September 4 is World Sexual Health Day, and in light of this day we’re tackling a topic that many women may be embarrassed to discuss: sexual pain.
Sexual pain is caused by many factors, one of which is related to endometriosis, a condition where the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows outside the uterus. Endometriosis can cause pelvic pain during sexual intercourse, as well as other sexual and non-sexual pains that can have a negative impact on sexual quality of life.
Painful sex can increase anxiety and stress, lowering self-esteem, as well as negatively affecting interpersonal relationships. Endometriosis is a complex condition and requires more understanding for effective treatment. BC Women’s Centre for Pelvic Pain & Endometriosis is one of a few tertiary care centres in Canada that specializes in the management of endometriosis and pelvic pain.
Standard treatments for endometriosis include hormonal and surgical therapies, but as many as 40 per cent of patients who experience pain during sex, do not respond to these treatments or have recurrence of painful symptoms within three years after surgery.
In order to gain a better understanding of the underlying cause of the pain, BC Women’s is leading a study to look at how the central nervous system may affect women with endometriosis.
“Endometriosis affects 10 per cent of women of reproductive age or one million women in Canada,” says Dr. Paul Yong, gynecologist, BC Women’s Centre for Pelvic Pain & Endometriosis. “Half of these women experience sexual pain (specifically, pelvic pain with deep penetration during sexual activity). We are conducting a study to determine the role of the central nervous system in causing this pain.”
If the study reveals that the central nervous system plays a significant role in causing pain, treatments targeting the nervous system should be considered for women with endometriosis and sexual pain.
As part of this study, BC Women’s is currently recruiting women for a control group to determine if an increase in sexual pain is related to an increase in pain sensitivity elsewhere in the body. A non-invasive test is used to apply pressure to a test site until the sensation of the pressure changes to the sensation of pain, at which point the applied pressure will be removed. Results from the control group will be used for comparison to women with endometriosis.
If you have any questions or would like more information about the study or are interested in participating, please contact Natasha Orr.