A 26-year-old woman fears she will never find love due to a condition that means she tears ‘as if giving birth’ every time she has sex.
Jillian Currie, who works in e-commerce, says the cause of her tearing – which is so painful she struggles to walk – has left medical experts baffled.
The condition started mysteriously in 2014 but only now, after many years of speaking to experts, has she finally been diagnosed with vulvodynia – a chronic pain condition which affects the vagina.
Jillian, from Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, is speaking out as she continues to battle for a diagnosis, to help banish taboos surrounding vaginal conditions.
She said: ‘I can’t help feeling like there is a difference in the way men and women’s bodies are treated in medicine. Women are expected to just suffer in silence, and a lot of the time, we aren’t even properly taught about our own bodies.’
When she was 20 years old, Jillian began to tear the skin of her perineum – the area between the vulva and the anus – every time she had sex, leaving her in agony.
Alongside the tearing, Jillian was also experiencing heavy discharge, to the point where she would have to wear a maxi pad in her underwear, changing it multiple times throughout the day.
Jillian, who shares her experiences on her blog, Queens of Eve, says her problems began when she became sexually active.
Fitted with a contraceptive implant at the time, she found it caused irregular bleeding, which did not settle as her body got used to the hormones.
This was then replaced with the pill which made things from bad to worse, according to Jillian.
Eventually, in 2011, doctors took her off contraception, fearing it was aggravating her problems and, for a few years, things seemed relatively normal.
Three years later, while in a relationship, the tears began.
‘I’d be left with a deep cut, right where women usually tear when they give birth,’ she explained.
‘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.’
The discharge she was experiencing also made Jillian feel ‘disgusting’.
At first, Jillian worried it was a sign of cancer but thankfully it was ruled out.
At 24, she was a year too early to qualify for regular smear tests on the NHS but doctors agreed to do one anyway to get to the root of the problem.
Jillian 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. She had them removed but her old symptoms soon returned.
At the end of last year, Jillian saw a sexual health specialist who diagnosed her with vulvodynia.
While it was a relief to have a name, the reason why Jillian’s skin is 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.
And she is now taking a course of hormonal treatment and has to wait and see if it is effective.
But it still has a damaging effect on her love life as Jillian worries about scaring people off.
‘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.’
Her main concern for now, however, is to educate as many women as possible.
‘I want to put myself out there to show how many women are suffering like me.
‘If I’d had read a story like mine a few years ago, I’d have felt far less alone.’
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