How Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy Helped Me Recover From Vaginismus

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Last month, Sigourney shared Martha’s Success Story, told from her perspective as Martha’s pelvic floor physical therapist. This week, Martha was kid enough to share her experience, in her own words. We hope her story provides hope for the many, many other women suffering from primary vaginismus or other causes of painful sex. We are sharing many success stories this year, people need to know they can and will get better!

From Martha: 

I’ve never had sexual encounters for most of my adult life until I got married a few years ago. I was looking forward to deepening my marriage and my new relationship with sexual intimacy. All my life, I’ve heard that people experience pain the first time they have sex. I knew it would be the same for me but I was ready for the challenge because I knew everyone overcame it eventually. However, my initial experiences with sexual intimacy soon became disappointing, frustrating, confusing and just painful. Soon, my excitement and any positive feelings I had dissipated and slowly feelings of alienation, darkness, and undesirability overshadowed it. I felt rejected by my husband’s lack of interest in starting this new relationship with me. Then, I didn’t know he had some physical issues he was struggling with but I was kept in the dark for a while. My self-confidence soon plummeted, and I didn’t feel I was attractive enough to inspire sexual feelings in him. I didn’t feel desired by him the way I have heard most couples talk about their honeymoon period or the fact they couldn’t get enough of each other and was always hitting the sack. I felt so broken because I desire having a relationship with him through physical intimacy. But I couldn’t understand the situation I was in.

When I finally got to the bottom of his issue, I was already in a low position where I felt so broken about myself and my body. I remember when we finally decided to have sex, the pain was unbearable and it further made me feel hopeless of the situation I was in. I talked to family members whom I could trust. I told myself maybe the pain wasn’t that bad and I was just being wimpy and all I needed to do was push through the initial pain and overcome it. I tried and I failed and felt even more broken. I went to my primary care doctor and talked to her about my situation and she spoke about going to see a pelvic floor therapist to help me with my situation. I’ve never heard of a pelvic floor therapist and I kept researching to understand what they do and I also came across stories of women who had gone through what I have gone through.

 About a year later, I decided to give pelvic floor therapist a shot and found Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center. I made my first appointment and showed up. I remember meeting Sigourney for the first time  we talked about my history, my pain, why I was here and I remember feeling so comfortable sharing my issues and concerns with her. She was empathetic, kind and patient and reassured me that it is a common problem among many women and I don’t have to suffer in silence. She explained what was in my control and what I could do to help alleviate my pain. She also explained that it’s just a matter of exercising the muscles in the pelvic region since it’s never been used. She showed me some exercises that I could do daily to help relax the muscles around my pelvic region and we talked about using the 5 size dilator set as a daily practice to use the muscles in that area.

 I walked out of the office that day feeling hopeful, relieved and positive. Most importantly, I walked out of the office feeling HEARD and SEEN by another human being who could help me with overcoming the issue. I was so happy to know that the pain wasn’t “all in my head.” That it was real and I felt my experiences were validated.

 I went to see Sigourney religiously every week and outside of clinic hours, I tried religiously to keep up with my pelvic floor exercises. The treatment was instrumental in helping me work up the different dilator sizes, starting from 1 to 5. Also, the treatments made me feel confident about my body and made me feel I wasn’t broken. During the treatments, Sigourney would spend a lot of time explaining my anatomy and also she was very patient in answering my questions about the mind-body connection. She also helped me with providing suggestions on how to inspire sexual intimacy with my husband and gave me helpful recommendations such as speaking to a sex therapist, what I can do to help my husband deal with his physical issue.

 The turning point for me came when I was able to use dilator size 4 easily in my daily practice. I told Sigourney that I was ready to have sexual penetration with my husband on my trip to Hawaii. Sigourney was very encouraging and felt I was ready. She explained how I should prepare for the encounter to loosen up the muscles. The part of me that wanted an intimate relationship  felt like I have a chance at it. I was able to have sexual penetration with my husband pain-free and I just broke into tears of happiness when it happened. I never thought sexual penetration was possible for me. I never thought I’ll have a chance at experiencing sexual intimacy and a chance at starting a family.  

 Sigourney gave me a chance at reclaiming my body and even when I didn’t believe in myself, she never let me give up. The emotional side effects with dealing with this can be very real.  Finding a good treatment plan involving a pelvic floor therapist can be a daunting and an overwhelming search. However, I highly recommend women experiencing with pain to seek help so as not to feel isolated and alienated.

For more information on the different causes and treatments for painful sex check out our book, Pelvic Pain Explained and the Podcasts, YouTube Videos, and blogs on our Vulvodynia Resource List

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