There’s a new diagnostic name on the street for pelvic pain, and it’s a long one. Genito pelvic pain/penetration disorder (GPPPD) is a combination of painful sex (dyspareunia) and involuntary vaginal muscle spasms (vaginismus).
A persistent condition, it’s diagnosed by extreme pain or ongoing discomfort, usually while trying to have sex. It causes emotional distress and a (totally understandable!) loss of interest in sex.
Everyone’s experience of genito pelvic pain and penetration disorder is unique. And it often occurs among women in early adulthood or during peri- and postmenopause.
Symptoms can come about at the first experience of sex, or can (annoyingly!) begin after you’ve been enjoying pain-free sex for some time.
Most people with genito pelvic pain and penetration disorder have complex, multifaceted symptoms and it’s often a tough challenge for professionals to assess and treat.
If you’re reading this you’re probably wondering what the systems of genito pelvic pain and penetration disorder are:
Many practice professionals believe there are distinct differences between dyspareunia and vaginismus and they shouldn’t be lumped together under one umbrella term as the DSM-5 now does with “genito-pelvic penetration/pain disorder”.
However, in order to be diagnosed with genito pelvic pain and penetration disorder, you need to have experienced persistent symptoms for six months or more.
You also need to rule out other issues like relationship problems, effects of medication and other medical conditions. Unfortunately by the time you get a diagnosis you’ve often already been suffering a while. But don’t let it get you down, there is a treatment plan out there waiting for you!
While experts haven’t yet worked out how genito pelvic pain penetration disorder develops, there are a few things they think are the main causes, including:
No pain no gain does not apply here (no siree) and even if you can "handle it" your body remembers.
And by pushing through pain you may be creating more problems.
You don’t have to live with painful sex and you can get help. If you think something might be going janky with your pelvic floor your first step is to find an awesome pelvic health specialist who’ll help you get to the bottom of your issues (like a physiotherapist or gynaecologist).
Because it’s such a complex area, many people with genito pelvic pain and penetration disorder actually find that they need a combination of treatments, from a variety of experts, to see some improvement in their condition. Think of it like building a team of awesome people who have your health as their top priority. Keep asking for help until you find the right team to give you the support and treatment options you need.
Your specialist will give you a thorough check over and assess where your body is at. During your assessment you’ll get an internal and external examination to check the function of your pelvic floor muscles. Your specialist will check how you contract and relax the muscles and will feel for any tight spots or trigger points. They might also check how the bones and muscles of your ribs, lower back, hips and sacroiliac joints are working given it’s all connected.
Vaginal trainers help your body to relax and work to desensitise your vulvar and vaginal area. This can make it easier (and less painful) to have sex and use tampons. Dilation therapy, on the other hand, helps to gently stretch your vaginal walls and tissue.
We can’t rave enough about the silicone dilators from Soul Source for both vaginal training and dilation. After trying many (many) dilators, these are our number one choice for genito pelvic pain and penetration disorder. They’re also perfect for dyspareunia, vaginismus, menopause, post-radiation therapy and more.
One of the biggest causes of pain or discomfort during sex is not enough lubrication. Dry vaginal walls cause friction, and friction isn’t fun for anyone (anyone!).
Your body produces its own natural lubrication when you’re turned on. But how wet you get isn’t just about desire. Things like medication, age, breastfeeding and hormonal fluctuations can all have an impact on the amount of natural lubrication your body produces. While extended foreplay can help (and is loads of fun) if you’re worried about how wet you are it can be a real buzz kill.
Here’s where a good lubrication can help. Not all lubricants are not created equal. We have lubricants and vaginal moisturisers for genito pelvic pain and penetration disorder to get things feeling better again. They’re natural, nurturing and made from the highest quality ingredients to help you feel good about using a tampon, toy, your partner’s penis, or vaginal dilators.
Our TendHer reusable perineal cooling pads are super soft (like super soft) and perfect for cooling hypersensitive and delicate areas of a woman’s body. Comfortable, cooling and discreet. No-one will know you are wearing it— it can be our little secret. Bonus! You can also use TendHer pads warm to help relieve muscle spasms or to relax the area prior to vaginal training, dilation or trigger point therapy.
Using an intimate wearable that allows you to control the depth of penetration during sex can help you manage, or even eliminate, pain. The Ohnut is designed to feel just like skin. It’s so comfortable (like a gentle hug) you and your partner will barely notice it’s there. And because you no longer have to worry about whether penetration will hurt, the Ohnut allows both you and your partner to focus on what matters most, connection, enjoyment and fun. Want to know what it feels like for the guy? Check out the video via our shop.