In an attempt to resolve pain during sex, M.K. was repeatedly misdiagnosed and had to endure traumatic and ineffective treatments such as intravaginal electroshock therapy.

M.K. (not her real name) started experiencing painful sex (dyspareunia) a few months after giving birth to her first child.

The mother of two felt a burning pain in her vagina upon penetration, followed by discomfort which was similar to menstrual cramps, which would persist for a few days.

“Even passing motion led to aches and pains,” says the Croatian who had lived in Singapore for a decade and is now a resident in the United Kingdom (UK). She also experienced heaviness and discomfort in her pelvic and vaginal area whenever she was carrying heavy objects.

M.K. assumed her symptoms were caused by post-partum injury, and she began taking painkillers to manage her pain, but found little relief. In fact the pain persisted.

Over the next few years, she consulted with a few gynaecologists. One had not only misdiagnosed her with vaginismus, but also subjected her to intravaginal electroshock therapy which was ineffective and not to mention traumatising.

“I was also recommended expensive injections, which I decided not to take, as I was not convinced of their safety or efficacy,” she reveals.

The financial and emotional toll

M.K. became increasingly frustrated about the thousands of dollars she was spending on medical treatments and consultations with no end in sight. At the same time, she was grappling with the demands of motherhood and stress from the loss of intimacy with her husband, on top of coping with persistent pelvic pain.

“We tried to be intimate in other ways besides vaginal penetration. As we were also trying for a second child at the time, it did not make sense to avoid vaginal penetration altogether. I’m really thankful that my husband was very understanding, supportive, and patient throughout the ordeal,” she shares.

While M.K. conceived her second child five years after the birth of her her first child, her joy was short-lived as the pelvic pain returned with a vengeance. Desperate and in need of an answer, M.K. visited another gynaecologist in 2017, who recommended she undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

“The MRI scan revealed varicose veins in my pelvic region, and the doctor diagnosed me with Pelvic Congestion Syndrome (PCS),” says M.K.

PCS, also known as Pelvic Venous Disorder (PeVD), is a fairly common cause of pelvic pain in women of reproductive age, caused by swollen veins or varicose veins in the pelvic region.

Traveling across continents for treatments

The gynaecologist offered M.K. ovarian coiling surgery or hysterectomy but she did not want to undergo either. Instead, she returned to Croatia to visit another gynaecologist for a second opinion.

There, the specialist confirmed installing coils in her right and left pelvic veins would be effective in resolving her pain. M.K. underwent the procedure immediately and returned to Singapore.

After the procedure, the pain and feeling of heaviness in her pelvis reduced by at least half. However as she still found sex uncomfortable, she was determined to find a solution to reduce the pain even further. Unfortunately, this was in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with restrictions imposed upon international travel, she was unable to return to Europe.

Consultant Vascular Surgeon, Dr Sriram Narayanan from the Venus Clinic

Consultant Vascular Surgeon, Dr Sriram Narayanan from the Venus Clinic

At last, a solution!

M.K. found Consultant Vascular Surgeon, Dr Sriram Narayanan from the Venus Clinic through a Google search and paid him a visit. He suggested M.K. undergo an MRI and a computerized topography (CT) scan to determine the source of her pain.

“After seeing the results of my scan and considering my medical history, Dr Sriram explained that a part of my vein along the vagina was still leaking, in spite of having inserted the coils,” shares M.K.

Dr Sriram recommended M.K. undergo foam sclerotherapy, a minimally-invasive treatment for varicose veins, which she could have done instead of inserting the coils. She underwent the procedure in December 2021, which further minimised her discomfort during sexual intercourse.

Back in the sack

While she is not completely pain-free, vaginal sex for M.K. has become more comfortable than before, although she was advised against vigorous sex.

She still experiences some residual post-coital pain and discomfort while passing motion, which could not be resolved as treating the relevant varicose veins which were below her pelvic bone and near her anus carried a high risk of damaging vital nerves.

To improve her symptoms and alleviate some of her discomfort, Dr Sriram suggested that M.K. strengthen her pelvic floor muscles by taking up and practising Pilates and other core exercises. She is also using oils and lubricants to aid in making sexual intercourse more enjoyable.

“I have also found comfort and encouragement from local PCS support groups, such as the Pelvic Congestion Syndrome Support group on Facebook, because it allows me to learn about the condition and how to cope with it from other women like me,” says M.K who admits that her condition has been largely resolved.