LGBTQ+ Topics: Special Considerations for People with Prostate Cancer in the LGBTQ+ Community

blue and orange light projeced on left hand of person
Photo by Valeria Boltneva on Pexels.com

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT (pronouns: She, Her, Hers)-practices in our midtown office

We have talked about prostate cancer many times on this blog. It is an exceedingly common condition and represents 26% of new cancer cases in cis-men, second only to skin cancer, and 14% of cis-men will experience it within their lifetimes. Prostate cancer can affect one’s life dramatically in terms of sexuality, continence, and even their self perception. Even though prostate cancer can have such a dramatic effect on sex and sexuality, there is little information out there on prostate cancer that is not heteronormative. It is estimated conservatively that 3-12% of America’s population self identifies as lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual, queer, or questioning (LGTBQ+). For people in this community navigating a heteronormative healthcare system can be alienating, frustrating, and downright dangerous. Today, we are going to take some time to discuss what is known about prostate cancer specifically in men who have sex with men as well as trans women.

Prostate Cancer Basics

Prostate cancer typically occurs later on in life. It is extremely common and its incidence is rising, likely due to a rise in prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing. Prostate cancer is a very survivable cancer with the 5 year survival rate being estimated at 84-92%. Treatment may include radiation, chemotherapy, removal of the prostate, or some combination thereof. That being said, common side effects of prostate cancer treatment include bowel and bladder incontinence, sexual dysfunction and pain. These side effects can be improved with medication, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes. People who are at risk for prostate cancer are people who have advanced age, African ancestry, live in certain geographic locations, and those who smoke.

Are Men who Have Sex with Men at Increased Risk?

This is the first out of many examples in this blog where we need more research. There are certain conditions that have been associated with men who have sex with men that may be a risk factor or protective against prostate cancer. Men with HIV seem to be an increased risk factor for prostate cancer, however the antiretroviral therapy for it may be protective. See how this is super confusing? Additionally use of supplements, steroids may increase risk for prostate cancer.

These are all pretty strong “mays”. What we do know is that men who have sex with men are less likely to have up to date PSA testing. Black men who have sex with men are even less likely to be up to date with their PSA’s. This fact can be correlated to the subjective experience many men who have sex with men express when navigating a heteronormative healthcare field. We will talk more later about barriers to healthcare in the LGBTQ+ community and ways clinicians can work to reduce these barriers for their patients.

What About Transgender Women?

There is very little reported about trans women with prostate cancer. Prostate cancer in transwomen is relatively rare especially after removal of the testicles. That being said, it can occur if a transwoman has her medical transition later on in life. In the case study cited below, the authors posit that it may be possible for androgen receptors to become more sensitive to androgens when androgens are at a low level. Androgens are produced by the testicles and are thought to contribute to the development of prostate cancer. If small amounts of cancerous or precancerous cells were present on the prostate prior to testicle removal, they may have continued to develop in the presence of the small amount of testosterone produced elsewhere in the body.. All this being said, prostate cancer is a rare condition in transwomen, but it does beg the important questions like, do we remove a woman’s prostate when she is transitioning, which can be a source of pleasure and erotic function for some transwomen. Most experts agree that transwomen with prostates should be screened for cancer. This is an area where more research is definitely needed.

Why One -Size Fits All Fits None

Men who have sex with men and transwomen have different sexual roles and expectations than the hetero and cis-gender community, and applying heteronormative treatment approaches in the sexual rehabilitation of people recovering from prostate cancer can leave a lot to be desired. The prostate can be a huge source of sexual pleasure for some men who have sex with men and  some transwomen. Men who have sex with men are much more likely to report that the prostate as a pleasure center than their hetero and or cis counterparts. A prostatectomy can represent a loss, and should be respected as such. Also for men and trans women participating in penetrative anal sex, the erection requirements are different than those required to participate in vaginal penetration. The penis requires much more rigidity to penetrate the anus than it does the vagina, ( We should keep in mind the requirement to be able to participate in penetrative anal sex may be important for men who have sex with women exclusively.) Detailed sexual histories should be taken for every patient.

Tips for Providers

Only 68% percent of LGBTQ+ patients are “out” to their clinicians. This is an important stat to keep in mind when performing an intake and subsequent treatment with patients. Avoiding heteronormative assumptions, like assuming a man with a wedding ring is married to a woman, can be a helpful step in the right direction. Displaying a rainbow flag somewhere in your office can also set the stage for a more open conversation that can help you better address the needs of your patients. To learn more about this population check out our resources below. For people who are used to viewing the world through a heteronormative lense, this can take a concerted effort, but it is well worth it in the name of improving patient care for all of your clients!

We have offices in both midtown and downtown locations. If you are dealing with prostate cancer, please give us a call at

212-354-2622 (Midtown)

212-267-0240 (Downtown)

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT practices at our midtown location

fiona2018

Blogs: 

The Special Care Needs of the LGBTQ+ Community

Resources:

Gay & Bisexual Men Living with Prostate Cancer from Diagnosis to Recovery https://www.amazon.com/Gay-Bisexual-Living-Prostate-Cancer/dp/1939594251

A Gay Man’s Guide to Prostate Cancer

https://www.amazon.com/Prostate-Journal-Psychotherapy-Monographic-Separates/dp/1560235527

Malecare https://malecare.org/

Healthcare Equality Index: A tool to find hospitals with established and effective policies for improving LGBTQ+ care http://www.hrc.org/hei/search

Sources

Ussher J, Perz J, Simon Rosser B. R. Gay & Bisexual Men Living with Prostate Cancer from Diagnosis to Recovery. New York: Harrington Park Press, 2018. Print

Quinn G, Sanchez J, Sutton S, et al. Cancer in lesbian,gay, bisexual, transgender/transexual and queer/questioning populations (LGBTQ). CA Cancer J Clin. 2015;65(5):384-400

Rosser S, Merengwa E, Capistrant B, et al. Prostate cancer in gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men: a review. LGBTQ Health(3)1. 2016; 32-41

Turo R, Jallad S, Prescott S, et al. Metastatic prostate cancer in transsexual diagnosed after three decades of estrogen therapy.

September is Sexual Health Awareness Month!

pexels-photo-544917

Fiona McMahon DPT, PT

September is here and we at Beyond Basics are taking some time to observe sexual health awareness month. We take pride in our role of providing our patients with treatments to make sex comfortable and pleasurable as well as in our role as sexual health educators. Sexual health is comprised of many factors beyond just your ability to have sex. This article, by no means, exhausts all factors but is a good starting point to learn more about increasing your health as well as your enjoyment when it comes to sex. We will be expanding on some of the conditions featured in this blog in future posts, so stay tuned.

What is Sex

Sex is not a one-size fits all activity and can come in many different forms. Even between straight couples penetrative sex may not be the standard. In fact there are many couples that can not engage in penetrative intercourse for a variety of reasons. This may be because of an injury, medical condition, or simply because intercourse is not gratifying for the couple or there is some other act that is more gratifying. It’s really up to the couple’s choice and preference. A term for sexual activity that is not penetrative is called outercourse.  One type is not necessarily better than another. It’s all about what works for you and your partner’s bodies and desires.

Emotional Health and Sex

Sex is more than how it makes you feel physically, it is about how it makes you feel emotionally. Many things can influence how we feel about sex and how sex makes us feel about ourselves. If sex is making you feel unhappy or anxious it is important to get to the root of the cause, in order to maximize not only your pleasure but also, your well being. Common issues, to name a few, that can negatively affect sexual experiences are listed here:

 

  • Trauma
  • Mismatch between your sexuality and culture
  • Issues with your partner
  • Issues with consent: Consent is a hot button issue in today’s media and on college campuses. Although consent is a broad and important topic, it can be boiled down to a few key points:
  1. Consent can never be assumed, regardless of dating status or previous sexual activity. For consent to be given, it must be given with an affirmative “yes” answer.
  2. Consent can not be given if someone is high on drugs, underage, or drunk
  3. Consent must be given with every sexual encounter and can be withdrawn at any time.

If emotional issues are contributing to a lack of enjoyment with sex, it may be time to reach out to a certified sex therapist.

 

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs/STDs) and Safer Sex

Sexually transmitted infections also known as sexually transmitted diseases can have a huge impact on your well being. Up until recently, sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) have been known as sexually transmitted diseases. There was a change in the nomenclature of these infections, because many of them can be asymptomatic and a person may carry and transmit them without knowing they have been infected.

STI’s unfortunately sometimes carry a moral connotation, in that blame is often put on the person who has it. STIs are simply an infection with a bacterial, fungal, or viral pathogen and have absolutely no bearing on the moral character of those infected. They can be transmitted sexually but they can also be spread through the childbirth process, dirty needles, or a tainted blood infusion.

All STI’s are not created equal. For some there are excellent screening tests and treatment, yet for others, treatment or screening or both may not be fully effective yet. Some may be obvious to those infected, while others may go undetected for years. Common symptoms of symptomatic STI’s include:

  • Sores and bumps around the genital and rectal area
  • Painful urination
  • Penile discharge
  • Irregular vaginal bleeding
  • Foul vaginal odor
  • Painful sex
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes in and around the lower extremities, which may also be present in the upper body as well.
  • It is important to remember these symptoms are non-specific and can be related to a number of other conditions that are not solely related to STI.

STI Complications

  • Pelvic pain
  • Eye inflammation
  • Pregnancy complication
  • Infertility
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
  • Certain types of cancers associated with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

Risk Reduction

Because not all STI’s can be cured, (although many can be effectively managed) and the impact to one’s health can be so large, it is imperative to safeguard your health and fertility. Steps you can take to reduce your risk of STI infection include:

  • Abstaining from sex: abstinence is the most effective way to reduce your risk of STI; however, with most adults, this is not an acceptable option.
  • Using a barrier to reduce contact with bodily fluids. Using condoms for penetrative sex (vaginal, oral, and anal) or a dental dam for vaginal oral sex, can help to reduce your risk.
  • Keeping your number of sexual partners low: long term monogamous coupling is associated with a lower incidence of STI
  • Regular screening: Because many STI’s can be asymptomatic, regular screening is key to catching an STI early, treating the infection, and preventing damage to your own body as well as transmission to others,
    • Herpes: Recommended for those at risk for herpes (people having unprotected sex, have had sex with someone who is infected, or people experiencing symptoms such as sores)
    • Chlamydia:  men who have sex with men, as well as women who are under 25 have a greater risk of contracting chlamydia and should be tested for it
    • Gonorrhea: men who have sex with men, as well as women who are under 25 have a greater risk of contracting gonnorrhea and should be tested for it
    • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV): It is suggested that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested for HIV. If you do have HIV, it is imperative to be regularly screened for other STI’s as it is easier to contract them with an HIV infection
    • People born between 1945-1965: should be tested for hepatitis C as there is a high incidence in this population.
    • New Partners: Before having sex with a new partner, both people should be tested for STI to prevent transmission of new infections
    • HPV: Females should be screened for HPV at least every 3 years if they are 21 to 30.  It is recommended to be tested at least every 5 years for sexually active women over 30. There is currently no HPV screening for males.
      • Two vaccines are now available to help prevent two types of HPV associated cancer. The current recommendation is that both boys and girls receive the vaccine between the ages of 11 and 12 years old. Boys can receive that vaccine between 13 and 21 and girls between 13 and 26 as a catch up period.
    • Truvada: Truvada is a drug that is now available to help prevent transmission of HIV and indicated for use in high-risk populations.

 

When Genital Pain Limits Sex

Both men and women can have pain that is so severe that it limits their enjoyment of sex, or prevents sexual pleasure completely. There are many syndromes and diseases that can cause pain with sex. As we covered earlier, STI’s can influence pain, as well as other conditions such as non-bacterial prostatitis, vulvodynia, vaginismus, pudendal neuralgia, as well as many more. These diseases and conditions can be influenced by poorly functioning pelvic floor muscles and vice versa. Keep an eye out for future blog posts devoted entirely to these conditions.  It is possible to have tight and tender pelvic floor muscles as a result of an infective process, injury, or they may arise on their own idiopathically.

 

What to do if you have pain

First off, don’t panic.  Pelvic pain is relatively common, some studies estimate chronic pelvic pain rates being higher than 25%. You are not alone. It is important, though, to act swiftly to identify the culprit. The majority of pelvic pain is treatable, but the process is much easier when started earlier on in the pain cycle.

Go to your doctor to rule out any infective or disease process that may be causing your pain. The best case scenario is that a short course of treatment will do the trick. Unfortunately, often times the root cause is not identified on the first trip to the doctor and your results may come back negative for any infectious agent or systemic condition. This is common for many of the patients we see at Beyond Basics. If this happens to you, consider going to a pelvic pain specialist, whether physician or pelvic floor physical therapist, for more precise testing.

It is important to remember not all physicians are trained to recognize dysfunction of the musculoskeletal system, although the number of those who are trained is growing. Indications of musculoskeletal dysfunction are: pain that changes with changes in activity or position, pain that does not go away once the original disease or infection is treated or cured, or pain that can not be correlated to a specific systemic dysfunction. It is important to remember that musculoskeletal dysfunction in the pelvis can mimic, or be the cause of, bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction.

If you believe your pain is musculoskeletal in nature or even think it might be, it is important to be examined by a skilled pelvic floor physical therapist and not all pelvic floor physical therapists are well trained. Pelvic floor physical therapists can determine if muscles and/or nerves are playing a role in your pain, and then treat the dysfunctional muscles and tissues to allow you to return to your old activities. When looking for a pelvic floor physical therapist, it is important to inquire whether or not they do internal work, both vaginally and rectally, and to ask about their training and experience.

At Beyond Basics we are experts at treating sexual pain as well as screening our patients and referring them on to the correct physicians to help treat any systemic causes of pain. We value a holistic approach to treating sexual pain, and strive to provide our patients with the best care possible. If you are in the New York area, another state, or even abroad and are suffering from sexual pain, please consider starting your healing journey with us.  We have an extensive ‘out of town’ program:  URL for program.

 

Resources:

STI Awareness and Counselling Services

American Sexual Health Association: http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/

Planned Parenthood: www.plannedparenthood.org

 

  • Services provided
    • STI screening/counseling
    • HPV vaccine
    • Male reproductive health exams
    • Pregnancy tests and counseling
    • Health insurance screening and enrollment

NYC STI Clinics and Services: http://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/services/clinics.page

 

Sexual Assault Counseling:

 

RAINN: Rape Assault Incest National Network: https://centers.rainn.org/

-800.656.HOPE

  • Services provided (free or low cost):
    • Counseling
    • Medical Attention/ Hospital Accompaniment
    • Victim assistance/ advocacy
    • Legal/ Justice System advocacy
    • Emergency Shelter

Pelvic Pain Resources:

International Pelvic Pain Society: www.pelvicpain.org

 

International Society of the Study of Women’s Sexual Health: www.isswsh.org

www.pelvicpain.org

 

Heal Pelvic Pain

By: Amy Stein DPT

http://www.healpelvicpain.com/

Healing Pelvic and Abdominal Pain DVD

By: Amy Stein DPT

http://www.healingpelvicandabdominalpain.com/

 

Explain Pain

By: David Butler

https://www.amazon.com/Explain-Pain-David-Butler/dp/0987342665?ie=UTF8&hvadid=49868747328&hvdev=c&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvpone=&hvpos=1t1&hvptwo=&hvqmt=b&hvrand=9859257768995611935&ref=pd_sl_1tz644lwle_b&tag=googhydr-20

Healing Painful Sex

By:   Deborah Coady, MD and Nancy Fish, PhD

 

The Pain No One Wants to Talk About

https://beyondbasicsptblog.com/2015/05/13/the-pain-no-one-wants-to-talk-about/ When

When Sex Hurts

By: Andrew Goldstein, MD and Caroline Pukall, PhD

 

Sources:

 

International Pelvic Pain Society:  www.pelvicpain.org

 

International Society of the Study of Women’s Sexual Health:  www.isswsh.org (confirm url)

 

Ahangari A. Prevalence of Chronic Pelvic Pain Among Women: An Updated Review. Pain Physician. 2014;17(2) E141-7

 

Barrow R, Berkel C, Brooks L. Traditionally Sexually Transmitted Disease Prevention and Control Strategies: Tailoring for African American Communities.  Sex Transm Dis. 2008 Dec; 35 (12 sUPPL): s30-9

 

Katz A, Lee M, Wasserman G, et al. Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD): A Review of the CDC 2010 STD Treatment Guidlines and Epidemiologic Trends of Commone STDs in Hawai’i. Hawaii J Med Public Health. 2012 Mar; 71(3): 68-73

Mayo Clinci Staff. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sexually-transmitted-diseases-stds/home/ovc-20180594. [Accesses August 17, 2016]

 

 

 

Upcoming Live Webinar: The Collaborative Clinical Care Model Between Therapists and Pelvic Floor Physical Therapists Involving Clients with Sexual Pain

 

Amy Stein, PT, DPT

WHEN: Monday, February 6, from 12.30-2.30pm at www.saricooper.com/webinars/

INTENDED AUDIENCE: sex therapists, general therapists, pelvic floor physical therapists and other health and wellness providers.

HOSTED BY : Amy Stein, DPT, BCB-PMD, IF and Sari Cooper, LCSW, CST

CEs for LMSW/LCSWs, AASECT

CEs for Physical Therapy

Blog By Amy Stein, DPT

I am so pleased to offer my first cross-disciplinary webinar with Sari Cooper, LCSW, CST, a leading expert in sexual health, sexual pain,and women’s health. She is the Founder and Director of Center for Love and Sex, and is a licensed individual, couples and AASECT-Certified Sex Therapist, sex coach, writer, trainer, supervisor and media expert. She specializes in sexual disorders, sexual avoidance, couple’s communication, affairs, separation, depression, anxiety, and alternative sexual interests.

Sari was trained in the Family Systems Model, which states that if there is a change in one person in the family, than it affects the whole family system.  This directly affects couples in which one partner is suffering with pelvic pain.  Sari helps the couple and the individual work on communication skills and gives them practice exercises to address their emotional and sexual relationship. When it comes to couples sexual function, Cooper feels she almost always asks clients to work with both partners.  Using techniques such teaching couples the importance of outercourse as well as intercourse in order to sustain erotic connection while a partner is being treated for pelvic pain.

Sari recognizes the need for a multimodal approach in treating pain. She has years long experience treating men and women whose pain is musculoskeletal, systemic, hormonal, or related to another condition, in addition to psychological. She is experienced and collaborated with pelvic floor physical therapists and other medical providers to aid in the healing process.

As pelvic floor PTs, we help the musculoskeletal conditions related to sexual dysfunction and we work closely with mental health and sexual health therapists.  In women, we see and have great success with treating conditions  like vulvodynia, provoked or unprovoked vestibulodynia, vaginismus, endometriosis, pelvic neuralgias like pudendal neuralgia, and other pelvic conditions. In men, we successfully treat musculoskeletal conditions related to erectile dysfunctions, non bacterial prostatitis, and genital and pelvic pain.

In our upcoming webinar, Sari will be reviewing some of the education about the female sexual response cycle that she provides couples to help them re-discover pleasure and eroticism while the patient is working with her pelvic floor physical therapist on relieving her pain.

To learn more, sign up for Amy Stein, DPT and Sari Cooper’s LIVE LUNCHTIME  webinar on Monday, February 6, from 12.30-2.30pm at www.saricooper.com/webinars/ CEs for PTs, LMSW/LCSWs, AASECT Therapists/Counselors will be provided.

September is Sexual Health Awareness Month

sexual health

Fiona McMahon DPT, PT

September is here and we at Beyond Basics are taking some time to observe sexual health awareness month. We take pride in our role of providing our patients with treatments to make sex comfortable and pleasurable as well as in our role as sexual health educators. Sexual health is comprised of many factors beyond just your ability to have sex. This article, by no means, exhausts all factors but is a good starting point to learn more about increasing your health as well as your enjoyment when it comes to sex. We will be expanding on some of the conditions featured in this blog in future posts, so stay tuned.

What is Sex

Sex is not a one-size fits all activity and can come in many different forms. Even between straight couples penetrative sex may not be the standard. In fact there are many couples that can not engage in penetrative intercourse for a variety of reasons. This may be because of an injury, medical condition, or simply because intercourse is not gratifying for the couple or there is some other act that is more gratifying. It’s really up to the couple’s choice and preference. A term for sexual activity that is not penetrative is called outercourse. Communication with your partner is essential at all stages of sexual health.

Emotional Health and Sex

Sex is more than how it makes you feel physically, it is about how it makes you feel emotionally. Many things can influence how we feel about sex and how sex makes us feel about ourselves. If sex is making you feel unhappy or anxious it is important to get to the root of the cause, in order to maximize not only your pleasure but also, your well being. Common issues, to name a few, that can negatively affect sexual experiences are listed here:

 

  • Trauma
  • Mismatch between your sexuality and culture
  • Issues with your partner
  • Issues with consent: Consent is a hot button issue in today’s media and on college campuses. Although consent is a broad and important topic, it can be boiled down to a few key points:
  1. Consent can never be assumed, regardless of dating status or previous sexual activity. For consent to be given, it must be given with an affirmative “yes” answer.
  2. Consent can not be given if someone is high on drugs, underage, or drunk
  3. Consent must be given with every sexual encounter and can be withdrawn at any time.

If emotional issues are contributing to a lack of enjoyment with sex, it may be time to reach out to a certified sex therapist.

 

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs/STDs) and Safer Sex

Sexually transmitted infections also known as sexually transmitted diseases can have a huge impact on your well being. Up until recently, sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) have been known as sexually transmitted diseases. There was a change in the nomenclature of these infections, because many of them can be asymptomatic and a person may carry and transmit them without knowing they have been infected.

STI’s unfortunately sometimes carry a moral connotation, in that blame is often put on the person who has it. STIs are simply an infection with a bacterial, fungal, or viral pathogen and have absolutely no bearing on the moral character of those infected. They can be transmitted sexually but they can also be spread through the childbirth process, dirty needles, or a tainted blood infusion.

All STI’s are not created equal. For some there are excellent screening tests and treatment, yet for others, treatment or screening or both may not be fully effective yet. Some may be obvious to those infected, while others may go undetected for years. Common symptoms of symptomatic STI’s include:

  • Sores and bumps around the genital and rectal area
  • Painful urination
  • Penile discharge
  • Irregular vaginal bleeding
  • Foul vaginal odor
  • Painful sex
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes in and around the lower extremities, which may also be present in the upper body as well.
  • It is important to remember these symptoms are non-specific and can be related to a number of other conditions that are not solely related to STI.

STI Complications

  • Pelvic pain
  • Eye inflammation
  • Pregnancy complication
  • Infertility
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
  • Certain types of cancers associated with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

Risk Reduction

Because not all STI’s can be cured, (although many can be effectively managed) and the impact to one’s health can be so large, it is imperative to safeguard your health and fertility. Steps you can take to reduce your risk of STI infection include:

  • Abstaining from sex: abstinence is the most effective way to reduce your risk of STI; however, with most adults, this is not an acceptable option.
  • Using a barrier to reduce contact with bodily fluids. Using condoms for penetrative sex (vaginal, oral, and anal) or a dental dam for vaginal oral sex, can help to reduce your risk.
  • Keeping your number of sexual partners low: long term monogamous coupling is associated with a lower incidence of STI
  • Regular screening: Because many STI’s can be asymptomatic, regular screening is key to catching an STI early, treating the infection, and preventing damage to your own body as well as transmission to others,
    • Herpes: Recommended for those at risk for herpes (people having unprotected sex, have had sex with someone who is infected, or people experiencing symptoms such as sores)
    • Chlamydia:  men who have sex with men, as well as women who are under 25 have a greater risk of contracting chlamydia and should be tested for it
    • Gonorrhea: men who have sex with men, as well as women who are under 25 have a greater risk of contracting gonnorrhea and should be tested for it
    • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV): It is suggested that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested for HIV. If you do have HIV, it is imperative to be regularly screened for other STI’s as it is easier to contract them with an HIV infection
    • People born between 1945-1965: should be tested for hepatitis C as there is a high incidence in this population.
    • New Partners: Before having sex with a new partner, both people should be tested for STI to prevent transmission of new infections
    • HPV: Females should be screened for HPV at least every 3 years if they are 21 to 30.  It is recommended to be tested at least every 5 years for sexually active women over 30. There is currently no HPV screening for males.
      • Two vaccines are now available to help prevent two types of HPV associated cancer. The current recommendation is that both boys and girls receive the vaccine between the ages of 11 and 12 years old. Boys can receive that vaccine between 13 and 21 and girls between 13 and 26 as a catch up period.
    • Truvada: Truvada is a drug that is now available to help prevent transmission of HIV and indicated for use in high-risk populations.

 

When Genital Pain Limits Sex

Both men and women can have pain that is so severe that it limits their enjoyment of sex, or prevents sexual pleasure completely. There are many syndromes and diseases that can cause pain with sex. As we covered earlier, STI’s can influence pain, as well as other conditions such as non-bacterial prostatitis, vulvodynia, vaginismus, pudendal neuralgia, as well as many more. These diseases and conditions can be influenced by poorly functioning pelvic floor muscles and vice versa. Keep an eye out for future blog posts devoted entirely to these conditions.  It is possible to have tight and tender pelvic floor muscles as a result of an infective process, injury, or they may arise on their own idiopathically.

 

What to do if you have pain

First off, don’t panic.  Pelvic pain is relatively common, some studies estimate chronic pelvic pain rates being higher than 25%. You are not alone. It is important, though, to act swiftly to identify the culprit. The majority of pelvic pain is treatable, but the process is much easier when started earlier on in the pain cycle.

Go to your doctor to rule out any infective or disease process that may be causing your pain. The best case scenario is that a short course of treatment will do the trick. Unfortunately, often times the root cause is not identified on the first trip to the doctor and your results may come back negative for any infectious agent or systemic condition. This is common for many of the patients we see at Beyond Basics. If this happens to you, consider going to a pelvic pain specialist, whether physician or pelvic floor physical therapist, for more precise testing.

It is important to remember not all physicians are trained to recognize dysfunction of the musculoskeletal system, although the number of those who are trained is growing. Indications of musculoskeletal dysfunction are: pain that changes with changes in activity or position, pain that does not go away once the original disease or infection is treated or cured, or pain that can not be correlated to a specific systemic dysfunction. It is important to remember that musculoskeletal dysfunction in the pelvis can mimic, or be the cause of, bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction.

If you believe your pain is musculoskeletal in nature or even think it might be, it is important to be examined by a skilled pelvic floor physical therapist and not all pelvic floor physical therapists are well trained. Pelvic floor physical therapists can determine if muscles and/or nerves are playing a role in your pain, and then treat the dysfunctional muscles and tissues to allow you to return to your old activities. When looking for a pelvic floor physical therapist, it is important to inquire whether or not they do internal work, both vaginally and rectally, and to ask about their training and experience.

At Beyond Basics we are experts at treating sexual pain as well as screening our patients and referring them on to the correct physicians to help treat any systemic causes of pain. We value a holistic approach to treating sexual pain, and strive to provide our patients with the best care possible. If you are in the New York area, another state, or even abroad and are suffering from sexual pain, please consider starting your healing journey with us.  We have an extensive ‘out of town’ program:  URL for program.

 

Resources:

STI Awareness and Counselling Services

American Sexual Health Association: http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/

Planned Parenthood: www.plannedparenthood.org

 

  • Services provided
    • STI screening/counseling
    • HPV vaccine
    • Male reproductive health exams
    • Pregnancy tests and counseling
    • Health insurance screening and enrollment

NYC STI Clinics and Services: http://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/services/clinics.page

 

Sexual Assault Counseling:

 

RAINN: Rape Assault Incest National Network: https://centers.rainn.org/

-800.656.HOPE

  • Services provided (free or low cost):
    • Counseling
    • Medical Attention/ Hospital Accompaniment
    • Victim assistance/ advocacy
    • Legal/ Justice System advocacy
    • Emergency Shelter

Pelvic Pain Resources:

International Pelvic Pain Society: www.pelvicpain.org

 

International Society of the Study of Women’s Sexual Health: www.isswsh.org

www.pelvicpain.org

 

Heal Pelvic Pain

By: Amy Stein DPT

http://www.healpelvicpain.com/

Healing Pelvic and Abdominal Pain DVD

By: Amy Stein DPT

http://www.healingpelvicandabdominalpain.com/

 

Explain Pain

By: David Butler

https://www.amazon.com/Explain-Pain-David-Butler/dp/0987342665?ie=UTF8&hvadid=49868747328&hvdev=c&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvpone=&hvpos=1t1&hvptwo=&hvqmt=b&hvrand=9859257768995611935&ref=pd_sl_1tz644lwle_b&tag=googhydr-20

Healing Painful Sex

By:   Deborah Coady, MD and Nancy Fish, PhD

 

The Pain No One Wants to Talk About

https://beyondbasicsptblog.com/2015/05/13/the-pain-no-one-wants-to-talk-about/ When

When Sex Hurts

By: Andrew Goldstein, MD and Caroline Pukall, PhD

 

Sources:

 

International Pelvic Pain Society:  www.pelvicpain.org

 

International Society of the Study of Women’s Sexual Health:  www.isswsh.org (confirm url)

 

Ahangari A. Prevalence of Chronic Pelvic Pain Among Women: An Updated Review. Pain Physician. 2014;17(2) E141-7

 

Barrow R, Berkel C, Brooks L. Traditionally Sexually Transmitted Disease Prevention and Control Strategies: Tailoring for African American Communities.  Sex Transm Dis. 2008 Dec; 35 (12 sUPPL): s30-9

 

Katz A, Lee M, Wasserman G, et al. Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD): A Review of the CDC 2010 STD Treatment Guidlines and Epidemiologic Trends of Commone STDs in Hawai’i. Hawaii J Med Public Health. 2012 Mar; 71(3): 68-73

Mayo Clinci Staff. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sexually-transmitted-diseases-stds/home/ovc-20180594. [Accesses August 17, 2016]

 

 

 

Pelvic Health 101: Pain & Sexuality: Is it all in My Head?

Fiona McMahon, DPT

Sex should feel good… really, really good. But when it doesn’t, you may start to wonder, what’s wrong with me? Am I broken? Am I a prude? Am I frigid? Painful sex isn’t something we talk about. No one would look at you twice if you walked into work complaining of pain in your elbow, but if you walk into work complaining about pain in you vagina or penis, you may end up having a meeting with HR.

On October 20th at 7pm, we at Beyond Basics are breaking down those taboos and having an educational seminar, followed by an optional question and answer at the end.  The event will be hosted by one of our therapists, Stephanie Stamas, DPT, ATC. Stephanie will give a detailed seminar about pelvic health and take time to clear up some common misconceptions many people have concerning their bodies and sexual function.

PelvicHealth

We sincerely hope that if you are experiencing pain with sex, that you will come visit us to learn more. Our Pelvic Health courses are free and open to the public. If you are interested please register at: Pelvichealth101.eventbrite.com. We hope to see you soon!

Sex After Pregnancy

By Fiona McMahon, DPT

Edited by Amy Stein, DPT

It’s cliché to say the arrival of a new child is one of life’s most joyful events. It certainly can be. It can also be one of life’s most stressful events. According to the Homes and Rahe Stress Scale, pregnancy is one of life’s most stressful events falling just after having an ill family member. Sexual difficulties and arrival of a new family member are ranked just after pregnancy. It is little wonder that among the joy and excitement that comes along with a new baby, there is also stress and anxiety. Childbirth can have a profound effect on a couple’s sexual intimacy. Understanding a little bit about the physical and emotional factors that can affect post pregnancy sexuality can go a long way to reducing stress and beginning to start a new sexual relationship with your partner after the arrival of your child.

The causes of sexual dysfunction postpartum can be multifactorial and varied. They can occur simply because of the sleep deprivation and lifestyle upheaval a new baby can bring to a family dynamic. They can be hormonal. They can also be caused by postpartum depression, which can have a profound effect on one’s sexual desire. There are also physical factors such as dyspareunia, the technical term for painful vaginal intercourse. Rarely one single factor is the culprit. Post pregnancy sexual dysfunction is usually caused by several factors acting in concert.

Dyspareunia or painful sexual intercourse is fairly common after the birth of a child. Between 4 and 58% of women experience painful intercourse after vaginal delivery. Painful sexual intercourse in women after the birth of their first child was examined by Chaychinda and Ungkanungedcha in a 2015 article in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. The authors of this study found no correlation between painful intercourse and the birth weight of the child, newborn head circumference, or whether or not the mother had a history of pre-pregnancy dyspareunia.

In another study by Signorello and colleagues, the relationship of sexual functioning after childbirth was compared to the degree of birth trauma experienced by the mother during delivery.  The authors of this study classified participants into groups that included, the intact group (no vaginal tearing or episiotomy), women with first degree perineal tearing (tears to the vaginal mucosa only), second degree tearing (tears extending to the perineum and perineal muscles), third degree tearing (involving the external anal sphincter), and fourth degree tearing (involving the anal sphincter and surrounding rectal mucosa). The authors of this study found that women who do not experience any tearing or episiotomy tended to be younger and heavier.  Signorello found that all women, regardless of degree of birth trauma, resumed intercourse by 6 months after the delivery of their child. Most of the women experienced pain when they resumed sexual intercourse with the degree of pain dependent on the degree of perineal tearing. Dyspareunia was found in 33% of the intact group, 48% of the second-degree group, and 68% of the third and fourth degree group. The study also found that degree of birth trauma and maternal age were independent predictors of return to sexual functioning.

Overall sexual functioning after childbirth was examined by Khajehi and colleagues in an article to appear in the Journal of Sexual Medicine this year. In this study, overall sexual functioning was examined after childbirth. Khajehi found evidence supporting the work by Signorello that most women do not return to sexual functioning until 6 months after childbirth. Factors that influence return to sexual intercourse included return of genitals to pre-childbirth state, whether or not there is prolonged lochia (bleeding after childbirth) and perineal pain.

The authors also cited research that women having their first baby are more likely to experience sexual dysfunction than those who have already had a child, with sexual dysfunction significantly higher in women who had just given birth to their first baby at 8 and 16 weeks after delivery. The authors also looked at emotional factors that can affect return to sexuality and cited research that, emotional disturbance, fear of another baby, and well-being of the newborn as well as relationship dissatisfaction are correlated with sexual dysfunction, regardless of the sexual orientation of the couple.

New moms are not to be blamed for any type of sexual dysfunction following childbirth. In our society words like “frigid” get thrown around to describe women who cannot or do not want to engage in sex. It is important to remember that your body has gone through a tremendous change and produced something truly incredible. It is okay to allow yourself some time to recover and to return to sex slowly.

The Mayo Clinic has proposed some guidelines on return to sexual function after childbirth. They advise that new mothers wait 4-6 weeks after delivery to have sex regardless of whether they delivered vaginally or by c-section. Using a personal lubricant can help reduce pain and is particularly helpful because hormonal fluctuations can leave the vagina dry and tender, especially in breastfeeding mothers.

Physical exercise can be key in managing stress, improving body image, and helping to normalize sleeping patterns, which can all contribute to sexual dysfunction after pregnancy. Try to get 150 minutes of moderate exercise in a week to improve overall health. It does not all have to be at once, but adding in short 10-minute bouts of exercise in the morning or at lunch can easily add up to the 150-minute recommendation over the course of a week.

If you are not experiencing any pain or discomfort and you have not noticed any changes in bladder and bowel function, then you can do specific exercises for your vagina to increase blood flow and pleasure during sex. Pelvic floor exercises (Kegels) are contractions of your pelvic floor muscles. You perform Kegels by squeezing and drawing up your rectum and your vagina, like you were trying to stop gas or the flow of urine. If you were sitting on a hard chair while performing a correct Kegel you can actually feel the area between your vagina and anus lift up off of the chair. The best part of Kegels is you can do them anywhere and no one knows you are actually doing them! Keep your Kegels to a contraction of about 1-2 seconds and start off slow building to 100-200 contractions broken up over the course of the day. If you feel any pain with the exercises or notice any changes in bladder or bowel health, then stop doing the Kegels. This could be an indication that certain pelvic floor muscles are in spasm or there may be scar tissue that is causing the discomfort, and it is recommended to see a pelvic floor physical therapist.

Remember to take it slow to returning to sex. Start off with kissing and light touching. If anything hurts it is perfectly okay to put it on the back burner and return to it later. Be willing to explore. You might actually come up with new activities to add to your repertoire while you are waiting to recover. If you find that you are still troubled by sexual dysfunction months after childbirth, consider seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist for guidance in your recover. A pelvic floor physical therapist will be able to loosen and free up scar tissue, and treat any tightness and/or weakness, and teach you about more gentle sexual positions and activities to help you return to full sexual function. Just like any other injury, the sooner the problem is identified and treatment begins, the better; however, most conditions can be relieved many years, or even decades, later.

Sources

Chayachinda C, Titapant V, Ungkanungedcha A. Dyspareunia and sexual dysfunction after vaginal delivery in thai primiparous women with episiotomy. J Sex Med. 2015;12:1275-82

Khajehei M, Doherty M, Tilley M et al. Prevalence and Risk Factors of Sexual Dysfucntion ln Postpartum Australian Women. J Sex Med. 2015 [Epub ahead of print]

Mayo Clinic Staff. Sex after pregnancy: set your own timeline.[accessed May 2015] http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/sex-after-pregnancy/art-20045669

Signorello L, Harlow B, Chekos Am, et al. Postpartum sexual functioning and its relationship to  perineal trauma: A retrospective cohort study of primiparous women. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2001; 184: 881-90