Overcoming Genito-Pelvic Pain Disorder (GPPD) to Achieve a Healthy, Satisfying Sex Life
When 28-year-old Sarah* came to Sydney Pelvic Clinic, she was at a loss about how to address her genito-pelvic pain, which was preventing her from having penetrative sex or using tampons.
Sarah had been experiencing burning and stinging sensations when attempting intercourse with her partner, along with a feeling that the entrance to her vagina was blocked. She was unable to use tampons during her period and had never experienced an orgasm.
Aside from her physical symptoms, Sarah discussed certain cultural barriers to intercourse and sexual pleasure, including negative beliefs about sex and pregnancy out of wedlock.
Previous treatment with a gynecologist had been unhelpful; Sarah found the idea of using dilators overwhelming and was made to feel as though the primary issue was psychological in nature.
As a result, by the time she came to Sydney Pelvic Clinic, Sarah felt lost, helpless and distressed at the thought that there must be something wrong with her.
Getting to the root of the pain
A physical examination revealed a number of findings, including overactivity of the pelvic floor muscles, abdominals, inner thighs, and gluteals, a narrow introitus (entrance to the vagina), and an inability to channel breath into the belly.
From a psychological perspective, Sarah displayed a level of mental discomfort when asked to view her vagina.
An integrated approach to manage GPPD
Firstly, by educating Sarah on the causes and treatment options of her genito-pelvic pain disorder, we could ensure she felt in control and comfortable with the next steps.
Sarah commenced bi-weekly physio sessions, which included:
- External muscle release
- Gentle and targeted internal vaginal release, when appropriate
- Dilator therapy when Sarah felt ready, as graded exposure to penetration
As part of an integrated approach, Sarah’s treatment plan included targeted breathing exercises, external pelvic stretches, mindfulness techniques, and our Physio Restore sessions to help ‘down train’ the nervous system and form a connection with her pelvis.
She was also encouraged to continue with outer-course with her partner and explore her ‘brakes’ and ‘accelerators’ in relation to intimacy.
What were the outcomes of Sarah’s treatment?
Following three months of treatment, Sarah was able to exclusively use tampons for her period and had developed a beautiful connection with her own vagina.
Crucially, her first attempt at penetrative intercourse with her partner was a success and she began to experience orgasms for the first time. She also felt comfortable using the largest size dilator.
Speaking about her experiences with Sydney Pelvic Clinic, Sarah says, “You taught me so much about myself and my body – achieving sex was only the tip of the iceberg”.
*In the interest of patient confidentiality, names have been changed