- Endometriosis is a common pelvic condition that causes chronic pain, fatigue, and discomfort.
- Women with endometriosis often experience pain during sex.
- Anxiety and stress related to endometriosis can negatively impact relationships and even worsen erectile dysfunction (ED).
- Supporting your partner in treatment and in navigating sex with endometriosis can improve both emotional and physical intimacy in your relationship.
- eDrugstore offers a wealth of resources and treatments for enjoying a healthy and satisfying sex life.
Endometriosis is a common condition that can negatively impact a person’s quality of life. The chronic fatigue, cramping, bleeding, and pain during sex caused by endometriosis can disrupt a person’s sex life and even lead to relationship problems. Gaining a greater understanding of endometriosis will go a long way in supporting your partner and improving intimacy for both of you.
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a pelvic condition that causes tissue to grow outside the uterine walls. This endometrial tissue is typically shed during menstruation. If it grows outside the uterus, it can spread to the ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, bladder, bowels, and other areas of the pelvis.
Endometriosis affects roughly 10 percent of women across the globe. Many women with endometriosis experience pain, especially during their periods. Endometriosis can lead to a number of health complications, including infertility.
Common endometriosis symptoms include:
- Pelvic pain. Cramping and pelvic pain is typically worse during menstruation but can occur at any time.
- Painful periods. Pelvic pain, cramping, lower back pain, and abdominal discomfort are typically more severe during menstruation.
- Pain during sex. Pain during and after sex is called dysmenorrhea.
- Excessive bleeding. Many women experience heavy bleeding during menstruation as well as breakthrough bleeding between periods.
- Infertility. Women with mild symptoms may not realize they have endometriosis until they have trouble getting pregnant.
- Gastrointestinal problems. Some women experience abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, diarrhea, or constipation from endometriosis.
How Does Endometriosis Affect Sex Drive?
Endometriosis goes beyond making menstruation more uncomfortable. This condition can make it harder for women to enjoy sex. Research shows that premenopausal women with endometriosis are at an increased risk for experiencing sexual dysfunction.
Endometriosis can derail sexual desire and satisfaction because it causes:
- Chronic fatigue. Chronic fatigue and discomfort may make it less likely for women to feel up for sex.
- Bleeding during sex. Women who experience excessive bleeding during and in between their periods may feel uncomfortable having sex.
- Sensitivity to pain during sex. Abdominal pain and cramping can be made worse from penetration, which can place pressure on the tissue growing outside a woman’s uterus. This can make sex severely painful.
- Difficulty climaxing. Pain during sex, anxiety about bleeding, and general discomfort can all make it difficult for a woman to climax from sex.
How Is Endometriosis Treated?
Endometriosis can’t be cured, but it can be managed. The typical treatment plan for endometriosis includes managing acute and chronic symptoms, addressing damage to the reproductive system, and improving fertility. This can be accomplished through lifestyle changes, prescription medication, pain management techniques, and surgery.
Prescription birth control is one of the most popular hormonal treatments for endometriosis in women who aren’t trying to get pregnant. Birth control can help slow the growth of endometrial tissue by controlling estrogen levels in the body. However, some women feel a drop in sexual desire while taking birth control.
Severe cases of endometriosis may require surgery to remove tissue or lesions. However, this does not guarantee long-term relief and is only used after other treatment options have been exhausted. Women may choose to undergo a hysterectomy to treat severe cases of endometriosis.
How Can I Support My Partner With Endometriosis?
Taking the time to learn about endometriosis and to support your partner in their treatment choices can go a long way toward maintaining both emotional and physical intimacy. You can take additional steps to support your partner at home and improve their sexual experiences, despite endometriosis.
Lean Into Communication
Communication is key — both inside and outside the bedroom. Each partner should be able to talk about their experiences and feelings surrounding sex. This can help to prevent your partner from shutting down or simply avoiding sex altogether.
Improving your communication can enable couples to:
- Create a greater sense of safety and security
- Discuss expectations
- Learn what the other likes and dislikes
- Set boundaries
- Understand each other’s anxieties around sex
Some couples may benefit from working with a sex therapist or counselor. Seeking professional support can help couples work through any relationship issues or intimacy challenges caused by endometriosis.
Prevent Pain and Discomfort During Sex
Listen up when your partner tells you that sex hurts. This pain won’t disappear on its own. Fortunately, there are things you can do to lessen pain and improve sex for both partners.
You may be able to reduce pain and discomfort by:
- Choosing the right time. Endometriosis pain and discomfort are often the worst during a woman’s period. Tracking symptoms and triggers can help you and your partner to choose the best time for having sex without pain.
- Planning for bleeding. Women with endometriosis may bleed during sex. Let her know that it won’t bother you, and plan ahead for cleanup.
- Taking medication. Some women find relief from prescription or over-the-counter pain medication, which can be taken before sex to help with cramping and lower back pain.
- Taking your time. Slow down to enjoy foreplay and help your partner warm up during sex. Taking your time will let you pay closer attention to how they’re reacting and to know when to stop or slow down.
- Trying new positions. Some sexual positions place additional pressure on the pelvis, which can make pain more intense. Explore new positions to see what is most comfortable for you and your partner.
- Using lubricant. Endometriosis can cause vaginal dryness. Using sexual lubricants can help to reduce discomfort during sex.
It can take couples time to find what feels best and works best for their relationship. In the meantime, you can build physical intimacy in a variety of ways. Some couples might want to explore pleasure from outercourse, which involves stimulation without penetration.
Endometriosis and Erectile Dysfunction
Endometriosis is one of many chronic health conditions that can contribute to relationship stress and sexual dysfunction. For example, research shows that women with endometriosis are twice as likely to report sexual dysfunction as women without the condition. But this can also contribute to a male partner’s existing erectile dysfunction (ED), particularly when they’re afraid of rejection or of hurting their partner.
In addition to chronic health conditions, ongoing stress can also exacerbate ED in men. Some couples may find themselves working through endometriosis and sexual dsyfunction side by side.
Find Support With eDrugstore
Neither endometriosis nor ED have to come between you and your partner. You can build a healthy and fulfilling sex life with a little support.
Find support with eDrugstore, where you can speak to a provider for free and have erectile dysfunction treatments delivered to your door. Explore your options to get your love life back on the right track!
Shelby is a public health professional with research and field experience in sexual and reproductive health. She holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) and is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES).