VulvaMy vulva has been very sore the last several days. Over the years I’ve made several attempts to try and figure out what is wrong and fix it.

As you may know, I was raped repeatedly as a small child, and my vagina/vulva was injured. From the scars and my memories of the pain, I’d say it tore from vaginal vestibule (the opening) in two places right over to my clitoris. Just thinking about that makes me want to cross my legs.

When I was a young adult (18) I began having intercourse with my then boyfriend, who was about my age. I had what I thought at the time were horrible bladder infections and yeast infections, so bad that I’d have to sit in the bath in order to control the pain when I peed. The wrinkles in condoms would cause enough friction that I’d be very sore.  During this time the doctor also found a sore he thought was herpes. He tested it and it was negative. I still don’t know what it was. I’ve had other sores since, but rarely. Gods only know what I would have been exposed to from my father, but I’ve gotten a full STD test panel and was negative for everything, which is a blessing.

I didn’t have the knowledge or assertiveness then that I have now. I went to the doctor a few times, but really they weren’t able to to resolve things so that they didn’t hurt. I researched all the usual helpful things:

  • I never did  use scented stuff near the peach (scented pantiliners, soaps, lotions, douches etc… which are supposed to cause reactions.
  • I had a doctor tell me to douche with plain vinegar and water to kill the bad bacteria and then insert a slurry of yogurt and water to restore the good bacteria. Later the same doctor told me to put boric acid in gelatin capsules and insert one when I had symptoms.
  • I bought soft cloth menstrual pads instead of the rough paper ones.
  • I  wore/wear only cotton underwear
  • I had another doctor tell me to use a blow dryer set on cool to dry my vulva after a shower or bath.

All of these things undoubtedly helped a bit, but don’t go all the way and it keeps coming back.

A few years later, having regular painful sex with another boyfriend, I went for several visits to my family doctor to see if I could clear it up once and for all. I told her I thought I had a persistent low grade yeast infection and vowed to keep going back again and again until it cleared up. She prescribed the anti-yeast vaginal suppositories, and I did that. A couple of weeks later, still sore. I went back. Puzzled, she tested me for diabetes and AIDS, which apparently both can cause recurrent yeast infections. Negative. I told her I was a survivor. She was very uncomfortable. I didn’t go back. She went on mat leave and I didn’t see her again.

A couple of years ago I went to a nurse practitioner (kind of like a super-powered nurse who does some of the things a doctor does) and told her about my little problem. I went in when the pain was pretty bad and she could see and feel the red, inflamed tissue. She told me she thought I had vascular damage from the rapes and pointed out my scars. She suggested putting cold packs on my vulva and tested me for infections (all negative). Then, after some promising and useful work,  she gave up and suggested it might be psychosomatic.   I don’t think it could be this persistent and steady if it is psychosomatic, and I’m generally not in a lot of denial about my abuse issues, so if it was really a body memory, you’d think I’d have processed it by now, I tend to not shy away from dealing with this kind of thing.  I think that an injury for which I didn’t get medical attention plus vascular damage might be a more credible cause, frankly, so I’d like to find someone knowledgeable to look at that.

I did some research and found out about vulvadynia, which I’ve written about on this blog before. The main self-care strategy for this is mostly to rinse your vulva with water after peeing to prevent the urine from irritating the sensitive tissue. This has taken my pain down a few notches, particularly in the morning, but not completely.I also read that perhaps clenching the muscles in the area can cause reduced blood flow which causes pain. I’ve been paying attention to not doing this, so it’s not related to the current pain I’ve got.

I know when you hear hoofbeats, think horse not zebra, but given that I have a zebra kind of injury here, and the usual causes have already been ruled out, it’s time for a little digging.

I’m girding my loins (so to speak) to make another pass at trying to figure out what is going on here.  I’m assuming I need some kind of specialist – but who? ob/gyn? midwife? . I googled “long term effects of vaginal injury” and got nothing. There’s a bit on STV’s in children but mostly for doctors on how to test for them following child sexual assault.

12 thoughts on “Vulvanomics”

  1. I wonder if you could describe what vulva scarring looks like? I can not find any examples online, they are either sites about genital mutilation, labioplasty or medical sites that say permanent damage from child sex abuse is extremely unlikely…none of which helps me. If you could help or recommend a good website, I would be very grateful. I hope you see this comment, as I couldn’t figure out how to message you directly. Thanks

    1. They look like any other kind of scar really. Mine are very old now, but they look like faint white lines, not raised but visible. If you think you might have scarring, I suggest taking a digital photo (or get a partner to take one) with a flash so you can look for yourself. There are girls with documented injuries that heal without scarring, which seems to be the norm. The one site I read, which I used to link to but it’s no longer available, said that scarring rare but was more likely with repeated injury over a period of time, which makes sense to me. Given that I was quite severely injured, and the wounds would have been deep, and probably it happened several times, with no stitches or medical care, that’s probably why it scarred. I know one other woman who was severely injured as a child from a rape, probably worse than me, but got sewn up and some surgical repairs done, and there was no obvious scarring, although she had quite a bit of nerve damage. Since vulvae aren’t that smooth or symmetrical at the best of times, it can be hard to notice unless you’re looking for it. No doctor doing a pelvic exam ever mentioned it to me, but when I asked about it specifically, she found them quickly. I also have a ‘tag’ right by the vaginal vestibule, which looks like a little nub of skin and which gets sore. I have some other posts which talk about how to deal with vulvadynia, which might help if you have pain or itching now.

  2. I’m so sorry to read this, and that you struggle so much.

    I’m a psychologist and have worked collaboratively and successfully with physical therapists who specialize in working with women who have intramuscular disorders in the vagina. Ask your gyn for a referral. Best of luck.

    1. Thanks for the tip – I’ll look into it. Health care in Canada is a little different, most women go to their general practitioner for pap tests and only go to a gyne for specialized care (which of course this is) on referral from that doctor. But I’ll look into it.

  3. Hi there,
    I suffered from repeated sexual abuse as a child and have had a long history of vulvodynia and vaginismus. Whilst the medical doctors continued saying there was nothing physically wrong, i have persisted in seeking treatment, continuing to believe there was a physical problem. Last year i found out that pelvic floor dysfunction can cause burning, stinging pain as well as deep muscular pain. I started seeing a physio who specialised in this area – and it has changed my life. Basically the pelvic floor muscle stetches like a figure 8 around your vagina and anus. Severe trauma to it (such as caused by sexual abuse) can cause it to become too tight, to stretch the wrong way and to go into painful spasms. The fascia which are also pulled tight by the muscle cause burning type pain. My pelvic floor dysfunction was so bad that my whole pelvis had become tilted the wrong way. Weekly physio appontments, with exercises, massage, acupuncture have helped enormously. As has my weekly yoga and pilates practise (be very careful of pilates because if done wrongly whilst the pelvic floor muscle is too tight you can actually make the problem worse). I have also slowly worked with masturbation, vaginal massage and using a vibrator to lessen the internal vaginal pain. This has allowed me to work on the scar tissue inside my vagina. I have now reached the point of being able to fully enjoy sex and vaginal penetration without pain. I hope this helps – look for a good physio who specialises in pelvic floor. also annie sprinkles series on how to do vulva massage etc is really helpful.

    1. This is great information Leilani. Thanks so much. The taboo around talking about the sexual assault of children and it’s aftereffects makes it hard to find and share this kind of information, so I really appreciate you posting. If you don’ t mind, how did you find the physio? Is there some sort of medical term or process I can ask about when making enquiries so as not to need to disclose everywhere? Anything you can share about what exercises she does with you would also be helpful I’m sure. I’ve seen some of Annie Sprinkle’s stuff before, and I’ll check into her vulva massage info.


  4. Hi Warrior,

    I wonder, since traditional medicine has failed to find the cause – have you considered Reiki?

    – Butterfly

    1. I had my wife do therapeutic touch on it, which is like reiki, and which helped a bit. What seems to have helped most recently is doing some yoga poses designed to bring more blood flow to the pelvis. The pain is gone, finally. I’m a bit tender as usual, but no actual pain. I wonder if I did them regularly if the tenderness and irritation would go as well. Worth a shot.

    1. No not yet, she’s been travelling. I’ve put in a call to make another appointment with my nurse practitioner to get her to refer me to an ob/gyne. In Canada it’s all covered, but you need a referral for specialists.

  5. Hi SDW,

    I’m sorry that you haven’t had someone who could stay with you until they helped diagnose and properly treat what you are going through. I totally agree with you, when you have a zebra issue, looking for horse reasons is ludicrious. When I went to my doctor with my possible gluten intolerance issue, he tried to tell me it was rare, I said it’s not rare when it’s you who has the issue. Having a zebra issue deserves as much care and attention from health care professionals, in fact probably more because we need them to pay attention to the things they have been taught to mostly ignore and not think about.

    There is two doctors who write on women’s sexuality and sexual health. I saw them a few years ago promoting a book they wrote, it is by two sisters, one is a doctor and the other is a sex therapist. They really made sense and understood and could explain things that I never understood before. As well they were able to talk about how little doctors really know about a woman’s sexual health. It was kind of scary and also made me realize that they don’t always have the answers in this area because none of them have the answers yet. Their names are Dr. Laura Berman and Dr. Jennifer Berman and they work in Chicago at the Berman Center. Their first book was called For Women Only: A Revolutionary Guide to Reclaiming Your Sex Life. Part of what they talked about on Oprah was that most issues are not related to damage, but when they are, it is important to diagnose properly.

    I wanted to mention that, not sure if their approach would be helpful at all. I do remember on the show them testing women at their clinic and then talking about the issues. I think they also understood there were many elements to a woman’s sexual health that we know nothing about. I found it enlightening to find anyone talking about bodily damage, though they didn’t speak directly to damage from childhood sexual abuse. It seemed to me that women like this would understand the need for more medical interventions, with a better diagnosis and with a better chance of a more positive outcome.

    Good and healing thoughts to you.


    1. Thanks for the tip, Kate, I’ll look into these women. I’m also going to try whatever wholistic stuff I can find. Since part of what I read is that vulvadynia might be about blood flow restriction in the pelvis, I’ve been trying some yoga poses that increase blood flow. They seem to be helping actually, although it’s too soon to say.

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