Ask the Doctors: Healing From a Hysterectomy

My wife, age 42, recently (12/09) had a full hysterectomy due to endometriosis.

We waited 8 weeks before trying intercourse again.  However it was not a pleasant experience.  She experienced quite a lot of pain, and her vagina seems to be a lot shorter in terms of depth.  We asked her Doctor who performed the surgery about this, he indicated that yes her vagina is now shorter, however over time it will stretch back.

Is there anything you can suggest that will help with the pain and possibly stretching her vagina back to its normal size?

From your question, it’s not 100% clear whether the pain that your wife experienced was due to her vagina being shorter or from some other cause (or both). In addition, endometriosis can cause scarring which can make penetrative sex and/or orgasms uncomfortable or painful. If the cause is due to her vagina being shorter, I have a suggestion for you. However, if there’s something else happening, it might not be as helpful as I hope.

One way to help the vagina stretch is to use dilators. Traditional dilators are called “stents” and in essence, they’re smooth cylindrical shapes that can be inserted to help the tissues expand. They come in a range of sizes and may be available through your doctor. However, quite a few of our customers have used some of our slimmer vibrators (without switching them on) or dildos to achieve a similar effect. Since purchasing a range of toys of varying sizes can be difficult and expensive, we now offer our Vibrating Dilator Set. It includes a set of 4 different sizes (3 ½ x 7/8, 4 ¼ x 1, 5 ½ x 1 ¼, 6 ¼ x 1 ½) that slip over each other, similar to a set of nesting dolls. They’re easy to clean and if you want to use it as a vibrator, you certainly can.

There are different suggestions regarding how often and how long dilators should be used, so your wife might want to check with her doctor. Most of the folks I’ve checked with recommend inserting it (with lubricant) as far as is comfortable and holding it there for 20 minutes a day. But it would be worth getting advice from someone who’s familiar with her situation. One big advantage to using a dilator is that it’s under her control, which makes it easier to minimize the discomfort.

Pelvic and vaginal pain can become a self-reinforcing loop because pain can cause the muscles to tighten, which increases the pain. That cycle can be tricky, especially if she has had a history of pelvic pain from the endometriosis. The Pelvic Pain Rehabilitation Center in San Francisco has a lot of resources on their site, including a link to the Endometriosis Association, which might be useful. If you’re not in the area, you could contact them and ask for a local referral.

I hope that helps. I know that this can be a difficult experience and I wish you all the best.

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Dr. Charlie Glickman

Charlie Glickman is the Education Program Manager at Good Vibrations. He also writes, blogs, teaches workshops and university courses, presents at conferences, and trains sexuality educators. He’s certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and loves geeking out about sex, relationships, sex-positivity, love and shame, communities of erotic affiliation, and sexual practices and techniques of all varieties. Follow him online, on Twitter at @charlieglickman, or on Facebook.

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