We’d be willing to bet that most people have never heard of endometriosis. Or at least if they have, they heard the complicated medical-sounding term and immediately switched off. But endometriosis is a serious and often very painful condition that can have a big impact on your physical health and your sex life.
The good news? March is endometriosis awareness month, and there’ll be peaceful marches across the world this Saturday 25th, for people to join and spread the word about the condition. So now is your perfect chance to find out all about it, and steps you can take if you think endometriosis might be affecting your sex life.
What is endometriosis?
AKA: the science bit. Endometriosis is a long-term, chronic condition that causes womb tissue to grow outside the womb – for instance in the fallopian tubes, on the ovaries or in the lining of the abdomen. Although the condition isn’t visible from the outside, it can cause a lot of pain for the person it affects, including making periods and certain kinds of sex painful.
The NHS website suggests that around 2 million women in the UK between the ages of 25-40 have endometriosis, though charities like Endometriosis UK highlight that one of the key problems for people with endometriosis is getting diagnosed in the first place, so the number may well be higher. Many women report going to their doctor to talk about endometriosis, and being told simply that their pain is normal or to be expected. It can take months – or even years – to get diagnosed and start treatment.
That’s why Endometriosis Month is so important – hat tip to sex blogger LittleSwitchBitch for writing about it this week, and inspiring us to help spread the word. The aim is to raise awareness of endometriosis – the symptoms, effects, and how people with endometriosis can manage their condition. And because we’re a sex toy company, we’re going to focus a bit on the impact of endometriosis on your sex life.
Endometriosis and sex
Many people who have endometriosis find penetrative sex painful. It can range from slight discomfort after sex to agony that makes penetrative sex impossible. A 2005 study from the University of Genoa found that women with endometriosis reported painful sex at a much higher rate (65%) than women without endometriosis (35%). Sometimes the pain is a sharp stabbing pain or an ache during sex, and it can last anywhere up to 24-48 hours afterwards. So what are the options when penetrative sex is painful for you?
We talk a lot on this blog about different conditions (such as vaginismus), and how they can affect your sex life. The first thing to note – and we wish we could skywrite this to get the message out to everyone – is that sex does not always have to involve penetration in order to be pleasurable. Thanks to some excellent sex educators, the word is spreading that sex is about more than just penetration – sex toys, techniques and positions can help you enjoy a fantastic sex life without the pain.
It’s partly because we have the right tools for it: our PULSE III DUO is a couples vibrator that can be used on a variety of non-penetrative positions. On the inside of the toy, there’s an oscillating PulsePlate™ which sits up against the frenulum and sends waves of pleasure through his penis. On the outside of the toy there’s a powerful vibrator that stimulates you, meaning you can have the closeness of sex without painful penetration.
Alongside, of course, oral sex, manual sex (hand jobs), frotting and any of the other options on the table, sex toys offer extra options for people who don’t get off on penetration – or who find the whole thing painful.
The US website Endometriosis also recommends that you experiment with different times of the month. It may be that for you penetrative sex is your favourite way to get off, and there are certain times in your monthly cycle when you can do it pain-free. They also recommend testing out different depths of penetration, angles and speeds.
“Some women are able to enjoy intercourse if it is shallow, or if slow and gentle penetration is used. You may like to try experimenting with foreplay and artificial lubricants. Some women are able have pleasurable intercourse if there is plenty of foreplay to stimulate the natural lubricants in the vagina or if a lubricant such as KY Jelly is used.”
There is plenty that you can do – from using sex toys to testing techniques – so if you suspect you have endometriosis, don’t panic – it does not mean the death of your sex life. However, in order to get diagnosed and have help with your symptoms, here are some resources that can help you.
What should I do if I have endometriosis?
If you think you might have endometriosis, the first thing you should do is talk to your doctor. They should be able to help you with a diagnosis, and if you’re diagnosed they can talk you through the possible options. Hormone treatment, painkillers, and in some cases surgery to remove the endometrial tissue. The NHS website has some more information on endometriosis, but given that one of the problems reported by many women who suffer from it is that they struggle to get diagnosed by a doctor, you might also want to visit the Endometriosis UK support page.
The other thing you can do (hint hint) is share this article on your social media channels using the tag #EndoMarch – help spread the word about endometriosis, and if there is an endo March happening in your area on 25th March, why not join in?