What a start to the year! I’d spent the month leading up to Christmas working on my newspaper editors, trying to persuade them to publish an article I’d written on pelvic pain –all the dreadful problems causing discomfort in the vulva, vagina and other areas in the pelvis. Problems women sometimes refer to as “things that go wrong down there.”
This was a topic dear to my heart because I have spent so many years trying to find help for women who contact me about this type of problem. Women like Jennifer who wrote to me describing the most dreadful vaginal pain: ”I felt the most unbelievable heat, as if I had a red-hot poker inside me, and this burning sensation persisted for over two years, 24 hours a day,” she said. The only relief came from sitting for hours in cold salt baths.
Before she contacted me for help nearly two years ago, Jennifer had searched everywhere for answers, seeing innumerable doctors and alternative health practitioners. It had been 16 years since she had been able to have sex with her husband.
Last year I was thrilled to discover the medical profession is waking up to their plight. Vulva clinics are opening up across the country, staffed by specialists – gynaecologists, dermatologists, physiotherapists – who are newly branded ”vulvo-vaginal” experts trying to solve the mysteries that cause so many women such misery. My article talked about these new developments and where women could go to seek help.
Well, I missed out on December but after much lobbying, finally The Vagina Dialogues was published in early January – and the flood gates opened. I received hundreds of emails from women wanting referrals, wanting to tell their stories, or simply celebrating that their problem was finally getting a hearing.
“All those years I thought a lot of it was in my mind. My husband found me crying my eyes out before I got to the end of the article. I couldn’t believe I read my symptoms in print. I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” wrote one woman.
We even managed to get the vulva on to The 7.30 Report after I shamed the male producers by pointing out that they’d covered ED and prostate cancer and this was just the same territory – except this time in women. Then followed a talk-back session on Radio National’s Life Matters and the letters kept pouring in.
It’s been all very exciting and such a thrill to be able to help so many women. I’m now giving a series of talks to doctors about pelvic pain since one reason women have such trouble having these complex problems properly diagnosed is that knowledge about this area of women’s bodies is very recent and most doctors aren’t up to speed with the latest developments.
I hope you will all help spread the word about this vital health issue since so many women are still suffering in silence, too embarrassed to talk about what should be just another normal part of a woman’s body. Viva La Vulva!