How I Maintain A Sex Life While Dealing With Endometriosis

Illustrated by Isabel Castillo Guijarro.
I’m a sexual person. I’m also a person living with endometriosis, and the confluence of these identities has caused something of a conflict, to put it mildly.
A number of nuances of living with endometriosis can make it challenging for me to always be my fabulous, sexually free self. But mostly, the issue is the blinding, crippling pain.
Endometriosis is the medical condition whereby tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows on the outside instead. This is a problem because the tissue continues to behave as though it’s inside the uterus (building up and shedding during each menstrual cycle), but it has no way out. What results, for many people, is critical pelvic pain. This mostly takes the form of painful menstrual cramps (the kind that make it so that you’re unable to get off the floor or stop vomiting). Other symptoms can include pain during or after sex and during urination or defecation.
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What does this have to do with my sex life? A lot, actually. There have been weeks upon weeks when I haven’t been physically up to having sex — either because my cramps have made it hard for me to even think about feeling sexy or because sex triggers cramps and pelvic pain. But because I love sex and refuse to let my condition take that away from me, I’ve tried out countless techniques to help me live a full sexual life while dealing with chronic pain. Ahead, my top five tips.
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Illustrated by Isabel Castillo Guijarro.
Choose your sexual partners wisely.

It’s always a good idea to choose partners that make you feel both comfortable and sexy, whatever that means for you. As someone with chronic pain, I’ve found that it’s important for my partners to be able to switch gears from hot and heavy to nurturing in those instances when my body may not be up to sex. I also seek out partners that don’t make me feel like a fragile, broken thing. I need them to help me feel sexy, even if I’m physically unable to have sex at that moment.
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Illustrated by Isabel Castillo Guijarro.
Prepare your body ahead of time.

Pelvic pain is typically treated with medication and lifestyle changes. I’ve personally found that planning ahead of time to ease the pain prior to intercourse, instead of waiting until the last minute, makes a huge difference. I routinely take pain medication, and if I have enough time, I’ll also take a bath or snuggle with a heating pad to soothe my cramps.

There’s also a whole field of pelvic physical therapy, in which a physical therapist can teach you how to relax your vaginal muscles, which can reduce some of the pain caused by cramping.
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Illustrated by Isabel Castillo Guijarro.
Remember that not all sex is penetrative.

I love penetrative sex, but when my brain wants to get down and my body feels otherwise, it’s good to remember that there are plenty of other sexual acts that don’t involve penetration, including oral sex (receiving or giving), masturbation, impact play in other areas of the body, or even massages.
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Illustrated by Isabel Castillo Guijarro.
Fall in love with your vibrator.

While there’s plenty to say about the benefits of incorporating vibrators into your sex life (either solo or with a partner), I’ve found that they also help distract me from my cramps. Specifically, using a clitoral vibrator helps me focus my attention on that part of my body, which often relaxes my pelvic muscles and lessens or even ends my cramps. This also helps me orgasm — something that’s known to help relieve cramps.
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Illustrated by Isabel Castillo Guijarro.
Know that it’s all about trial and error.

When it comes to having sex while living with endometriosis, it’s been immensely important for me to keep trying new things, especially when I hit a wall and none of my normal tools are doing the trick and cutting down the pain. Whatever you find works for you, remember that your sexuality is worth the experimentation, and you don’t need to let a chronic condition preclude you from experiencing the full rainbow of sexual experience.

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