Some women are completely unaware of their prolapse and/or their prolapse poses no problems when it comes to being intimate. In contrast, others with POP (Pelvic organ prolapse) can experience a significant impact on intimate relationships with a partner or potential partner.
The physical symptoms of POP, such as pain and incontinence, may impact sexual activity or sexual desire. This in turn can impact a woman’s emotional wellbeing, self-confidence, and connection with their partner.
If you are someone who is suffering with POP, it is important to know that having open conversations with a partner can allow them to understand your symptoms, needs and boundaries when it comes to intimacy. Doing this opens up channels of communication and in return can reduce any frustration, shame and miscommunication that may be experienced.
Hey! It's perfectly okay to feel overwhelmed or unsure where to start these conversations with a partner, particularly if you have a new sexual partner.
Talking to your partner
Here are some ways you can explore this topic to improve your intimacy and relationships while living with POP.
- Partners may feel reluctant to engage in sex due to fear of causing you pain or discomfort. Most women who have anterior vaginal wall prolapse (bladder) or posterior vaginal wall prolapse (bowel) do not experience any pain with intercourse and are not bothered by their symptoms. Letting your partner know which symptoms you have and which positions are comfortable for you can alleviate these concerns.
- Women with POP may find themselves concerned that their partner can “feel” the prolapse during intercourse. The vaginal wall is flexible and mobile, meaning that a mild to moderate protrusion can be easily moved with penetration and isn’t felt by a partner’s penis. This can be an important thing for both partner’s to discuss, as it can reassure each other if there is no discomfort or change in sensation felt.
- Letting your partner know that vaginal intercourse is very unlikely to worsen vaginal prolapse can again reduce fear and hesitancy around intimacy and intercourse.
- As with any aspect of sexual intimacy, being open with a partner about what feels good or improves sensation can help to improve the experience for both partners. Some tips that may improve sexual function with POP include:
- Lubrication. Good lubrication can reduce physical discomfort and help promote pleasurable sensations. Prolapse is associated with thinning of the vaginal walls so lubrication can improve comfort as well as arousal. Use the best lubricant ingredients for your vaginal health (oil and petroleum-based lubricants can contribute to vaginal infection).
- Preparing for intercourse/foreplay. Consider your own needs and enjoyment, not only those of your partner. Try to stay in the moment by focusing your attention on foreplay, physical sensations and/or closeness rather than negative self-talk where possible. Slow deep breathing can help you relax your body including your pelvic floor muscles.
- Non-Penetrative sex. As most POP does not protrude outside of the vagina, there is no change to external or clitoral sensation with POP. Communicate with your partner about what other forms of sex or touch may feel best for you.
- Positioning for sex. Particularly with uterine prolapse (descent of the uterus and cervix down into the vaginal canal), some positions may be uncomfortable
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