By: Allison Waldbeser
About a month or so ago, a woman I met at a new moon circle (a meditation circle) approached me and we started talking about menstrual cups (my favorite topic!), the fertility awareness method, and periods in general. She told me that she’d love to use a menstrual cup but probably wouldn’t be able to because she has vulvodynia.
Don’t know what vulvodynia is? Neither did I.
So it got me thinking, many of us take having a uterus and vagina for granted. There are many menstruating humans out there who suffer from many conditions such as endometriosis, pelvic floor disorders, vaginitis, vulvodynia, and more. It’s important to spread awareness on these conditions to educate ourselves and others, because not all menstruating humans are the same. You already knew that I’m sure ;).
After the brief vulvodynia conversation I had with the friend I made at the moon cirlce, I needed more people to become aware of it. Why? Maybe you have it, or your friend does, or your neighbors cousins friend does. Whatever the reason you’re reading this may be, you can count on Lunette to break taboos and shed light on conversations like this one.
WHAT IS VULVODYNIA?
Vulvodynia is a chronic disorder in which people experience unexplainable vulvar pain. Different areas of the vulva or vagina (the vulva is the external genitalia which includes the clitoris and the labia, and the vagina is the internal canal that connects to the cervix) are sensitive to touch, leading to burning or painful sensations. As much as 16% of menstruating humans in the United States suffer from vulvodynia pain conditions. There is very little research on it (shocker), which is why the causes for vulvodynia are still unknown. The triggering factor is estimated to be, among other things, a bacterial infection, recurrent yeast infections or the use of oral contraceptives, but the underlying truth is still a mystery.
The most common symptoms are chronic burning or stinging in the vagina, or sharp, stabbing pain or soreness on the vulva. People who experience this discomfort might have a hard time sitting in places for a long period of time, having sexual intercourse, or even inserting a tampon or menstrual cup.
IS THERE A CURE?
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no cure for vulvodynia, and treatment can be challenging (but not impossible!). Due to the fact that all of our bodies are different, there is no one treatment for all. Based on the individuals body, they might have to experience multiple different types of treatments.
A few common treatments include anesthetic creams, which will numb the area that is experiencing pain, antidepressants, hormone creams, anesthetic injections, or botox to name a few. For those who might not want to take any medications, physical therapy might be a good option, which helps strengthen and relax the pelvic floor muscles.
Some researchers believe that diet also plays a decisive role in treating the symptoms, and we’re not surprised – your diet plays a crucial role in your health! If all other treatment methods have not eased the symptoms, your doctor might consider surgery as a last resort, which would essentially remove the painful tissue.
YOU'RE NOT ALONE!
We don’t want to make this a scary blog post, and we hope that you learned something from it! However, if you think you have vulvodynia or know someone that does, you don’t have to suffer in silence! If you are dealing with this, know that there are medical remedies as well as psychological support groups and therapy to help you cope with this painful condition.
Remember, we <3 you!
If you’d like to share your experience with volvodynia, please reach out or comment below! Help us spread awareness and educate more people on the matter.