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Endometriosis is a health condition experienced by women whereby tissues that normally line the inner uterus grow outside this organ. This tissue typically grows throughout the female reproductive system, including on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and pelvis. In rare circumstances, tissue growth may extend beyond the pelvic organs.
Just like the tissue growing inside the uterus, the tissue that grows through endometriosis thickens and breaks down during a normal menstrual cycle. However, it doesn’t have a way to leave the body so it becomes trapped. It can irritate tissue near it and cause scars, cysts, and adhesions. It can also trigger pain, especially during periods, and fertility issues. Health professionals aren’t sure what causes endometriosis.
The pain many women with endometriosis face can make sex uncomfortable. Many sufferers experience pain during and after sexual intercourse due to inflammation of the vagina and fibrosis fusing the rectum's front wall and the vagina’s back wall together. Some positions may reduce the pain associated with sex in mild to moderate cases of endometriosis, especially those with shallow penetration. Painkillers and lubricants can also reduce pain during sex. Some women may also find they can have pain-free sex when they’re not menstruating.
Communication is key for women struggling with the symptoms of endometriosis and their partners. Women should be honest about the pain they’re experiencing, rather than simply putting up with it. They may explore ways to reduce the pain associated with sex or focus on other forms of intimacy which don’t cause pain, like oral sex and mutual masturbation. While men should also be honest about their feelings, they should take care never to pressure their partner or make them feel inadequate. Support is crucial for surviving the challenge of endometriosis.
Fertility is another unfortunate side effect of endometriosis that can severely impact women’s relationships. Between one-third and one-half of women with endometriosis struggle with infertility since the tissue growth can obstruct the fallopian tube and prevent the sperm from reaching the egg. The condition can also damage the sperm and egg. As women with endometriosis don’t always experience pain, some women don’t realize they have the condition until they seek medical treatment for infertility. The diagnosis can be devastating for women who dream of becoming mothers and their partners. However, medical intervention can help women with mild to moderate endometriosis fall pregnant and carry their babies to term.
Medical treatment can help ease the pain associated with endometriosis, including pain during sex. Surgery can remove the lesions and cysts which cause pain during sex.