Woman's mysterious condition means she tears "as if she has given birth" every time she has sex
Sex is a normal part of life and any relationship. Whether you're married, in a long-term relationship, or just looking for a bit of fun - sex is often an enjoyable activity for any two (or more) people.
However, for 26-year-old Jillian Currie, her sex life has become "virtually non-existent" over the last six years, as a result of a string of gynecological conditions that she has suffered with since she lost her virginity at 16.
Jillian, of Buckinghamshire, England, now fears that she will never have a successful romance, due to the fact sex can cause her vagina to tear "as if she has given birth" - the pain of which leaves her struggling to walk.
Since starting mysteriously, Jillian's condition has left medical experts baffled, and now she is sharing her story to help banish taboos surrounding vaginal conditions and let other women with issues know they are not alone.
Speaking to Press Association, Jillian says: "There’s a stereotype that women have a lower sex drive than men, but that isn’t always the case. I’ve wanted to do it, but not been able to – then I end up feeling frustrated that I can’t satisfy the other person.
"I can’t help feeling like there is a difference in the way men and women’s bodies are treated in medicine. Woman are expected to just suffer in silence, and a lot of the time, we aren’t even properly taught about our own bodies.
"It’s so hard not to lose faith, but I really want to encourage others out there to be persistent and keep pushing for an answer. You know your own body, so trust in yourself."
Sharing her views on her personal blog, Queens of Eve, Jillian revealed how her vaginal issues started when she lost her virginity back in 2010 - around the same time she was fitted with a contraceptive implant.
She recalls the implant causing irregular bleeding, which did not settle as her body struggled to adapt to the surge of hormones.
Jillian was then placed on a version of the Pill - but this only exacerbated her symptoms, This, combined with the various hormones lead to the e-commerce worker suffering from anxiety.
After doctors took her off contraception in 2011, things seemed relatively normal. That was, until 2014, when a 20-year-old Jillian – who was then in a relationship – started to mysteriously tear the skin of her perineum (the area between the legs) every time she had sex, leaving her in agony.
She said: "I’d be left with a deep cut, right where women usually tear when they give birth. It was every time I’d have sex and often it would be so painful that I’d have to stop.
"I was in a relationship at the time, but it obviously had an impact as, not only was I not able to be intimate as much as I’d like, but I also lost all my confidence."
In addition to the tearing, Jillian also experienced an extremely heavy discharge, forcing her to wear/change several maxi pads a day. She continued:
"I felt disgusting. I didn’t want anyone to touch me, so I basically stopped having sex. I know different bodies produce different amounts, but this wasn’t my normal.
"I know my own body and knew something had changed, but every time I went to the doctor, I was told it was probably simple like thrush or bacterial vaginosis – another common gynecological condition – and was given medication."
However, these prescribed tablets had very little effect, and Jillian started to fear she was suffering from life-threatening conditions like cervical cancer. At 24 years old, Jillian was able to convince doctors to perform a smear test - despite her being under the age limit in the UK. Thankfully, cancer was ruled out.
Although, the smear test did reveal that Jillian had ectropions - where cells from inside the cervical canal are present outside instead - which is known to cause bleeding, discharge, and pain during or after sex.
In June of 2018, she had the ectropions removed, a procedure that finally gave Jillian hope. But sadly, just five months later, her symptoms returned even worse than before.
"This time, I at least knew what to look for, so I went straight back to the gynecologist, who found two more ectropions", she said, adding: "In November 2018 I had a LEEP procedure, where an electrical wire loop scrapes and burns off the cells, while I was sedated, and, thankfully, that side of things seems to have been under control since."
Per her doctor's advice, Jillian came off the contraceptive Pill, but doctors were still nonethewiser as to why her skin kept tearing. The intimate area has now become so sensitive that she battles pain most days, sometimes struggling to use tampons and being unable to wear certain styles of underwear for fear of irritation.
Jillian said: "It’s been six years of absolute hell. I must have seen around 20 different gynecologists, as well as lots of other doctors like dermatologists, sexual health and allergy specialists.
"At one point, I was even told it might be psychological – but, while I understand that there may be an element of anxiety, I don’t think it’s the whole story. It wouldn’t explain why my skin physically tears."
"I’ve had allergy tests in case it was a reaction to something like an ingredient in my sanitary products, countless scans, and even a vulval biopsy – but nothing provided any answers.
"It got to the point where all I wanted was a diagnosis. Even if it was something bad, at least then I would know what I was dealing with and what my treatment options were."
In early 2019, Jilliam was once again offered a glimmer of hope, all thanks to a steroid cream. "I’d found one steroid cream that sort of worked, if I used it days and days in advance of having sex", she said, adding: "But then I figured I couldn’t live that way. For one thing, it would take any spontaneity out of having sex, but I also didn’t want to be using steroid creams long term on such a sensitive area.
"Plus, although it improved things, I was still tearing so it hadn’t completely resolved it."
Not willing to give up, Jillian went to see a sexual health expert who referred her to a specialist at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. During her appointment in December 2019, Jillian was finally given a diagnosis of vulvodynia - a chronic pain condition that affects the vagina.
It was certainly a relief to finally be able to put a name to her troubles, but the reason why Jillian’s skin is so fragile and prone to tearing still remains a mystery.
One suggestion is vaginal atrophy - a condition in which the vaginal walls thin or inflame, sometimes as a result of a lack of estrogen. In an attempt to combat this, Jillian is now taking a course of hormonal treatment, but is still waiting to see results.
"The vulvodynia diagnosis is a definite, but the atrophy is still a maybe," she said, "I just have to keep going with the treatment and see what happens."
Currently single, Jillian is fearful that she will never be able to have sex again if her condition does not improve.
"I have been in a couple of relationships while going through this, as well as periods of being single, but I would say my sex life for the past six years has been more or less non-existent.
"Knowing what I’m missing out on has had an impact on my confidence and mental health.
"Now, I almost panic if I’m talking to guy and it starts to get flirty, because I know at some point I will have to tell him that I cannot have sex as easily as other people can. Wondering when and how to bring it up is a challenge.
"Luckily, nobody has been nasty, and I suppose if they were, that’s not somebody I would want around."
Despite her unrelenting health issues, Jillian is still trying to stay positive - throwing herself into Queens of Eve, where attempts to help the many women that message her every single day:
"Through Queens of Eve, I try my best to be there for other women. It can be so difficult to find an answer for some gynecological problems.
"I’m happy to share my story because I want to help other women – my Instagram page is like a help hub – where women who have gynecological issues can speak to fellow suffers and learned that whatever they’re going through isn’t a taboo.
"A lot of the help out there seems to be geared towards older women, focusing on things like menopause and childbirth, or we’re simply given some drugs, or a form of contraception that can cause all sorts of other issues and told to get on with it.
"The underlying issue is that women aren’t properly taught about their own bodies. I’ve been on a wild goose chase for a decade now, and had no idea half of these conditions existed."
By being so open and honest about her own struggles, Jillian is hoping to reassure others that they should not be embarrassed about their bodies and seek medical help for conditions that were once considered "taboo":
"I understand that women can have insecurities, or feel a little uncomfortable going to the doctors about certain things, but there is no such thing as a normal body, and I really want to help break that taboo.
"Now, I want to put myself out there to show how many women are suffering like me.
"If I’d had read a story like mine a few years ago, I’d have felt far less alone."