right now, my vagina is not my friend
December 2, 2017 11:22 AM   Subscribe

So part of me feels like if I never have PIV sex again, my vagina will be happy. I, obviously, won't be. My doctor tells me that these things happen, but what things, exactly, and how can I help my vagina to NOT do these things? (Most likely NSFW.)

There seems to be a horrible pattern developing, where my vagina is fine and happy, we have sex, it's not happy. Not happy being swollen, weird discharge, itching, pain, etc. (Vagina and some surrounds- but not the whole vulva. Upper labia and clitoris seem to be unscathed.)

Bicarb soda bath helped a lot this most recent time. Not having PIV sex helped.

About Me: 30. Virgin until this year, when I got married. (Him- tested for STDs before we got married, all clear. As far as I can tell, average size and more importantly gentle. He's circumcised.) I have a mirena IUD, we don't use condoms. I have a regular doctor at the walk up clinic who I don't mind seeing- there is a 'better' clinic in town but it's really hard to get in to. I have seen the doctor, the fixing-the-current-problem is going OK, but what I'm looking to you, hive mind, for, is prevention and mental tips. Here's what I've tried.

Lube- seems to be the default answer for sex problems- but what kind? we were using waterbased KY but that has glycerin and seemed to correlate to yeast infections. I'm a bit nervy about silicone lubes.

Yeast infection- I thought I was doing a good thing by pre-emptively jumping on the last yeast infection by going to the pharmacist (the doctor said I shouldn't do this) after interpreting my symptoms. This seemed to work, vagina happy, I was away on a trip, came back, had sex, and boom, angry vagina. Last yeast infection time, after treatment, swab came up clear, this feels different. (Currently awaiting test results.) Yeast infection is a new development in 2017 - not an issue when I was a virgin. (Have had two or three rounds in the last year- not sure if third one was YI or not but I wasn't going to wait to treat it!)

Sex method - me on top seems best? Very frustrating that the most recent time we tried really hard to get my body in the mood, lots of foreplay, going really slow, there was lots of natural lubrication... (see above note about lube) As noted above I don't think this is a latex issue as we don't use condoms. We do have oral sex.

Other- I sleep naked, change underwear every day, don't use soap to wash my vulva, pee after sex every time. I track my cycle using Clue and haven't noticed any other correlation.

On the mental side- it's just so difficult. I still get turned on, but then my vagina is like "no thanks." We are still having sex, just not PIV sex, and I miss it. There's part of me that just feels broken in some way. Eventually I'd like to look at trying to get pregnant and that's just so daunting with my vagina being annoying and precious.

I raised with the doctor that this issue seems to correlate to sex, she didn't really engage with my concerns, which is why I'm here, metafilter. Sorry if this is a bit garbled or hard to follow.

Short version: my vagina seems to get angry with me after PIV sex. Help?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Has your husband been checked for a yeast infection? It's not uncommon for guys to have yeasty genitals (for the same reason women get them - more common if he's uncircumsized), but they can be asymptomatic and it's unlikely he got screened for it. So...might be worth getting him treated with topical antifungals as well, if yeast turns out to be a recurrent problem.
posted by Knicke at 11:32 AM on December 2, 2017 [22 favorites]

He might have a yeast infection and be passing it on to you. Also you might be allergic to lube. Also BV is a possibility.
posted by windykites at 11:33 AM on December 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

I asked a similar question years ago not about PIV but about oral (I think it was anon. That would have been smart). Also, generally, I was dry, prone to being in pain during sex, and not easily turned on, in part because it often hurt.

Discontinuing all hormonal birth control--and I'd been on a bunch, including the ring, which, like mirena, is supposed to release lower levels of hormones--helped tremendously. I'd never had intercourse without birth control, so I didn't know that I was abnormally dry. But there you go.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:34 AM on December 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Shorter answer: get a new doctor, none of this is normal and, crucially, none of this is something you should just put up with because Reasons.

One thing it could be: the Mirena turned my vagina into sandpaper, it's apparently a pretty common side effect. I ended up also having several skin sensitivities and contact allergies that made my life hell, and, the pain during sex became something I was expecting and anticipating, therefore causing more stress and more pain. It becomes a pretty vicious cycle pretty damn quickly.
posted by lydhre at 11:36 AM on December 2, 2017 [12 favorites]

It might be worth trying
- coconut oil as a lube. I love it and my vagina feels good about it too.
- condoms for PIV sex in case his sperm throws off your pH or something like that

But do not try these at the same time because oils will degrade latex.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:39 AM on December 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Make sure you pee & clean yourself (with wet wipes) right after sex. You also might try using condoms - the prevailing wisdom seems to be that they make sex worse but for me condom sex is better (both during sex and in likelihood of my vagina being mad after).
posted by brainmouse at 12:13 PM on December 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

I’ve struggled with similar things.

First, get tested for bacterial vaginosis. It’s kind of like a yeast infection in that it’s triggered when your vaginal PH gets out of whack.

One thing that puts vaginal PH out of whack is semen.

I think it’s likely that semen is either changing your PH and causing overgrowths of unwanted flora, or the semen is simply irritating. I think some women are actually allergic to semen.

What to try:
First, get tested for bacterial vaginosis.

Use condoms every time for a few weeks. See if it’s better.
You could also have your husband ejaculate anywhere but inside you, but it could also be the flora on his penis causing your system to get out of whack so try conforms first, and withdrawal if the condom test comes up ok.

Get some good lube. Get a hybrid water based if that helps. They even make lube with different PH levels.

You can try oral probiotics. Vaginal probiotics also exist but not sure if that’s going to help here.

Some women try putting all kinds of things in their vaginas, but my gyno stands by the theory that vaginas can reach a balance on their own.

There is a product called Rephresh that I tried and didn’t like, but some women do like it.
posted by littlewater at 12:18 PM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Definitely change doctors. When I had similar issues, my doctor went through all the possibilities, including a sperm allergy (apparently one can be allergic to sperm, who knew?). These kind of issues can be disheartening because many doctors don't take them seriously enough. I repeat, you should not have to put up with this without help from a medical professional!

Basically, I had to go through a process of elimination to figure out my issues so my advice to you is: change one thing at a time, go through a trial period and figure out if that makes a difference. Try using condoms, try using different types of lubes, try changing birth control . . . . well, you get the idea!

Best of luck to you!
posted by Blissful at 12:19 PM on December 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm sensitive to KY and Durex lube and had better luck with Yes, which is a hypoallergenic brand.
posted by terretu at 12:46 PM on December 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

You sound like me 6 years ago! I would ask your doctor about vulvodynia, or see a specialist who knows more about it. I ended up being referred to a dermatologist who was more knowledgable about this than the several gynecologists I saw, surprisingly. It was a while before I was correctly diagnosed because I would end up with yeast infections, other bacterial infections, and UTIs so often, so they were what the gynecologists would treat over and over again instead of seeing the larger issue of the chronic pain I was experiencing.

I am prescribed an oral medication, and I do physical therapy at home with dilators regularly. I also use the lubricant Slippery Stuff. My husband uses basic lubricated condoms (no extra fragrance or texture). Since I implemented all of these things a few years ago I get yeast infections and UTIs much less often, although probably still more than the average woman.

Also, birth control and cream yeast infection treatments may be exacerbating your pain. Ask your doctor for a diflucan prescription for yeast infections instead of using an over the counter cream.

I hope this helps!
posted by Katie8709 at 12:48 PM on December 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

Are you using fragrance free detergent, body wash, and lotion? In my friend group, traditional detergent is the contributor to all sorts of vaginal problems.
posted by k8t at 1:05 PM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Another thing to try: both of you shower before sex, and you shower after. Obviously this won't be practical indefinitely, but if it helps, that will help you narrow down the issue and possibly solve it in other ways.
posted by metasarah at 1:12 PM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you tried using a condom? That or having him not come in you not help narrow down whether it's a semen allergy. And a portion of women find it more comfortable physically to have sex with a condom than without (if you try this, I'd recommend the Skyn variety).

Definitely find a different doctor that takes this seriously though.
posted by Candleman at 1:15 PM on December 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Nthing that this kind of stuff happened to me for as long as I was on hormonal birth control. My doctor and I tried all sorts of other stuff but what fixed it immediately was no longer using hormones to disrupt my fertility. Luckily you already have an IUD and know you can handle the insertion. Try switching to copper. By far the best birth control method I've used.
posted by potrzebie at 1:16 PM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

You need a new doctor, and your husband needs to get tested for every type of infection imaginable.

You need to have an acidic environment with plenty lactobacteria in your vagina, so please stop with the soda. Also IMO, lube is a bad idea when you have problems that can be bacterial. And unfortunately all forms of hormonal birth control can disrupt your natural balance.
posted by mumimor at 2:12 PM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

As someone who is also have vagina troubles, I like to think of isolating the culprits like a science experiment: you want to slowly try reducing the number of variables so you can pinpoint the problem. Here are my suggestions:

Definitely try sex with condoms-- I would suggest non-latex, which are pretty widely available (if you have a sensitive vagina and even a little bit of a latex allergy, latex condoms might make it worse. I had problems with latex condoms far in advance of my eventual latex allergy reaching the stage where I got skin breakouts.) This helps eliminate your husband as a variable. If a condom helps, you can try having condomless sex where he doesn't ejaculate inside you, and if it still works, you're probably having a bad reaction to his semen. If the symptoms reoccur, he might be harboring yeast or bacteria that's giving you a hard time.

I know you mentioned being nervy about silicone lubricants, but I cannot possibly recommend them enough. A good silicone lubricant contains nothing BUT silicone-- no flavorings, no extra ingredients, no preservatives, nothing but silicone. Silicone is great for condoms because they're safe for all types (latex and non-latex) and it's much much more slippery than other lubes, which tend to get tacky and less slick over time, making condomed sex less fun. What's more, silicone is EXTREMELY hypoallergenic and pretty close to medically inert-- this is why things like Divacups and other wearable menstrual cups are made of silicone. I think a silicone lube is the only way you can be close to absolutely sure that the problem isn't your lubricant. Make sure that whatever you use is a pump and not a jar so you're not reintroducing bacteria every time you use it. (Side note: don't switch to coconut oil if you might have bacterial vaginosis! Coconut oil is great, and may even have antifungal properties, but it's also a tasty food for bacteria.)

I second making sure you're using fragrance free everything including body soap and laundry detergent. Those are easy to overlook but can make an already irritated situation much worse! What's more, make sure your husband is using them too. If he's showering before getting down with you with a strongly scented soap or something else that's transferring to you, that could be the problem.

See if you can find a doctor who is interested in treating the underlying problem, for sure, if none of those work. It sounds like your doc isn't really listening to how much this is impacting you and that super sucks. You deserve a medical professional who's on your side and wants you to live your best quality of life. If you can get tested for trichomoniasis, bacterial vaginosis, yeast, common STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea (better safe than sorry!), that would eliminate a lot of variables. You can also ask them to test for more subtle infections if those come back clear, like myco- and ureaplasma.

If it's not an infection or an allergy, it might be your birth control. Mirena has a different hormone balance than the pill, so even if you've tried hbc before, you might be reacting poorly to this particular hormone cocktail. Also, this isn't true for everyone, but for me and some other women I know, having an IUD at all seems to really throw off their system for some reason. If bacteria, yeast, and allergies have all been eliminated to the best of your ability, I would consider getting your IUD removed and seeing if that helps.

It's also very unlikely, but if NONE of those things help, my gyno told me that sometimes structural problems in the reproductive tract, like uterine fibroids and cysts, can cause very weird symptoms that worsen with intercourse. Might be something to look into as a last resort.

Lastly, be kind to yourself. I'm dealing with some similar symptoms and it's sooo mentally difficult. My natural reaction is just to push through it and have sex anyway, because I like sex and I like my partner, but it's really easy to build a connection that PIV sex = pain and start tensing those muscles in advance, which of course just makes things worse. It sounds like you're doing a great job of treating your body well, which is excellent. Best of luck and as a fellow cranky vagina haver, please keep us updated!
posted by WidgetAlley at 2:19 PM on December 2, 2017 [9 favorites]

Boric acid? Sounds scary (acid????) but it's really effective.
posted by EtTuHealy at 2:34 PM on December 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

This is the kind of thing that Planned Parenthood clinics are really good at figuring out. If you have one near you go there.
posted by mareli at 2:36 PM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

+1 for Slippery Stuff lubricant. I personally like the liquid version better than the gel - it comes out of the bottle faster (actually, very fast so be careful.) It's like ultrasound gel or medical lube, scentless, tasteless, doesn't stain, etc. It's water soluable so it washes away with water (or urine from your urethra) so it doesn't stick around. (Other lubricants may be water or silicone based, but are not water soluble.) The only lube that didn't give me a UTI when I used to get chronic UTIs.

And yes, check for bacteriosis, other physical problems, and allergens. Sex shouldn't be irritating like that.

If you go for trying condoms, get ones without lubricant because condom lubricant can be a problem too.
posted by Crystalinne at 2:47 PM on December 2, 2017

For lube, I recommend finding a woman friendly sex shop like Babeland. You can order from them online too. What I like is stores like this will sell a wide variety of lube types, they will be high quality, and there are usually open bottles so you can put a little on your hand and see how it feels. Plus you can buy sample packs and try a bunch.

I recommend lube that is a water+silicone mix. Water based lubes don't last long but are more natural feeling, so if you have a little silicone added in you will get a longer lasting slippery feeling. All silicone is also okay but I find it's a bit too much.

Agreed that you should get a new doctor, a GYN specifically.
posted by joan_holloway at 3:20 PM on December 2, 2017

You may be allergic to his semen. :( I also recommend babeland as a resource for condoms and lube as they have a better selection of products.
posted by Hermione Granger at 3:34 PM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

If nothing else, he can shower and scrub his bits well before sex. It seems likely that he has something that doesn't give him trouble but makes your vag. miserable. This happened to a friend. Are you okay after oral sex? Because he could have some mouth bacteria that is problematic.

Pee after sex. It helps clear bacteria from the urethra. I see you're doing this.

Cranberry juice and vitamin C seem to help with urinary tract stuff and won't hurt. Your pee should be pretty pale; if not, drink more fluids, esp. water.

What a rotten situation and I hope your health care providers pay attention. If not, get references for other health care providers.
posted by theora55 at 6:27 PM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Could well be your husband is reinfecting you with a yeast infection. I had this nightmare for 6 months, before going screw it handing hubby some vagasil & saying rub this on your bits for a week. I'd clear up, we'd have sex, I'd get symptoms of yeast infection for a few days but my body would fight it off, rinse & repeat as it were. Sex got so painful it made PIV sex difficult for months after we solved the problem as I had to override my mind panicking.
posted by wwax at 7:58 PM on December 2, 2017

This problem is why I switched to diaphragms. I can't tolerate any hormonal birth control, no matter how low the dose.
posted by emjaybee at 8:36 PM on December 2, 2017

Another vote for getting your husband’s hygiene down pat. If his bathroom habits aren’t *clinically perfect* (nobody’s are), he’s likely adding some fecal bacteria to your biome every time your pelvises are together, and that can be a major source for recurring irritation and infection—and other things you don’t mention but are still likely, like UTIs and conjunctivitis. It really does make an amazing difference for both parties to be decently clean before doin’ it.
posted by witchen at 10:08 PM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just want to add another lube option to the list. Is Canada an option? I don’t know why this is no longer in the US, but it’s not. Sensitive KY in the light green box.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 11:08 PM on December 2, 2017

Any chance your husband has been taking antibiotics? They're hell on vaginal health and I got a yeast infection once after sex with my husband when he was on antibiotics. Ugh.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 8:58 AM on December 3, 2017

You are avoiding washing your sensitive areas with soap, but is your husband using soap on his penis? Is he failing to rinse well? For me, friction + soap residue on penis gives me your symptoms.
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:15 AM on December 3, 2017

One more possibility - do you have pets? Pet dander from giving the dog a good scritch can be transferred to his penis when he touches it, then into the sensitive vagina during PIV.
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:19 AM on December 3, 2017

To just address the lube question- Sliquid is an amazing brand and they make a little sampler cube that includes silicone, hybrid, and water-based options. Link. I am very easily irritated by lube and Sliquid Sea has been my go-to ever since I first tried it a couple months ago.
posted by augustimagination at 12:54 PM on December 3, 2017

Also your husband should be using fragrance free soaps/body washes too.
posted by k8t at 1:15 PM on December 3, 2017

Just going to throw this out there. You're on the Mirena IUD, which includes hormones. I was on a BCP for 4 years that worked really well for my painful and heavy periods, but I got to the point I just COULD NOT have sex. I had always loved sex, enjoyed it, etc, very sex positive. But there was a huge drop in libido for me that got worse over time, and it was to a great extent physical. I couldn't physically get aroused, and penetrative sex was painful. I also had similar after-effects you describe that I thought were yeast infections for a while, but I think now were actually the results of having sex where my body was physically not responding, the vagina wasn't stretching enough, I was having micro-abrasions, my body was frozen and rigid and not relaxing, so lube didn't do enough.

My husband and I basically went two years with no sex. Finally I stopped taking the pill and it was night and day. For the first time in years I wanted sex and enjoyed it when I had it (although it took a while for my body to get used to it again and free of the hormones.) Seriously, started having the best sex of my life. No chronic yeast infections, nothing. I also asked my doctor about my symptoms for years and she denied it was the pill and/or just kinda recommended lube.

So, I've considered Mirena myself but been terrified of what might happen if that also triggered the same reaction. I know removing the IUD is not something to just do, but if you get desperate enough, you might consider it. Hormones affect sex a lot more than many doctors want to admit.
posted by threeturtles at 9:59 PM on December 4, 2017

Mod note: From the OP:
So it's been a long journey, but my vagina is now back to being my friend. Here's what happened:
Turns out it was a yeast infection, again, just with different symptoms. Got treated- with the big gun drugs- also picked up an anti-fungal cream for him while at the chemist. This seemed to break the cycle!

We changed lubes- KY has glycerin, as do many lubes- and glycerin can be a yeast food. Switched to sliquid and wow it's so much better.

Vinegar bath helped to ease some of the symptoms at the time- thanks for the tip to be more acidic rather than less. (And semen is basic, which doesn't help!)

Doing the blood tests meant that a thyroid issue was picked up and treated as well.
Still on and loving the mirena- I don't think this was a hormone issue at all.

Switched to a menstrual cup- this helped too.

Thanks everyone for the advice and the kindness- I needed a support network!
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 4:50 AM on March 30, 2018

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