It’s time to put this outrageous story of one vulva’s experience with vulvodynia into words. I started my blog over a year ago, but I have found it easier to talk about my fibromyalgia and chronic pain instead of the ‘pelvic pain’ – the pain in my vulva and vagina. Putting it ‘out there’ is scary because it is such a private part (yes, pun intended) of my life. But that’s exactly why people like me need to write about it. There is so much stigma and shame, along with ignorance and misinformation. Vulvodynia means chronic pain of the vulva, which is the outer part of women’s genitals, and includes the outer labia, inner labia, vestibule (opening to the vagina), clitoris, and urethra. The vulvar pain does not come from an infection, allergic reaction, skin condition or other identifiable cause, and there is often no visible change in appearance to the vulva. Vulvodynia can be generalized (cause pain everywhere in the vulva) or localized (to a specific area of the vulva, often the vestibule, which is the vaginal opening). The pain can be constant or intermittent. One specific sub-group of women have vestibulodynia (pain of the vestibule), which is usually felt when pressure is applied to the area, such as when trying to have sex, when sitting down or wearing tight pants. How does it feel? Raw, burning, irritated, throbbing, aching, tingling… there are many different sensations. The condition is common and affects up to one in four women at some point in their lives, according to the National Vulvodynia Association. For some women the condition spontaneously resolves, but many other women have to manage it throughout their lives. I fit into this second group, and this new blog section will describe the five year process of coming to terms with my vulvodynia and the ongoing process of learning to manage it.
Great Sources of Information:
When Sex Hurts: A Woman’s Guide to Banishing Sexual Pain by Dr. Andrew Goldstein et. al.
The Vulvodynia Survival Guide by Howard Glazer