As many as one in 12 women experience vulvodynia ― a sharp, chronic pain in the area around the opening of the vagina ― at least once in her life. But for some the condition is chronic, leading to painful, regular flare ups that can last for months or even years.
As the Mayo Clinic explains it, the pain and burning associated with vulvodynia makes it incredibly uncomfortable to sit down for long periods of time or to have sex.
In the BuzzFeed video above, a woman named Becky explains how painful sex can be when you have vulvar vestibulitis syndrome (VVS), a form of vulvodynia where the pain is felt only in the vestibule (the area around the opening of the vagina), typically in response to touch or pressure.
“There was a night that I was trying to have sex and it all of a sudden felt like there was a piece of glass being shoved into me,” she says. “So much so that I actually tried to look for something.”
When she found out she had VVS, Becky was in a relationship with a man named Corey. Dealing with the condition drove the couple apart for a while, but eventually, they got back together. Today, Becky and Corey embrace a broader definition of sex and recognize that intimacy is so much more than vaginal penetration.
Though the cause of vulvodynia isn’t completely known, recent research has suggested that it could possibly be caused by chronic yeast infections.
Those with vulvodynia can seek out a number of potential treatments for the condition. According to the Mayo Clinic, treatment options include topical anesthetics, biofeedback therapy, pelvic floor therapy, medications to reduce pain and surgery (where the skin and tissue that seems to be affected is removed).
VVS is just one potential cause of pain during intercourse; others include vaginal dryness, vaginismus (a condition where the muscles of the vagina clamp tightly shut during penetration) and side effects of certain illnesses and medical treatments. If you suffer from painful sex, reach out to your doctor.
Watch the video above for more of Becky’s personal story.