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5 Embarrassing sexual health issues

Kori Ellis is an editor and writer based in San Antonio, TX, where she lives with her husband and four children. At SheKnows, she writes about parenting, fashion, beauty and other lifestyle topics. Additionally, Kori has been published i...

You aren't alone

You aren't the only one who has experienced embarrassing sexual health issues. Vaginal discharge, pain during sex, urinary incontinence and other problems are more common than you'd imagine. We consulted doctors around the country to find out what you should do about these embarrassing yet common conditions.

Woman in pain

3Pain during sex

There's a fine line between pleasure and pain, and you know when it's been crossed. If you are experiencing unusual pain during sexual intercourse, call your doctor.

"Pain should not occur when having sex. There are multiple diagnoses that can be the cause, such as endometriosis, an ovarian cyst, a bladder infection or PID (pelvic inflammatory disease)," says Douglas. "You should call your OB/GYN if pain is out of control such that, on of a pain scale of 10, the pain is greater than a 6."

Dr. Diana Ramos, an OB/GYN who has been collaborating on the project 50 Years off the Pill,  explains:

"Many women experience some type of pain during vaginal-penile intercourse. It can be on penetration, because of stretching, but it typically resolves. Having a sufficient amount of lubrication, either a woman's own vaginal lubricant or an over-the-counter lubricant, is easy and important.

"Pain can also be experienced deeper in the vagina, on the clitoris and in the pelvic area. Pain should not persist. Any pain that does persist should be an indication to see a health care provider and make sure there are no underlying medical causes."

If your pain during sex is severe, accompanied by heavy bleeding or a high fever, seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

Orgasm to-do list >>

4Feeling "loose"

Manhattan based OB/GYN Dr. Inga Zilberstein says it is common for women to feel loose after giving birth.

Says Zilberstein:

"During vaginal delivery, a baby's head 'sits' in the vagina for the duration of the second stage of labor. The fetal head distends the vagina. Usually, the head of a full-term baby has a diameter of 10 centimeters. A vagina can be compared with a pouch that is made up of (roughly) two layers. The inside layer is made out of soft tissue (mucosa), and the outer layer is made of muscular tissue. Both layers get stretched out during pushing.

"The rate and degree with which the second layer gets toned up to its original state is individual. Some women's muscles go back to pre-pregnancy state fairly soon. However, most women feel that their vagina is stretched and has not returned to its pre-pregnancy state. The feeling of a 'loose' vagina can be exaggerated by vaginal tears and episiotomies. The scars from the repair of the episiotomy or a tear decrease the ability of the muscles to return to their original state."

Women are generally advised to perform Kegel exercises to help tighten the vaginal muscles. Another route is available to restore the original state of the vagina, too: plastic surgery. Says Zilberstein:

"Our society has huge demands on women's looks. Anti-aging is in fashion. Although controversial, vaginal surgery is very popular and brings about great aesthetic results. The surgery is called vaginaplasty. During vaginaplasty, the muscles of the vagina are brought together, and the mucosal layer is reduced. As a result of the surgery, the vagina becomes smaller, and a woman has increased sensation during intercourse. Another technique employs a laser to tighten vaginal mucosa and muscles."

Sex after baby >>

5Urinary incontinence during sex

Oh no! You're leaking pee during sex! Don't worry: It's not as uncommon as you may think.

Ramos says:

"Occasionally, women lose a slight amount of urine during intercourse, depending on the position and sometimes during orgasm. Have an empty bladder before sex, and do Kegel exercises, which help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. If you lose a large amount of urine during every sexual encounter, it could signal an underlying condition such as stress urinary incontinence. It is important the patient speak with her provider to determine the cause and the solution that is right for her."

Dr. Prudence Hall of the Hall Health and Longevity Center explains why you might release a little urine during orgasm:

"The urinary bladder sits right on top of the uterus, so when it contracts during an orgasm, the bladder is also squeezed a bit, releasing some urine. Many women report increased pleasure with this. And because women normally release fluid with orgasm, the loss of a bit of urine doesn't seem to make much difference."

If incontinence is a problem for you, however, Hall recommends Kegel exercises and the Women's Liberty Machine before turning to other methods such as surgery to correct severe incontinence problems.

What affects bladder health? >>

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