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:: This column was originally posted on Endometriosis News ::

Painful sex (dyspareunia) is one of many things women with endometriosis may experience. It can be one of the first indicators that something is wrong with your body. It was for me anyway.

I lost my virginity when I was 17 and I didn't have any problems for a few years. On the odd occasion I would bleed during or after sex but I never thought it was something to be concerned about. The first time sex became painful was when I was 21. I eventually went to the doctors and that lead to me being diagnosed with endometriosis.

So, is this the same for everyone? Will every woman with endometriosis feel pain during sex? Well, no.

Endometriosis occurs differently in every woman and can be discovered under a whole range of circumstances. Not every woman will feel pain during sex, in the same way that not every woman will suffer the same symptoms.

But, for those of us that have to bear the brunt of painful sex, what can we do about it?

Sex can be a difficult and sometimes embarrassing topic to discuss. But the key to a successful sexual relationship is communication and you shouldn’t feel ashamed for being honest and speaking about it. You should be able to speak openly to your partner. Don’t be afraid to say “stop” or tell them that it’s hurting. Tell them what feels good and what doesn’t. You might find that your partner is also finding it difficult because they don’t want to hurt you.

If you are in a new relationship and are still to get to know each other, or you’re not in a relationship with your sexual partner, communication can be particularly difficult. Try to judge the situation and do what feels right for you both.

Put yourself and your needs first
It isn’t selfish to do what feels right for you. You might feel that you don’t want to say anything as you are trying to please your partner and keep them happy. But, if you are in discomfort, do not feel like you must continue. Sex can very often aggravate the symptoms of endometriosis so it’s better to do something about it at the time rather than be in discomfort for days on end.

Switch things up
Experiment. Change position or gently steer your partner around your body. Be open to trying new things. You’ll discover what works well for you both position wise. And remember, sex doesn’t have to be penetrative. There are plenty of other ways to have an intimate time together.

Being intimate doesn’t have to mean sex
Connect with your partner in other, non-sexual ways. Make them aware of your feelings for them and make sure they know that you do want them. Talk to them. Give each other compliments and make time for small gestures of affection.

It is totally normal to not feel in the mood all of the time
Sometimes, you may find your partner can’t get anywhere near you because of how much pain you are in. Or, amongst the haze of hot flashes and fatigue, you may not have the energy to be close to your partner. Endometriosis and all of its treatments can affect your libido.

Your mental state and feelings can also affect your libido. You might be fearful of the pain that sex could create or, maybe you’re not feeling attractive because you have a swollen tummy. But, don't push your partner away without explaining. There is nothing wrong with just not feeling like it.

The most important piece of information I can give you though, is that painful sex isn't normal. So please, if you experience any pain, see your doctor or healthcare provider. It may not be endometriosis but either way, you don’t have to suffer in silence.

And for those of you who are yet to have sex, please, don't be afraid. Sex can be scary enough without thinking about the complexities of pain and positions.

You can follow my Endometriosis News column here.