYN will ask you questions about your symptoms, as well as medical history. From there, a physical examination and pelvic exam is performed to check for signs such as cysts or fibroids, which could be leading to pain. Depending on your sexual history and the symptoms you are experiencing, your doctor may also recommend getting STD testing to rule out any sexually transmitted infections.
Sometimes an ultrasound or other diagnostic testing is needed to further evaluate the reproductive organs to pinpoint problems. There are some simple measures you can take to try and alleviate pain during sexual intercourse. Some of these options include:
- Taking a warm bath prior to sex
- Using a lubricant
- Talking with your partner
- Applying an ice pack to the area if burning occurs after intercourse
The treatment that your gynecologist will recommend will depend on the cause of your pain. For example, a urinary tract infection can easily be treated with medication. If women experience pain as a result of the effects of menopause they may be given an estrogen vaginal cream to treat atrophy of the vaginal walls. Vaginal relaxation exercises and behavioral therapy may be recommended for certain conditions such as vaginismus, to reduce muscle contractions and tightening around the vagina.
If you are experiencing persistent pain during sex that is taking the enjoyment out of being intimate with your partner it’s important that you turn to an OBGYN who can help you figure out what’s going on and how to best treat it.
Uterine fibroids are a common problem, affecting women of reproductive age. Sometimes these benign tumors don’t cause symptoms, so a woman may not even realize that she has fibroids until she visits her OBGYN for an annual checkup. Fibroids may be detected during a regular pelvic exam; however, further testing such as an ultrasound is usually needed for a diagnosis.
What Are Fibroids?
Sometimes fibroids can cause symptoms such as pelvic pain, bowel and urinary problems, pain during sex, and heavy bleeding. While these tumors are benign and very prevalent they can affect fertility; therefore, it’s important that you see a gynecologist once a year for a full gynecological checkup even if you aren’t experiencing symptoms. The symptoms you experience depend upon how many fibroids are present, as well as their location and size.
Since fibroids affect women differently there isn’t just one way to treat them. Often, your gynecologist may recommend just watching and monitoring the fibroid if you are experiencing little to no symptoms. Since fibroids usually grow slowly or don’t grow at all there isn’t much concern that the fibroid will continue to grow if left untreated.
There are also medications that your OBGYN can prescribe to treat issues affecting your menstrual cycle such as heavy bleeding or pelvic pain. These medications won’t get rid of fibroids but they can shrink them. Common medications used to treat uterine fibroids include gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists, a progestin-releasing intrauterine device (IUD) and tranexamic acid.
If the fibroids are large or causing severe symptoms then your gynecologist may suggest surgery or noninvasive procedures also geared toward removing the uterine fibroids. One such procedure uses a noninvasive MRI-guided ultrasound surgery in order to destroy fibroids while also preserving the healthy uterine tissue. There are also minimally invasive procedures such as a uterine artery embolization or laparoscopic myolysis. Women who are looking to get pregnant may not be right for some of these procedures; therefore, it’s important to talk with your doctor about the pros and cons of these treatments before deciding on the best approach for treating fibroids.
If you are experiencing symptoms of fibroids it’s important that you talk with your gynecologist to find out what’s going on. Even though these growths are benign it’s still important to make sure that you are getting the treatment and care you need to reduce symptoms and potential complications.
Find out why visiting your OBGYN every year is crucial to your health.
We all lead busy lives. Between picking kids up from school, juggling work and the family schedule and putting food on the table, it’s no wonder that it might be challenging to schedule your next haircut let alone a doctor’s appointment. But if you aren’t keeping up with your annual gynecological visit find out why you should make this a top priority.
The long and short of it is that these annual gynecological exams can save lives. Sure, they aren’t the most comfortable exams, but they could protect you from breast, cervical and ovarian cancer. Most of these cancers don’t display outward symptoms right away, so the only way to actually detect them is through these annual exams.
By avoiding these yearly exams you run the risk of infections, undiagnosed health conditions and even unintentional pregnancies. By coming in to see your OBGYN every year you can reduce your risk.
When should women start getting annual evaluations?
By the time a woman reaches 21 years old they should start coming in yearly for these exams. Of course, if a woman becomes sexually active at an earlier age, she should start coming in sooner.
Why are some other reasons why I should visit my gynecologist?
Beside the obvious health benefits there are so many other things that your gynecologist can do for you and your health. We can discuss menstrual issues, determine the cause of your abdominal pain and discuss different birth control options.
What do annual exams involve?
When you come into the office, you can expect that we will discuss your medical history before we perform a routine physical exam. We want to find out as much about your family history, past hospitalizations and health problems, as well as any symptoms you may be experiencing.
Then we will perform a physical exam to check the health of your uterus and ovaries. A Pap smear may also be performed (about every three years), in which we collect a few cells from the cervix to check for the presence of cancerous cells. This test is the best way to detect cervical cancer early on when it’s much easier to treat.
As you can see, visiting your gynecologist once a year is vital to good health. Preventive care is the best way to detect issues early on when they are much easier to treat. These visits will provide you with the care and piece of mind you need to continue leading a healthy life.
Coming in to see your OBGYN once a year is an important part of every woman’s health. Even if you aren’t experiencing symptoms these examinations could prevent issues from happening and can allow your doctor to detect problems early on when problems are often much easier to treat. If we detect any suspicious growths or other symptoms during your pelvic examination then we may recommend getting a biopsy. There are different diagnostic biopsies that we may recommend depending on the symptoms and issues you are experiencing.
This biopsy is often performed if a Pap test or other diagnostic test detected abnormal cells in the cervix. In some cases, if you’ve been diagnosed with human papillomavirus (HPV) you may also require a cervical biopsy since some types of HPV can cause cervical cancer. A cervical biopsy may also help determine if the abnormal cells are potentially precancerous.
There are a few different ways that a cervical biopsy can be performed. Of course, no matter what technique is used, a cervical biopsy will need to remove a sample of the abnormal tissue for testing. Cervical biopsies are performed by a punch, cone or endocervical curettage method.
Just like a cervical biopsy removes a sample of tissue from the cervix, this specific biopsy will remove a sample from the endometrium (the lining of the uterus). This biopsy may also be one way that your gynecologist can check hormone levels that can affect the health of your endometrium. This type of biopsy may also be recommended if you are experiencing irregular, heavy or long-term bleeding and aren’t sure of the cause.
This procedure is a great way for your OBGYN to check the health of your cervix, vagina, and vulva to look for any signs or symptoms of the disease. Just like with a cervical biopsy, a colposcopy may be recommended if your Pap test came back abnormal. During your colposcopy, a small sample of tissue will be removed and examined. This diagnostic procedure is a great way to detect and diagnose certain issues such as cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix), precancerous tissue or genital warts.
If you have questions about your upcoming biopsy or if you are experiencing any symptoms or changes then it’s time you visited an OBGYN who can help you.
Osteoporosis weakens your bones and can cause them to break easily. The condition is particularly common in older people. In fact, more than 53 million people in the U.S. either have the disease or at high risk for developing it, according to the NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center.
How does osteoporosis affect bones?
If you have osteoporosis, your bones gradually become less dense and more porous. You may also experience thinning in the outside edges of the long bones in your body. Because of these changes, it's very easy to break a bone if you fall, even if you don't fall very hard. Osteoporosis affects both sexes but is more common in women. If you're female, you're more likely to be affected by the disease because:
- Women's bones are generally smaller and thinner than men's.
- Estrogen, a hormone that helps protect bones, decreases at menopause.
- Women tend to live longer than men. The longer you live, the more likely you'll develop osteoporosis-related problems.
What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?
In the early stages of the disease, you probably won't notice any changes. Symptoms generally don't occur unless your bones have weakened considerably. If you have osteoporosis, you may notice:
- You are shorter than you once were.
- Your posture has changed, and it's hard to stand perfectly upright without stooping.
- You have back pain due to compression fractures in your vertebrae.
- Your bones break easily.
- Dental X-rays show that you've lost bone in your jaw.
How is osteoporosis treated?
Although your bones will never be as strong or as dense as they were when you were younger, treatment is available to strengthen your bones and prevent breaks. Your doctor can prescribe medication that will slow the rate of bone break down and reduce your risk of fractures. In addition to taking medication, it's important to participate in weight-bearing activity and exercises that strengthen your bones and help improve your balance. Eating a diet high in calcium and taking supplements that contain calcium and vitamin D can also help protect your bones.
If you're concerned that you may have osteoporosis, talk to your OB/GYN about your risk factors and symptoms. Prompt treatment is the key to preventing the potentially serious consequences of this disease.
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