How Does Pelvic Pain Impact a Person’s Sexual Health?
Pelvic pain occurs in the lower abdomen and pelvis. It can be caused by several different conditions in people with male and female reproductive systems.
For people with vulvas, pelvic pain can be caused by endometriosis, menstrual cramps, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, ovarian cancer, ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine fibroids, vulvodynia, and more.
Conversely, for people with penises, pelvic pain can be caused by prostatitis, or inflammation of the prostate.
In addition, all individuals may suffer from pelvic pain caused by appendicitis, urinary tract infection (UTI), kidney stones, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), colon cancer, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, inguinal hernia, constipation, pelvic floor muscle disorders, and more.
Any type of chronic pain can impact a person’s sexual functioning, but pelvic pain can be especially damaging to a person’s sex life. This is because pelvic pain of any origin significantly impacts the functioning of the pelvic floor, and the pelvic floor plays a major role in a person’s sexual functioning.
If the pelvic floor is too tense due to a pelvic floor disorder, anxiety, or ongoing pelvic pain, sexual activity can become painful as well. Individuals with penises may experience pain with ejaculation, and people with vulvas may have pain with penetration or attempted penetration.
On the other hand, if the pelvic floor is too weak, it may become difficult to support normal genital function or become aroused. A weak pelvic floor can contribute to erectile dysfunction (ED), urinary or fecal incontinence during sex, and/or pelvic organ prolapse.
Chronic pelvic pain can manifest as sexual pain in several ways: pain with erections, pain with penetration, pain with ejaculation, clitoral pain, vulvar pain, and genital or perineum pain. It can also cause sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction, difficulty with lubrication, and/or difficulty with or the inability to orgasm.
Fortunately, there are treatment options available for pelvic pain. Since the treatment of pelvic pain depends greatly on its cause, it is important to have your condition properly diagnosed by a health care professional before deciding on a treatment plan. Then, your health care provider can help you determine whether the addition of pelvic floor physical therapy, medications, psychotherapy, or some combination of these options can help in treating your pelvic pain.
Pelvic floor physical therapy involves exercises to train the pelvic floor muscles to tighten or relax as necessary to ease pelvic pain and make sex more comfortable. Certain medications and supplements can help keep a person’s stools soft and relieve constipation that may be causing pelvic pain. Couple’s therapy or sex therapy may help partners navigate any sexual or relationship problems related to pelvic pain. Finally, relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and daily exercises may help alleviate some of the pelvic pain symptoms a person is experiencing.
- Akincilar, L.R. (2014, June 27). Pelvic Pain and Sex: Not Great Bedfellows. Pelvic Health & Rehabilitation Center. https://pelvicpainrehab.com/female-pelvic-pain/2233/pelvic-pain-sex-great-bedfellows/
- Cedars-Sinai. (2018, September 12). What Women Need to Know About Pain During Sex. https://www.cedars-sinai.org/blog/pain-during-sex.html
- Cleveland Clinic. (2020, May 26). Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14459-pelvic-floor-dysfunction
- Mayo Clinic. (2021, July 3). Pelvic Pain. https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/pelvic-pain/basics/causes/sym-20050898
- Soul Source. (2022, May 5). Sexual Health is Pelvic Health: Recognizing Pelvic Pain Awareness Month. https://www.soulsource.com/blogs/news/sexual-health-is-pelvic-health-recognizing-pelvic-pain-awareness-month