Excruciating reason woman can’t have sex
Sex is supposed to be a pleasurable experience, but for Jillian Currie, it's agonising.
The 26-year-old, from Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, says every time she gets intimate it causes her to tear "as if she has given birth".
Jillian, who works in e-commerce, has battled a string of gynaecological conditions since losing her virginity when she was 16, The Sun reports.
She says the cause of her intimate tearing - which is so painful she struggles to walk - has baffled medical experts and prevented her from having long-term relationships.
Jillian's problems began when she became sexually active back in 2010.
Fitted with a contraceptive implant at around the same time, she found it caused irregular bleeding.
To combat this she was placed on the contraceptive pill, but things went from bad to worse, as Jillian says the hormones caused her to suffer a heightened sense of anxiety.
Eventually, in 2011 doctors took her off contraception fearing it was aggravating her problems, and for a few years things seemed relatively normal.
But in 2014, aged 20, Jillian began to mysteriously tear every time she had sex.
"I'd be left with a deep cut, right where women usually tear when they give birth," she said.
"It was every time I'd have sex, and often it would be so painful that I'd have to stop.
"I was in a relationship at the time, but it obviously had an impact as not only was I not able to be intimate as much as I'd like, but I also lost all my confidence."
Jillian was also experiencing extremely heavy discharge to the point where she would have to wear a maxi pad and change it multiple times throughout the day.
"I felt disgusting. I didn't want anyone to touch me, so I basically stopped having sex," she said.
"I know different bodies produce different amounts, but this wasn't my normal.
"I know my own body and knew something had changed, but every time I went to the doctor I was told it was probably simple like thrush or bacterial vaginosis - another common gynaecological condition - and was given medication."
With prescribed tablets doing little to ease her symptoms, Jillian soon reached the end of her tether - fearing, in dark moments, that she had cervical cancer.
Just 24 years old at the time, she was too young for a routine smear test, but her situation was so untenable that doctors agreed to perform one early.
FOUND TO HAVE ECTROPIONS
Cancer was ruled out but she was found to have ectropions, where cells from inside the cervical canal are present outside it instead, causing bleeding, discharge and pain during or after sex.
In June 2018, she had the ectropions removed via a cryotherapy where lesions are frozen off.
But five months later, her symptoms returned with a vengeance.
"This time, I at least knew what to look for, so I went straight back to the gynaecologist, who found two more ectropions.
"In November 2018 I had a LEEP procedure, where an electrical wire loop scrapes and burns off the cells while I was sedated, and that side of things seems to have been under control since."
On her doctor's advice, Jillian also came off the contraceptive pill, as that can cause ectropions, but medics have not solved the problem of her skin ripping every time she has sex.
'SIX YEARS OF ABSOLUTE HELL'
"It's been six years of absolute hell. I must have seen around 20 different gynaecologists as well as lots of other doctors like dermatologists, sexual health and allergy specialists," Jillian said.
"At one point, I was even told it might be psychological, but while I understand that there may be an element of anxiety, I don't think it's the whole story.
"It wouldn't explain why my skin physically tears."
Early last year, Jillian saw a glimmer of hope when she found a specific steroid cream that appeared to ease her symptoms, but the tearing still continued.
Jillian then went to see a sexual health expert who referred her to a specialist at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire who had treated similar conditions.
At her appointment in December 2019, she was finally given a diagnosis of vulvodynia, a chronic pain condition that affects the vagina.
"My body is almost associating touch with pain," she explained.
While it was a relief to have a name for one of her woes, the reason for Jillian's skin being so fragile and prone to tearing remains a mystery.
Vaginal atrophy, where the vaginal walls thin or inflame, sometimes as a result of a lack of oestrogen, has been suggested as a cause.
"The vulvodynia diagnosis is a definite, but the atrophy is still a maybe," Jillian said.
"I just have to keep going with the treatment and see what happens."
Currently single, Jillian still has the unenviable task of telling men she has a chemistry with that she will struggle to be intimate with them before things progress.
"I have been in a couple of relationships while going through this, as well as periods of being single, but I would say my sex life for the past six years has been more or less non-existent," she said.
"Knowing what I'm missing out on has had an impact on my confidence and mental health.
"Now, I almost panic if I'm talking to guy and it starts to get flirty because I know at some point I will have to tell him that I cannot have sex as easily as other people can. Wondering when and how to bring it up is a challenge.
"Luckily, nobody has been nasty, and I suppose if they were, that's not somebody I would want around."
Despite life's considerable challenges, Jillian is trying to stay positive, throwing herself into her blog Queens of Eve, where she receives daily messages from women all over the world just like her.
By being so candid, she hopes to reassure others that they should not be embarrassed about their bodies.
"I'm happy to share my story because I want to help other women," Jillian said. "My Instagram page is like a help hub where women who have gynaecological issues can speak to fellow sufferers and learn that whatever they're going through isn't a taboo.
"The underlying issue is that women aren't properly taught about their own bodies. I've been on a wild-goose chase for a decade now and had no idea half of these conditions existed."
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission