At the age of 23, I was diagnosed with vulvodynia/vulvar vestibulitis. I have both provoked and unprovoked vulvodynia - meaning my vulva/vagina hurts when touched and when just simply sitting. I had a partial vestibulectomy when I was 25 removing the tissue from 3 o’clock - 9 o’clock of my vestibule. I had a horrible recovery, including torn stitches, etc. After 9 months of healing time, the pain persisted. I cried, doubting my decision and worried I had made the wrong choice. The pain after surgery was in the scar tissue/surgical site as well as my anterior fourchette (right below the clitoris leading to the opening of the vagina). Post surgery I expected to be a new woman, healed and embracing life but that was not the case. I ended up leaving my surgeon in a quest for other avenues of relief. I went to a specialist who prescribed multiple compound creams made up of amitriptyline, gabapentin, estrogen, and testosterone. Nothing was working and the burning persisted. My specialist told me to stay the course. It was time for my annual gynecological visit and I hadn’t seen a “normal” gynecologist that wasn’t a vulvodynia specialist in years. That’s when I met Dr. Debra Epstein. She listened to me, and worked WITH me, unlike the other doctors who told me I had to stay the course and do exactly what he or she said. She is THE only doctor I trust with my vagina. I came to her feeling completely broken. A 28 year old woman who couldn’t have enjoyable sex and couldn’t sit or even run without burning.
Dr. Epstein is a Mona Lisa Touch specialist. The Mona Lisa Touch is a laser procedure that is normally geared towards older women facing dryness and menopausal problems that lead to painful sex. After doing research, Dr. Epstein found a study of women in Italy with vulvodynia who had undergone the Mona Lisa Treatment. In that study, some women had good results and others experienced no change, but no one had gotten worse. I did not take my decision to undergo the laser treatment lightly. Dr. Epstein allowed me to talk to her and share my fears and weigh the pros and cons of the procedure. Today, I sit here, with no burning. I had 6 MonaLisa treatments using a vulvodynia setting. I am not 100% but I would say I am 70-80% improved. I also always had burning with urination but compared to my constant pain, it was not on the top of my list of concerns. After my Mona Lisa treatments I now have no burning with urination!
I want women with similar problems to know that they are not alone and they have a right to be pain-free/have a better quality of life. I know what that pain, that constant burning is like every minute of the day and I tried so many things, including a vestibulectomy and 3600 mg of gabapentin a day! I now take 60mg of Cymbalta once a day and I am feeling so much better. I have been through physical therapy for my pelvic floor since my journey began and post surgery, and I have noticed a huge difference in dilating since the laser treatments. I want women to know there is still hope. Am I 100% pain free? Not yet, but I notice a huge difference in my comfort. Most of the day, I don’t even think about my vagina! Do not give up, you have a right to be pain free/minimal pain, have a doctor who works WITH you, and not to always be thinking about your pain and discomfort every single day.