The truth around vulvodynia

Everything may look normal down below, but as many as 1 in 10 women may be suffering from Vulvodynia, a persistent unexplained pain around the vulva and in the vagina, which may feel sore like a burning, stinging, or throbbing and may be exacerbated by touch such as washing, using sanitary products or sex.

The cause of vulvodynia is largely unknown, but it is thought to be due to pain receptors around the intimate area being hypersensitive to touch. This can be caused by surgery, childbirth, trapped nerves, but most often no cause is found.

It’s important we have these conversations as it can affect many aspects of a woman’s life such as mood and relationships.

Tips for dealing with Vulvodynia:

  • Avoid irritants which could exacerbate the sensitivity, such as fragranced body washes, soaps or sanitary products. Opt for using water, emollients or pH balanced feminine products such as the Femfresh Soothing Wash, which is p-H balanced for the intimate skin and dermatologically and gynaecologically tested as well as being enriched with hydrating cranberry and cornflower extracts.
  • Wear loose cotton underwear and avoid tight clothing which could irritate the skin
  • Avoid wearing underwear at night
  • Apply soothing cool packs to the area to soothe discomfort
  • Focus on reducing general life stress as we know stress and mental wellbeing can affect women’s experience of vulvodynia.

    Tips for reducing stress include mindfulness, prioritising 8 hours good quality sleep, regular exercise and consulting your doctor

  • Don’t avoid sex completely, but instead communicate your concerns to your partner to make it comfortable for you! Some women may also benefit from applying a topical local anaesthetic gel to the vulval area about 20 minutes before having sex.
  • Pelvic floor exercises can help relax the muscles around the vagina and may reduce tension and pain in the area

There are no definitive treatments for vulvodynia, and it’s important to ensure your symptoms are not due to infection, which can be easily treated. In some cases, women will be prescribed a type of anti-depressant medication are also good for treating ‘neuropathic pain’ which is pain caused by hypersensitivity of nerve endings.

Living with a long-term painful condition like vulvodynia can be emotionally challenging and I would encourage all women experiencing this to speak to their GP about how they may be feeling and join support networks such as Vulval Pain Society.

Dr Frankie


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