When sex becomes more pain than pleasure, don’t despair – there are treatments available to put the spark back into your love life. Heather Stephen explains.
There’s a lot of attention paid to male sexual dysfunction – and that’s not surprising as it can be a marker of more serious medical conditions. But what may surprise is that more women have problems when it comes to sex than men. Some 43% of women say they’ve experienced sexual dysfunction at some stage of their lives compared to 31% of men.
Sexual dysfunction includes such things as an inability to climax (anorgasma), pain during or after intercourse (dysparenuria), decreased libido, vaginal dryness and urinary stress incontinence (USI). These things can occur after childbirth or during menopause. And when it comes to painful sex a UK study found around 10% of women were affected and half of those complained of vaginal dryness.
But there are various treatments available that could make a difference.
The problem: Vaginal dryness and pain during sex
The solution: The O Shot
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP), where your platelets are separated from blood and then injected back into the body is traditionally given to stimulate collagen in the face but in recent years this treatment has been found to have benefits for genital areas too. It’s been nicknamed the ‘O shot’ as it’s said to improve sensitivity and the ability to orgasm.
In a small study into PRP and sexual dysfunction in 2014 some six out of 10 women reported improvements in pain during or after sex after and women anecdotally told researchers for a 2015 study the treatment had helped vaginal dryness and libido.
Dr Shirin Lakhani is a trainer for the ‘O shot’ says “PRP tricks the body into believing it has been injured so it releases stem cells which regenerate tissue and we find it can help with everything from the skin condition lichen sclerosus to stress incontinence and sexual dysfunction such as inability to climax.”
She says many people see a change within three weeks and effects last a year.
Dr Lakhani says genital PRP, which should be given by medics with a background in gynaecology or urology, can also help with incontinence as it plumps up the tissue between the vagina and urethra and gives extra support to the bladder.
And she says: “Regeneration of this area leads to increased sensitivity and better orgasm and it is very safe as we use your own body products and there are only minimal risks of bruising and infection.”
The problem: Infection and irritation
The answer: Fillers
Some people ask for fillers in their labia to make it look better but there can be a medical benefit too.
“As we age we lose volume from our lips and from our outer labia which means the inner labia becomes more visible leading to infections and irritation of the vulva,” says Dr Lakhani.
“If we are able to plump up the labia with hyaluronic acid filler we can cover and protect that area.”
Studies have shown good rejuvenating effects from using this filler this way although permanent fillers must never be used.
Dr Lakhani isn’t the greatest fan of this procedure, however. “I don’t tend to recommend this treatment as it only lasts three to four months and costs around £1,200 a time. And you should only ever have this treatment with a doctor.”
The problem: Vaginal looseness
The answer: Radiofrequency
The BTL Exilis Elite is a radiofrequency and ultrasound treatment which was first developed for facial rejuvenation but is now also used to revitalise the genital area.
“It is very effective at tightening the tissue of the labia and the manufacturers have introduced a new probe for internal tightening,” says Dr Lakhani. “Patients are advised to go for a course of four treatments and top up after about eight months. The initial course costs £800 and it is £250 for the top up.”
Dr Lakhani advises that the initial consultation and internal treatment be done by a doctor but says treatment of external areas is safe and can be provided by a therapist under supervision of a doctor.
The problem: Incontinence
The answer: The CO2 Laser
With all those ‘whoops moment’ ads on TV at the moment female incontinence is becoming less of a taboo topic and is more common than you might think, affecting four out of every 10 women over the age of 21 in the UK.
Dr Lakhani says one solution could be the MonaLisa Touch – a pain free CO2 fractional laser treatment which stimulates collagen in the wall of the vagina and is said to help with post- menopausal dryness, pain during sex and incontinence.
During the treatment, which should only be given by a doctor, a probe is put inside the vagina and energy is sent into the vagina for five to 10 minutes.
One to four treatments spaced six weeks apart are needed depending on the severity of your symptoms and costs vary from £650 to £1,200 a time.
So are these treatments worth it?
Although some critics say there needs to be more research into these treatments, some studies done so far show they can make a difference for many women.
“Sexual dysfunction in women is in the dark ages compared to that of men,” says Dr Lakhani. “Women shouldn’t be embarrassed to say they want sexual pleasure and safe non-surgical treatment of incontinence can be life changing.”