My chronic pelvic pain took all my pleasure out of sex. Here’s how I got it back.
By: Steph Hutchinson
I always knew there was something different about my uterus. Since getting my first period at 11, I’d been plagued monthly by debilitating cramps and an elevator-scene-from-The-Shining amount of blood, in addition to moderate-to-severe pelvic pain that just never seemed to go away, and actually got worse as I got older. I remember my mother once apologizing to me for passing along our family’s trademark tilted uterus and all the discomfort it can bring, but it didn’t explain away all of my (adenomyosis-like) symptoms. Not to mention, my beyond-full-time work schedule and lack of accessible OB/GYNs in my city meant getting adequate care was basically impossible.
After being told by a general practitioner that I “just have a uterus that bleeds a lot” and that my care options for the pain I experience, particularly during sex, were slim to none, I was essentially ready to throw in the towel. I harboured so much resentment for my uterus, this small organ that sapped so much of my energy and made sex so brutal for (allegedly) no reason. My perception of sex became warped in that I started viewing the pain as just something I had to put up with – it wasn’t about pleasure and intimacy and the fun of mutually exploring bodies anymore, it was about how much pain I could handle through fully detaching from my body. It sucked. Sex wasn’t fun anymore, not even bare-minimum enjoyable. So I made some changes.
1 COMMUNICATING ABOUT MY PAIN WITH MY PARTNERS
Okay, okay, no-brainer, I know, but it truly is easier said than done! Despite the progress I made in working through the emotions tied to my pain, no healing is linear, and the exhausting labour of repeatedly verbalizing each way my body is different and how it causes me so much pain despite the ways I care for it just made me feel so stripped raw and vulnerable. My cheeks always got hot and my eyes would well up and my chest would swell with emotion: fear that I’m being “too much,” shame that my body and needs may be so different from what my partners are used to, resentment that there is so much more work, so many extra steps to accessing my pleasure than there seems to be for other people. It’s not fair.
Then I was reminded, willfully neglecting to advocate for my body and my pleasure also isn’t fair. Knowing what I like and what I need but refusing to share this information with my partner, then feeling resentful when they oh-so-ignorantly have more fun than I do, isn’t fair. Leaving the tough emotions for my future self to work through, when my present self is more than capable of doing the work, isn’t fair.
With practice and patience, it’s gotten easier. Despite what my fears have told me, the vast majority of partners with whom I’ve communicated my needs have been compassionate and accommodating. Why? One, because they genuinely value my experience of pleasure as equal to their own. And two, I’m usually not the first partner they’ve had that experiences pain during sex. It’s too easy to forget that you’re not alone in your feelings and experiences, but every time you have these tough conversations, a future chronically-pained babe breathes a sigh of relief.
2 USING OHNUT PENETRATION DEPTH CUSTOMIZERS
I was so pleasantly surprised the first time I tried Ohnuts, I accidentally blurted out, “Oh, this is what it’s supposed to feel like.” Genuinely, for the first time ever, I was experiencing penetrative sex that didn’t feel like a small hammer beating the f*ck out of my uterus! Amazing!
Designed by and for uterus-having folks that experience penetrative pain, whether from endometriosis, adenomyosis, pregnancy, menopause, or, of course, a tilted uterus, the Ohnut’s concept is so comfortably simple: four 2.5cm-tall stackable rings, made of an otherworldly-squishy polymer-blend material, are worn at the base of a penis or toy and perfectly buffer against too-deep penetration without sacrificing sensation for you or your partners. Because they’re silicone and latex-free, they’re totally compatible for use with condoms, silicone or oil-based lubes, or your favourite silicone toy. The classic Ohnut stretches up to 8in wide and the wider model up to 12in, ensuring a comfortable fit for all bodies, and most penis-having partners I’ve played with reported that wearing Ohnut rings felt like essentially wearing nothing; at most, they loved the gentle “hug” the Ohnuts gave the base of their shaft. Plus, the more rings we had stacked, the shallower they could penetrate, meaning sensation became more localized to the head of their penis, and the Ohnuts made a *handy* little stroker to spice up my handjob game. Wins all around.
Because the Ohnut rings are stackable, you have full freedom to find what feels good, especially during pain flare-up days. Ohnut recommends beginning with 3 rings the first time you play, then adjusting to suit your comfort level as needed (remember, it’s normal for needs to change – you’re never “faking it” or being dramatic). To use, begin with a generously lubed-up and condom-covered (if applicable) shaft. Stretch and slide your desired number of rings down to the base of the penis or toy… and that’s it. No slippage, no pain, just pleasure (and maybe a few happy-tears).
3 FINDING THE INTERSECTION OF SENSUALITY AND PAIN-RELIEF
In case you need the reminder: there is so much more to sex than penetration. Embracing sensuality, that being intentionally connecting with my body and taking note of what feels good to me beyond just sex, was the catalyst for me finding my way back to pleasure. And since then, it’s grown into my own rebelliously-meditative practice: in a world that constantly asks me to push through my pain, consciously slowing down to be present in my body, connecting with my senses, and letting myself feel feels so gently revolutionary. Plus, it’s prepped me for my flare-up days when penetration just isn’t on the table.
On those days, I prefer the company of Moondance (and my vibrator). Moondance pain oil is nothing short of magic. Beautifully crafted with 100% plant-based ingredients, it’s a luxurious oil blend to hydrate and nourish my skin, while also acting quickly to soothe period cramps and pelvic pain. Sesame seed oil is a powerful anti-inflammatory that also offers subtle warming properties to the skin, pairing perfectly with peppermint essential oil, which brings a cooling/tingling sensation, and can help offset PMS symptoms like headache and fatigue. Additionally, hemp seed oil has traditionally been used as a topical treatment for pain relief, due to its anti-inflammatory properties, and lavender and ylang ylang essential oils are renowned for their muscle-relaxing and mood-soothing properties to chill you out when you need it the most. My absolute favourite practice on my flare-up days is to do the best full-body stretch I’m capable of (with a particular focus on releasing my lower back as that’s where my uterus is pointing), drawing a warm bath with a few pumps of Moondance mixed in, then giving myself the most loving massage, with Moondance of course, particularly focusing on my lower back, lower belly, and inner thighs. It’s the perfect recipe to make me feel grounded, nurtured, and completely blissed out, setting the perfect stage for a looong night with a nice rumbly vibe.
4 EXPLORING POSITIONS
We all know, with or without reproductive system quirks, all bodies are different, and what feels pleasurable to one may not feel pleasurable to all. That said, the general census among my fellow tilted-uterine hotties is that standard rear-entry positions, like doggystyle, can be quite uncomfortable as it’s the easiest position for a penis or dildo to “bump” the retroverted uterus. Conversely, missionary with the receiving partner’s legs up in the air can also be painful if the penetrating object goes too deep and repeatedly hits the cervix. So what are we to do? Modify, modify, modify.
As mentioned before, Ohnuts are a game-changer when it comes to preventing painful, too-deep penetration, but if they’re not in the budget or you’re worried about sharing them with partners, there are so many ways to experiment with the positioning of bodies to help reduce pain! For missionary-style positions, I love finding a way to keep bellies touching – by keeping this in the back of mine and my partner’s mind, it helps keep my pelvic muscles and uterus ‘flat’ and out of the way, while also providing a bit of a boundary for how much “swing” I’d like my partner to have between each thrust. You can also try a grinding or swaying motion while in a deep missionary position, which will mimic the sensation of deep thrusting without that jackhammering feeling on your cervix. This concept but reversed also works great for rear-entry positions – laying flat on my tummy with my partner straddling over my hips still keeps my pelvic area “straight,” while also making deeper penetration more accessible and that grinding motion more intuitive. For standing and cowgirl positions, I take note of my partner’s anatomy (i.e., how much their penis or dildo curves and in what direction, the length and girth, etc) and incorporate that into how I arch my back, so that the chances of it bumping into my uterus are slimmer – generally speaking, this looks like keeping my torso quite vertical and with a pretty generous “booty pop,” using my lower back to push my pelvic muscles and uterus backwards and out of the way.
Remember, all bodies are different, and this is by no means an exhaustive list of possible modifications! I deeply encourage you to get creative and curious to find what feels good for you, while also being honest with yourself and your partner if a position just isn’t working. There’s no shame in trying.
5 LOTS OF LUBE. LOTS OF FOREPLAY.
Ooh baby, time for the fun part. We all know foreplay is important to get the body warmed up and lubricated, but it’s particularly important for folks with pelvic pain as it encourages muscle relaxation through the whole pelvic region, thereby making penetration significantly more comfortable, especially if you have an orgasm or two first. As always, what foreplay looks like is totally up to you – nipple stimulation, oral sex, mutual masturbation, or incorporating a toy are common and accessible practices, for example. Again, I encourage you to explore (especially solo!) what feels great to you, and to openly communicate and advocate for your foreplay needs to your partner(s) – there’s no shame in asking for more!
Secondly, lube is chronically underrated for its pain-preventing potential. Even if you’re basically a human Slip-N-Slide, having a great, long-lasting lube will give you that extra insurance against unnecessary friction, and even soothe you from the inside out. Since I use condoms with my partners, I always use Intamo Pleasurables’ Smooth Operator Water-Based Lube. It’s formulated with plant-based hyaluronic acid, which helps attract hydration to the skin, thereby prolonging and encouraging my own lubrication, while aloe vera and rosewater provide powerful anti-inflammatory and skin-restoring properties, preventing post-sex irritation before it even starts. Plus, it’s ultra-velvety in texture, genuinely long-lasting, pH-balanced, and 100% safe to use with condoms and toys – seriously, once you try it, nothing else compares.
On the flip side, if condoms aren’t a concern, Wild Thing Oil-Based Lube is a top choice for folks with pelvic pain. Formulated with only four plant-based ingredients, it’s a longer-lasting lube with serious pain-relieving properties. Sesame seed oil offers a subtle warming feeling, helping your pelvic and vaginal muscles relax from the inside out, while coconut oil provides a silky texture, relieves vaginal dryness, and has gentle antimicrobial properties. Vitamin E oil ensures the lube’s longevity for limited re-applications, while hemp seed oil acts as a topical pain reliever, and contains essential fatty acids that can help remove environmental toxins from the body, contributing to overall improved sexual health.
In conclusion: listen to your body. Come back into it. Nurture it, celebrate it, forgive it. Talk about your pain – to your partners, to your friends, to yourself, to your doctors (there are good ones out there who will believe you about your pain, I promise!). Feed your body pleasure, and lots of it. Let go of any notion that your body is too much, too complicated, too undeserving to access pleasure, that having different needs or modifications means that you’ve failed. And when you’re ready, I invite you to get creative, invest in your well-being, and try. Wishing you the sex you deserve from here on out. <3