The Wedding Night Nightmare by Anonymous

The Wedding Night Nightmare by Anonymous

THIS ARTICLE IS INTENDED ONLY FOR MOTHERS AND MARRIED WOMEN.

The following story is a very graphic description of one frum woman’s struggle with and victory over PVV, a medical condition that makes marital intimacy extremely painful. I was very hesitant to post such an extremely graphic account of what took place behind one woman’s bedroom door. But when I consulted with my rabbi, he encouraged me to post this article, explaining that the benefit to women who will, IY”H, be helped by this article’s publication outweighs the need for secrecy around intimate matters. I would like to request that you share this woman’s important story with kallah teachers in your communities, so that no more brides will have to needlessly suffer like the author of this article, IY”H.

The Wedding Night Nightmare by Anonymous

I was your regular out-of-town Bais Yaakov girl. Just like everyone else, or so I thought.

I participated in choir, drama, chesed programs, and more. When I graduated high school, I went to seminary just like everyone else. I learned a lot and had a wonderful year. I came home, started college, and soon after that started shidduchim.

At the time I thought to myself, “I just have to get married, and then everything will be great.” I met with shadchanim, had crazy dating stories just like everyone else, and B”H two years after I’d started dating I was set up with my husband.

Things were stressful but fine, and the last issue I thought would arise after the wedding would be something that had to do with my intimate life.

After all, my family is Modern Orthodox, so I grew up watching all the movies describing how amazing intimacy is supposed to be. I knew how to do and say the right things, and how to be romantic.

Everyone told me that what would happen on my wedding night would hurt, so that was not a new concept. But nobody prepared me for what I was about to experience.

All the romance movies have the gentleman saying that it will only hurt for a moment. For a moment it’s painful, but it’s followed by passion and fireworks. In a way, I guess that’s what I was expecting. I had been told that a woman’s first experience with intimacy isn’t always so good, so I wasn’t expecting perfection. But I was definitely not expecting this.

I was always shomer negia, so I had obviously never had any personal experiences with intimacy- therefore I had no way of knowing I had Primary Vulvar Vestibulitis (PVV). Most women first realize they have PVV when the pants they wear are too tight, and rub up into their private area. That means that as a frum girl, I had no warning signs of the pain I would experience on my wedding night.

The first sign that something was wrong was when I tried to do my first bedika. My kallah teacher told me how to do it; I was supposed to wrap a bedika cloth around my finger, insert it, move it around and see if there were any stains on it. No biggie. But I remember the day my kallah teacher told me to try doing a bedika at home, weeks before the wedding. It hurt so much I cried. I couldn’t do more than insert the bedika cloth up with one finger. Moving my finger around felt extremely painful.

I remember calling my chosson. I explained to him what had happened and how it hurt so badly to do a bedika. He told me it was probably because I wasn’t used to it, and that I should not worry about it. My kallah teacher told me the same thing. I decided it probably hurt so much because my hymen wasn’t broken yet, and that when it would be, I would be able to perform regular bedikas without a problem.

I was never abused nor had any history of trauma to my “lower” area, and I am an extremely “touchy” person so whenever I would think of my wedding night, I imagined a beautiful, romantic night.

Fast forward to the night of our wedding. I made the room all ready with scented candles and relaxing music. This was going to be beautiful, I thought.

However, when my husband of one night tried to consummate our marriage, I felt the most intensely sharp pain I have ever felt in my life. The only thing that it could be compared to is the feeling of sand paper being inserted inside me; a ripping and burning feeling. I immediately squeezed my muscles as to not let anything in, since the pain was too intense. It was not the type of pain that goes away when the stimulus is removed; the pain lingered all night. We tried again in the middle of the night but I still could not allow anything in me.

My kallah teacher said that the first night should be painful, but I never imagined it being that painful. But because it was our first try, I assumed that this was what people were referring to when they said that the first night could be painful. I took the positive outlook of “At least we’re not in nidda yet!” I hoped the next night would be better, and that we would be successful in consummating our marriage.

It was so hard to plaster a bright smile on my face for six nights that were filled with pain and disappointment. I also felt like a terrible wife; I felt so lonely and ashamed. The happy parties that people were making for us were not my reality. We knew something was wrong.

Because I mean, come on. In this day and age, who doesn’t know how to be intimate? I was obviously abnormal.

“What is wrong with me?” I thought.

The same story from the first night repeated itself throughout all the nights of sheva brachos. It took over a week of marriage to finally consummate our marriage, but it took a LOT of effort on my part to let my muscles open up and endure the pain. My eyes and fists were clenched and my mouth was silently screaming in pain. It was the most horrific pain I have ever endured; I felt burning and sore until the next morning. And I was one of the lucky ones, because many people with my condition, as I would later discover, literally can NOT consummate their marriage.

The months following our marriage I had made plenty of calls to my ob-gyn practice telling them about my pain during intimacy, and the only thing I was told was, “You have to relax, and use more lubrication.” But I knew it wasn’t only a matter of not being relaxed, because I was still finding it almost impossible to perform my bedikos.

After about a year of having an extremely sparse bedroom life, and being told to use more lubricant and to relax, I knew there had to be another answer. I begged my ob-gyn to help me out. She prescribed me lidocaine ointment which numbed the area- this was a bit helpful but very inconvenient. It needed to be applied 30 minutes before intimacy and left me extremely itchy. The ointment numbed the pain slightly (and with such intense pain, any relief is a success). But I still had the same burning and throbbing pain after the numbing gel wore off. I used this lidocaine technique for a while but I knew that I was still experiencing a tremendous amount of pain, and I knew that there must be something else that could help me. I thought, “Maybe I’m just too small? Maybe I just need to be “opened up?”

After a year a half of living with this, I was finally referred to Dr. Richard Marvel of GBMC. Dr. Richard Marvel met with me for 2 hours, first in his office talking with me about my experiences, and then in the exam room. After doing the exam he explained to me that I had Primary Vulvar Vestibulitis. In short, he explained that this is a condition I was born with, but never realized it. PVV is characterized by pain upon application or pressure to the vestibular area. The pain comes from an extremely large amount of nerve endings concentrated in that particular area. After leaving Dr. Marvel’s office, I had new hope since I knew 1) I was not alone, and many people suffer from this and 2) There are proven cures for what I had.

(Please Note: there are DIFFERENT types of pelvic pain, such as secondary/general VV, Vaginismus, Pelvic floor Dysfunctions, which may be treated differently.)

My doctor also explained that for women with PVV, psychological counseling provides no help due to the fact that the pain is very real and has a physical source.

My doctor was very honest with me from the beginning. He told me about a surgery, the vestibulectomy, which has the highest success rates for patients with Primary Vulvar Vestibulitis (VV). However, he told me that if I preferred he could put me on oral medications to try out first. And I decided to try out the medical route before jumping into surgery.

Dr. Marvel first started me on nerve block medications such as Gabapentin for a few months, and then Amitriptyline. I had horrible side effects from both; such as extreme dizzyness, fatigue, and one time I even fainted. After much discussion with my extremely supportive and loving husband, who was phenomenally sympathetic and helpful throughout this whole ordeal, we decided to opt for surgery.

After all, we did want to have children IY”H, and trying to conceive would not be easy when intimacy seems like a painful chore. So we decided that I would get this surgery. My surgery was scheduled about two months in advance, and Dr. Marvel and his nurses did a wonderful job preparing me for it.

I’m not going to sugar-coat things, it was a difficult recovery following the operation. Immediately afterwards it was extremely difficult to walk or sit, so I spent about 2 weeks in bed lying on my back. But slowly things got back to normal and I was able to sit and walk again. I was able to walk to shul and go back to work at about 2 and 1/2 weeks post op. At 2 months post op, Dr. Marvel told me about using dilators. He had me use them twice a day at home. I was shocked when I was able to stick something inside me and not feel pain.

When I got to the largest dilator about 6 weeks after the surgery, the doctor told me that when I felt comfortable I could have relations again.

The first time my husband and I were intimate after the surgery, I cried; but this time I cried tears of happiness. I felt no pain at all. It was then that I decided I had to educate as many people and kallah teachers as possible about my journey so that I could help women who have what I had find a cure, like I did.

There were times after my surgery when intimacy was a bit painful, but not nearly as painful as before. I realized that the times when it was painful were those times when I was not relaxed because I was still expecting pain. After I realized that, I started really focusing on being relaxed, and the more we were able to be together without pain, the less I anticipated the pain, and the less pain I actually felt.

I am now 8 months post-op and can B”H report that I no longer feel pain during intimacy- not even minor pain.

I am so grateful that I was treated by such a skillful surgeon and doctor as Dr. Marvel, whom I can now say with such joy & appreciation, changed my life.

I recognize that Hashem made a huge miracle for me, because the statistics show that most women feel an 80% decrease in pain following this surgery, which is still a huge improvement. But at present, when I am really relaxed, I even experience pleasure during intimacy; something I never would have dreamed of before.

I know my story is long and detailed, but if anyone is going through what I went through I would like them to know that they are not alone, and that there are cures for what they have. I would like as many kallah teachers as possible to be able to read this as well, so they can educate their kallahs on what happens to a very small percentage of brides on their wedding night, so those brides don’t feel alone and stuck in a world of despair. Those kallahs will have someone who can help them find a pelvic pain specialist who can then bring them, as well, on a journey to a complete recovery, IY”H.

If anyone would like to contact me directly for help with PVV, I can be reached at helpforpvv@gmail.com.

Image courtesy or Flickr.com user Sue Hasker

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33 comments

  1. Wow. Kol hakavod for sharing this. It is incredibly important.

  2. Great yasher koach to the husband who remained supportive and mature throughout. He is a mentsch of the highest order.

    To the writer of the article: I’m so glad you’re better. And thank you for the education. Important to know. Thank you CJW for your courage.

  3. Thank you for sharing such an important story and breaking the invisible but damaging barrier around marital intimacy in the frum world.
    You have given me and most women yet another thing to thank Hashem for: how many of us are grateful for ” no pain ?”

    Yesher Koach! May your home be filled with children as courageous and community minded as yourself.

  4. 1. Important. Thanks.

    2. Sounds like the story did not happen in Israel and I am only familiar with the Israeli situation. Many kallah teachers here are taught, thoroughly, about various reasons kallot may experience problems doing bedikot before the wedding, or after, and know when to refer a woman to a health professional. Of course it is always up to the woman to decide what, and with who, she will share. Too often we are prevented by embarrassment from asking for help when needed and I hope your article will encourage women who need any kind of help to reach out and get it.

    3. In Israel there are several well known frum women professionals who help kallot and married women with a range of problems including vestibulitis.

    4. Referrals to physical therapists who specialize in evaluation and rehabilitation of pelvic floor function can be had from gynecologists, or sometimes a gastroenterologist, in Israel. However, the doctors are often unaware, or uninterested, in giving them. Women who have problems and are not getting solutions from their primary care doctors or gynecologists, can insist on referrals to other specialists until they get help. We can keep asking other, more experienced women, or different doctors or other professionals, until hopefully get the help we need.

    • JewishMom

      thanks for all this info. Would you be able to recommend some specific doctors and health professional who can help with this in Israel? If a woman googles this in the future, I would love for her to be able to find the information at her fingertips. thanks!

      • diamondgirl

        do we have the names of any professionals in israel who deal with this? thanks?

        • JewishMom

          someone else posted this:
          A gynecologist specializing in vestibulitis in Israel is Prof. Jacob Bornstein in Haifa. I know someone who recently had surgery with him. As for myself, I had surgery with Dr. Andrew Goldstein of Washington, DC a few years ago. Excellent surgeon and I too am now pain free, b’H.

          • I had surgery by Prof. Bornstein and it was successful. I am so grateful to Hashem for leading me to professionals who knew what was going on with me. Thank you to the author of this article for raising awareness about vestibulitis.

  5. Wow. This is very powerful. Thank Gd you are doing better, and that your story has such a “happy ending.” Thank you for sharing and helping to educate others.
    And Kudos to your husband. Having a supportive husband is really so important, and Chosson teachers need to stress this. If he had found you “at fault” this could have been catostrophic.
    May you be zoche to continued happiness and peace within your marriage and home!

  6. HelpForPVV

    Thank you all for your kind responses.

    There is a mistake I would like to correct in the above article that I missed and would like to correct. People with PVV can benefit from psychological therapy, just after the source of the pain is removed. My doc. even suggested that I go for therapy after the surgery IF intimacy was still painful. In my situation I didn’t end up needing therapy, since I was able to relax myself. But I could see how some people with what I had would need psychological therapy afterwards to help them stop anticipating pain. I guess it all depends on the person.

  7. thank you for sharing your story with us, and you have an amazing husband who was with you thru all the hard times.

  8. Good for you for pursuing this. I had a friend who went through this only to be told over and over that the problem was in her head. It was only when she finally found a compassionate OB/GYN that she had the surgery and it was resolved.

    Many hugs too!

  9. Thank you so much for sharing your story! As a kallah teacher it’s so important to have as much information as I can to help my kallahs. So often people are given the wrong advice and feel it’s their “fault”. I’m so glad that you found the right shaliach in Dr.Marvel (what an appropriate name for a marvelous doctor!)
    What an amazing and supportive husband!
    May you continue to build a jewish home in good health!

  10. Thank you so much for having the strength to write this.
    I have dealt with many women who would have benifitted from
    this information a decade ago.
    What a zchus to help others through your experience!
    I was amazed at how modestly you wrote this!
    May you only know of joy in your marriage.

  11. HelpForPVV

    Amen, You all give me so much strength.
    It’s so good to know I’ve made a difference!

  12. Anonymous

    thank you so much…I suffered from vaginismus for almost a year after my wedding…I also cried tears of joy and gratitude to Hashem when we “succeeded” the first time… like you, my husband was very supportive though sometimes he felt so humiliated and miserable; reading your article made me cry and live again this period of my life, 13 years ago. may you be blessed with beautiful little babies who will be lucky to be raised with such united parents; now you know that you are a strong couple who can face the challenges of life!

  13. Thank Gd- Please Gd you will be a mummy soon and this would of been your biggest challenge!!

  14. Plonit Almonit

    B”H

    Thank you for writing this very important account. I suffered from vaginismus for about 9 months during my first year of marriage. A sensitive kallah teacher and mentor asked me how things were going a few months after my wedding, over the phone. With relief, I said, “thank you so much for asking” and then broke down in tears and told her about the pain. She forwarded me to a medical center that specializes in treating vaginismus and related issues. Thank G-d, my husband and I got through this challenge.

    I remember the loneliness and confusion my husband and I felt as a young couple in our intimate relationship. We had dated for a long time and knew each other very well prior to our wedding. We loved each other and longed for each other, but I kept experiencing and anticipating pain. I remember crying at the mikvah and davening to be able to be with my husband normally. And I also remember crying for joy when my husband and I were able to be together without any pain.

    We need to educate our daughters and our sons, our kallot and our chatanim, and we need to be very sensitive to and aware of these issues so that young couples in our communities do not suffer needlessly. Thank you, CJW, for your tremendous courage. And thank you to the anonymous writer for sharing your story and helping others. Thank you to the anonymous woman who wrote a comment which inspired me to post one as well. As a (B”H very large) circle of Jewish women, may we be strengthened and empowered by these stories.

    • Anonymous

      oh I feel less alone now because this has been the great SECRET of my life…how were you “healed”? as for myself I went twice to a therapist who told me I needed to discover my body; and then I worked alone,but I was so afraid of the pain… now, years after I am always a bit reticent even if it’s not difficult and painful anymore! I never understood why i had this problem, did you?

      • Plonit Almonit

        B”H

        Hi Anonymous,

        I had to do a lot of writing about body image issues from my past. Then, I went to my OBGYN who told me that I definitely did NOT have vaginismus because she was able to do a gynecological exam. (She was incorrect, but for some reason, a lot of OBGYNs misdiagnose or fail to diagnose vaginismus.) I was told to just relax and use a lot of lubricant.

        It took a long time (about six months) before I had the courage to seek further treatment. After all, the medical professional had told me that I didn’t have a problem, so clearly I just wasn’t relaxed enough. But the pain was getting worse. B”H, I finally went to a special center that treats vaginismus and other similar problems. The treatment was two-pronged–talking with a professional about the psychological and physical issues, and getting “tachlis” information about intimacy; and working with dilators. My husband also went to see a male therapist for a few sessions. With time, patience, hishtadlut, and hashgachah, B”H we made it through this challenging time.

        As a baalat teshuvah who rejected the “letting-it-all-hang-loose” aspects of the culture in which I grew up, who embraced the concept of modesty along with other traditional Jewish values, I nevertheless felt bewildered when my kallah teacher refused to discuss intimacy until a couple of weeks before my wedding. I wanted and needed information about intimacy. My kallah teacher’s reticence made me feel like intimacy was supposed to be so obvious, easy, etc. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to speak with another mentor before my wedding who gave me more information and made me feel much more at ease. It was this mentor who identified the issue and pushed me to get the treatment I needed.

        I think it starts at home. We need to educate our children about their bodies, puberty, etc. We need to teach them about intimacy in language that is appropriate to their ages. For example, for young children who ask where babies come from, I’ve heard one explanation, to the effect of: “a special hug that an imma and an abba share”. As religious Jews, we talk a lot about the neshamah, which is very important, but not to the exclusion of body awareness….And I think that chatan and kallah teachers need to really think through how they discuss intimacy with their students. It is on these teachers’ shoulders to provide a lot of basic facts/information, as well as to emphasize the beauty and holiness of a couple giving to each other in this way.

        I had to learn to see myself–soul and body–as beautiful, and to realize that my husband loved me unconditionally. (I had experienced emotional trauma growing up which made it very difficult to fathom such a concept). I had to feel confident in my ability to express my love for my husband not just in kind words or deeds, but in the bedroom as well. I had to learn how to relax and enjoy intimacy, to see it as a blessing and not to feel guilty, embarrassed, or ashamed.

        I wouldn’t wish vaginismus on anyone, but having been through it, I am grateful to Hashem for the lessons my husband and I learned as a result–greater understanding and awareness of myself and of my husband, and clear and open communication in this most private element of our relationship.

        • Hi Plonit Almonit!
          thank you for this tremendous description of the long way to healing!!
          you are so right about educating our daughters and the future women!Hodech Tov!

  15. A gynecologist specializing in vestibulitis in Israel is Prof. Jacob Bornstein in Haifa. I know someone who recently had surgery with him. As for myself, I had surgery with Dr. Andrew Goldstein of Washington, DC a few years ago. Excellent surgeon and I too am now pain free, b’H.

  16. Devorah

    does anyone have any info of where to refer women in the nyc area who have this and related problems? i’m a kallah teacher and need to know where to send them.

  17. I think this is actually a very “tznius” description of what she went through…I hope her writing helps anyone else who needs it.
    Shavua tov, chodesh tov!

  18. I am a psychotherapist in the metro detroit area who specializes in intimacy and relationships and do a lot of educating women (and men!) About various issues such as PVV, vaginismus, vulvadynia and how to care for it. Thank you for having the courage to talk about this as you really brought this the attention it deserves! Letting women know they don’t have to suffer in silence and there are professionals out there who are available to help!!

  19. thanks so much for sharing this. have suffered through intercourse for 6 years; maybe there IS something i can do

  20. The Medical Center for Female Sexual Health in NY was really helpful for me. Not everyone needs surgery, so its good to know your options. Here is their website-
    http://www.centerforfemalesexuality.com/

  21. Thanks for sharing. Im experiencing the same pain but havent gotten better like all of you. Ive done surgey by Dr Goldstein, botox & vaginal nerve blocks. Im in pt for close to 2 years. If anyone can give any other suggesstions i would appreciate it. Ive basically seen all vulver vaginal specialist & they dont know whats my next step

  22. Healing from PVV

    Something that helped me was following a strict hygiene formula of white cotton, a sitz bath, and a barrier such as vegetable shortening. Some of these of course I had to discuss with a Rav especially in reference to the 7 clean days and spotting. This was combined with physical therapy and Lyrica which has less side effects than the gabapetin and amatryptline. I was eventually able to wean off the meds; do the physical therapy at home, and just maintain the hygiene. BH. I still struggle some days but it is so much better.

  23. One of my daughters was never able to use tampons. She “locked herself in the bathroom with a box” for an hour, and it still didn’t help. Foolishly, I thought it was that she was a besulah. When she began to make bedikos before her wedding, she told me the pain was intense. She began to bleed from the bedikos, but the rav ruled it was tahor. It took three attempts to consummate the marriage — the first two times they weren’t sure if it was accomplished, and she reported that she “couldn’t find the place.” I was baffled, not realizing that this was a clue I should have paid more attention to.
    This was the beginning of months of agony. The physical pain of their few attempts caused her to have panic attacks when her husband even tried to hug or kiss her. He felt extremely hurt and rejected. She felt guilty and dysfunctional. He began to wonder why she wanted to marry him if she found him so repugnant that even a hug would trigger shaking and crying.
    A gynecologist told her “Since I can examine you, I assure you there’s nothing physically wrong with you. Go home and drink a glass of wine.” My daughter started therapy to deal with her aversion, and was told that she needed to stop being so inhibited. She must have been abused as a child.
    Hearing from the therapist that her pain was not real, and that she was just an uptight person, my daughter began to shut down emotionally, and retreated behind a wall. Without any meaningful connection with his wife, her husband began to spiral into despair.
    Finally we found http://www.centerforfemalesexuality.com/ They examined her and confirmed — she did have vaginismus.
    The people there told me that 30% of their patients are frum women (and 30% are Indian women, who have a similar culture of female modesty).
    I had always been proud of my daughter for being a “good girl” who didn’t talk to boys and was careful with tsnius. Of course I’m still all for that, but we also have to find a way to send a more calibrated message to our daughters. I think too many of them suppress their natural desires because it feels “bad”. We can’t undo 20 years of condition with a few weeks of Kallah classes, where we talk about the holiness of intimacy. So we send them into marriage with many a combination of lofty thoughts about soul mates connecting and some apprehension of the “first night” pain, and assume it will all work out. We need to find a way to maintain our daughters’ tsnius while helping them stay in touch with their physicality. Without this, we’re setting them up for serious pain — emotional as well as physical. When there is no devek holding the new couple together (who in our circles only know each other for a few months at most)and something that is supposed to unite them is pushing them far apart in every way, we run the risk of divorce, G-d forbid — and that is certainly not holy!
    Thoughts? Suggestions?

  24. anonymous

    my daughter in law suffered from vaginsimus and she was able to overcome it by using a vagiwave, we now have grand children thanks to this brilliant product.

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