At 33 years old, Claire seems to have it all — but looks can be deceiving. She and her husband have stopped having sex and that has put a strain on their marriage.

The problem: Claire experiences pain during intercourse. She and her husband have started to avoid all physical contact, fearing disappointment.

Her treatment options would have been limited at one time, but recent advancements in the understanding of pelvic health and pain have led to treatments that are helping women like Claire.

"In the past, women with pelvic pain were told the pain was all in their head or that it was the result of biological problems alone."

In the past, women with pelvic pain were told the pain was all in their head or that it was the result of biological problems alone. But health care providers are now starting to recognize biological, psychological and social factors all contribute to the problem. These biopsychosocial factors can all be treated, however it is important to find out the exact causes as they are unique to each individual.

Breaking the cycle

A woman who suffers from pelvic pain often experiences stress and anxiety because of the impact it has on her life. This results in increased muscle tension, which leads to more pain.

To help women break out of this cycle, the Proactive Pelvic Health Centre in Toronto provides them not just with physical therapies but also with psychotherapy, sex therapy and other treatments that help with pain reduction.

Clinic director and physiotherapist Angelique Montano-Bresolin says a multidisciplinary approach is the most effective way to treat pelvic pain, to break the cycle experienced by Claire and other women who suffer pain during intercourse. “This approach addresses all the contributing biopsychosocial factors,” she says. “Pelvic floor physiotherapy combined with medical treatment can reduce pelvic pain.”

Adrienne Bairstow, a sex therapist at Proactive Pelvic Health Centre, has a clear message to the countless women suffering from pelvic pain and its repercussions. “The problem is not just in your head,” she says. “But psychotherapy can address the psychological and relational components that affect the experience of pain.”

Bairstow encourages these women to keep searching until they find health care providers who are truly knowledgeable about the problem. There is help available, and you can regain sexual desire and enjoyment once again.