Poor Sexual Health Among Women with Fibromyalgia Needs More Attention, Researchers Say

Poor Sexual Health Among Women with Fibromyalgia Needs More Attention, Researchers Say

Fibromyalgia can be a significant obstacle to sexual health among affected women, according to a recent study, which underscored that a lack of understanding among partners contributes to poor sexual relationships.

Pain or stiffness related to sexual acts also tends to give rise to a downward spiral of worries and fears related to sexuality, which then further aggravates the problem by reducing the desire for, and pleasure of, sex.

Still, not all women with fibromyalgia see lost sexuality as a problem, the study, “Perceptions about the sexuality of women with fibromyalgia syndrome: a phenomenological study,” showed. The work was published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

The research team at the University of Almeria in Spain used a qualitative approach to study sexuality among women with fibromyalgia. Six women underwent semi-structured interviews where researchers addressed various aspects of sexual health.

Not surprisingly, pain and stiffness were factors that played major roles in interfering with sexual activities, the women reported. Women also reported that sex and even foreplay caused them to get skin lesions and bruises. Pain can be felt before, during, and after sex, and sometimes deterred women from future sexual activity.

The abnormal pain response in fibromyalgia, in which a light touch can produce intense pain, is not always understood by partners, complicating sexual relationships. And stiffness after sexual intercourse can be so severe it prevents women from urinating, the study showed.

Some medications also make matters worse by increasing vaginal dryness or reducing sexual desire. Women over age of 45 can, however, also experience such symptoms because of their disease, as fibromyalgia is linked to an earlier menopause.

The participating women also mentioned bodily changes and a negative self-image as factors that contribute to poor sexual health.

The study showed that the majority of women thought of sexuality as part of a coping strategy. Women try to lead a life that is as normal as possible, including retaining their sexuality. On the opposite of the spectrum were women who had lost all interest in sexuality.

But the importance of sex was not constant. Women stated that they experienced crisis periods when they felt particularly low desire. During these times, characterized by more pain and depression, they wanted to be left alone by their partners.

These factors often led to strained relationships.

Some of the women reported that they viewed sex as a crucial part of keeping a relationship together, and so engaged in sex to please their partners. According to the study, this might not have the intended effect. When partners perceived the lack of pleasure, feelings of guilt and frustration could further strain relationships.

But despite the hardships, many women actively looked for options to improve the situation. Some focused more on foreplay to allow themselves to relax, while others spoke of finding sexual positions that did not lead to pain. Others spoke of physical exercise as a means of improving their sexual life.

A lack of understanding was mentioned at several points in the study, and so a focus on communication might also relieve problems, researchers suggested.

Although researchers addressed several limitations of the study, they underscored that much can be done to improve sexual health among women with fibromyalgia, including advising women on relaxation techniques and exercise programs.

“Despite limitations, sexuality is important for the identity and quality of life of women with fibromyalgia syndrome. Together with the physical symptomology, guilt, fear and a lack of understanding compromise the coping process. Women need the support of their partner, their socio-family environment and health professionals.” the researchers wrote.

The team suggested that more research is needed to understand sexual health, as well as ways of improving it, among these patients.

6 comments

  1. Bronwyn says:

    Yes to the above. I have spent months trying to find answers to this added issue with Fibro. I so miss the intimacy that I used to have with my husband. (not the orgasmic issue, but just having close physical contact with him). The pain that is experienced during intercourse is Unbearable, and then leaves me so sore , and then due to the “jarring sensation on my spine” I end up with such a bad headache/pain at base of skull, that I have just started not to go there.
    Any help/research to deal with this issue for us would be so helpful to many. Thankyou.

  2. The pain of being touched, made Sex too difficult, too painful, unpleasant. We ended our sexual relationship much earlier than we wanted. Fortunately, our marriage has many more facets.

  3. Mandy says:

    This issue is very interesting for me, but for the opposite reasons of the other people posting. My partner and I have actually become closer and more intimate since my diagnosis. We are both very passionate people and our sex life is important to our relationship. We keep communication open and my partner is very understanding about my condition and always takes my comfort level into consideration above anything else. I don’t have a problem being touched as long as it’s fairly gentle and I find massage relaxing, I exercise fairly regularly too. I think this has helped me to be able to still enjoy being sexually active despite the chronic pain. Another perk is that the orgasms are a great short-term stress reliever and muscle-relaxer!

  4. Tae says:

    This sounds exactly like part of my struggles with fibro. I’m 27 and can’t have any sort of sex life with my husband. It is so painful. I was recently diagnosed with Vulvadynia, which I have read is something common that women fibro suffers can get. I’m waiting to see a specialist. Hoping I will get help on how to manage it. I just want to feel normal and feel like my marriage is normal. Luckily I have a very understanding husband, who helps me to not give up and get through each day. Any info on how to manage this would be appreciated❤️

  5. I can so agree with the posts above. My constant pain has hindered our sexual relationship as well as my husbands two knee replacements. Just the slightest touch and I cringe because it hurts, my hubby understands but at the same time wants to be close and intimate and I try to avoid because it hurts. I miss it and at the same time dread it.

  6. Connie Alvarez says:

    Interesting article. My problem is that the medications I am taking have made it impossible to achieve orgasm. I have discussed this with my doctor but it can be difficult to find an alternative medication that is covered by my health plan. Also, being sexual dysfunctional adds to my depression at times. Does anyone else experience this problem? It would be wonderful if someone would share their experience. I know it can be difficult to discuss for some people. Meanwhile, God bless all of you. 😃💜

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