Women in their reproductive years can experience vaginal pain, infections and painful sex.
Some common conditions that can be at the root of the problem include:
Postpartum vaginal pain: 90% of women reported vaginal pain after childbirth and during breastfeeding, anywhere from 6 weeks - 18 months postpartum:
- Pelvic muscle trauma: The pelvic floor muscles (levator muscles) elongate during pregnancy and vaginal births. As a result, overextension occurs in 30% of women requiring postpartum strengthening and tightening of pelvic muscles.
For other women, a traumatic childbirth experience (for example a difficult or prolonged delivery) can cause over contraction and involuntary tightening of the pelvic and vaginal muscles that cause vaginal pain during penetration.
- Vaginal tears and scarring: During vaginal delivery, tears to the perineum (the skin between the vagina and the anus) and the vaginal wall are very common. Sometimes a surgical cut called an episiotomy is performed to prevent tears. Even small vaginal tears or stitches can lead to scar tissue, that can cause discomfort, tightening in the vaginal opening and a painful return to sex.
- Vaginal dryness during breastfeeding: During breastfeeding estrogen hormone levels are low, to enable lactation. As a result of, the vagina becomes less acidic, dry and more susceptible to bacterial infections (BV), yeast infections. Many women also experience vaginal atrophy that can cause sex to be painful.
Recurrent Vaginal Infections: ~30% of women suffer from Bacterial Vaginosis and 75% of will experience at least one yeast infection in their lives. Half will have recurring infections, and once you get one yeast infection, you’re likely to get another.
Unprotected sex, antidepressants, soaps and hormonal contraceptives cause the vagina to become\s less acidic, dry, and susceptible to bacterial infections (BV), yeast infections, or sexually transmitted diseases that cause irritation, itchiness, burning, discharge and odor.