Hi there! Thanks for joining in for Episode 9, Season 1, of The Sensate Space podcast. To counter our recent episode about bad advice for treating vaginismus/GPPPD and similar issues, this episode highlights six tips for managing sexual pain symptoms.

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Coming off the back of our ‘bad advice’ episode, let’s counter that messaging with some more helpful considerations. We’ll go through our top 6 pieces of better advice for people with genito-pelvic pain.

As always, this information is general in nature - it’s not medical or psychological advice. Just a general picture, some reflections about what can make managing this condition a bit smoother.

Main Points

Top #1. Don't Go Alone. You deserve support.

A strong support system can help you manage this condition by helping you to troubleshoot barriers, overcome setbacks, remain accountable, and celebrate your efforts and wins. Your support network should consist of individual/s who are safe, understanding, and validating. 

In an ideal world, both a professional treatment team and a personal social network can provide you with support. 

First, consider assembling a treatment team consisting of healthcare professionals experienced in pelvic pain management. They can provide specialised guidance tailored to your needs. If financial barriers are a concern, you can explore options at university medical centres where you might access affordable or research-based treatments. You can also check with your doctor if there are any bulk-bill or lower cost options available. 

From a treatment team perspective, make sure you seek professionals who are experienced in treating genito-pelvic pain conditions, as mistreatment can be much more harmful than helpful. You can screen for this by asking reception when booking an appointment, and have a look to see what is listed on their website. It’s also so important that you feel comfortable with the professional or professionals in your treatment team - It’s also absolutely crucial that you feel like you can trust them, and that you feel safe around them.

Equally important is seeking support from your personal connections, if it is safe for you to do so. Reach out to friends or family members you trust and share your experiences with them. Your social network can include a partner, best friend, family member, or other loved one. You might have one close support person or a handful - each to their own. Alternatively, some people find the most support and connection in online support groups - this is a valid option to explore, too. 

Moving on to tip #2 - Eliminate the guesswork.

Start with getting a really thorough assessment of your condition that considers all the possible diagnoses, co-occuring conditions, and contributing factors. From here, your treating professionals can help you to tailor a treatment plan. Understanding the specifics of your genito-pelvic pain is crucial for tailoring effective treatments. It's like having a map to guide your journey. 

Next, Tip #3 - Build Treatment Habits:

Instead of relying solely on bursts of motivation, focus on building consistent treatment habits. Consistency is key.

When we think about motivation vs habits - Motivation provides the initial spark, but it tends to fade as time goes on. That's where habits come in. While motivation is essential to start and boost behaviour change, it's habits that ensure long-term success. Habits make actions automatic, which reduces the reliance on fleeting bursts of motivation.

Habits are the true foundation for lasting behaviour change. In essence, motivation gets you in the race, but habits keep you running toward the finish line.

Okay, Tip #4. Educate yourself.

Learn About the Condition: Knowledge is your ally when dealing with GPPPD. The more you know about the condition, its causes, and potential treatments, the better equipped you'll be to make informed decisions about your care. This doesn’t mean relying on Dr Google - it might mean making a list of the questions you can ask your treating professional, looking for book recommendations, or scouring a research database. And don’t underestimate the value of lived experience - connecting with peers navigating the same as you can also really help.

Next, Tip #5. Look After Your Body:

Pay attention to what your body needs, whether it's practising relaxation techniques, maintaining pelvic floor health, or adopting physical therapies. Caring for your body is an important part of a bigger picture treatment plan. This includes finding ways to manage your stress.

General health and mental health aside, looking after your body is important specifically for treating this condition due to the relationships between stress, muscle tension, and pain experiences.

So, we know that stress can manifest physically, which often leads to increased muscle tension, including in the pelvic floor muscles. When these muscles remain tense, they can exacerbate pain during intercourse. To counter this, exploring relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, can help to release overall body tension. 

We also know that stress can change how we experience pain. So, stress itself can amplify pain experiences. It's a bit like turning up the volume on an already noisy background – stress can make pain feel more intense and distressing. By learning to manage stress, you're not only improving your overall well-being but also gaining better control over your pain. 

Similarly, Tip #6. Look After Your Mind:

Don't underestimate the role of your mental well-being. Managing GPPPD can be emotionally challenging. Seek support for your mental health as often as needed. A healthy mind contributes to a healthier body. We also know that mental health conditions are more likely to co-occur with GPPPD than the general population, so make sure that you are considering this within your broader treatment plan.

Whenever I think about the role of stress and wellbeing, one of my favourite books always comes to mind. ‘Burnout’ by Emily and Amelia Nagoski is an absolutely wonderful guide to managing stress. I love it because it’s evidence-based and considers the science behind it all. The strategies in the book help us to take care of our nervous system, and a well-regulated nervous system certainly makes treatment processes that bit smoother. I’ll link to the book in the show notes. As an FYI - it’s excellent as an author-read audiobook too, very easy listening but such powerful and valuable information. (PS - this audiobook is available on a free 30 day trial with audible if you use my link below!).


So, in summary - our top 6 tips: 1) don’t go alone, 2) eliminate the guesswork with thorough assessment, 3) build habits rather than relying on motivation, 4)  educate yourself - learn about the condition, 5) look after your body and - finally - 6) look after your mind.

Finally, before you go - if you enjoyed this episode please share with anyone who might find it helpful. And remember to check out the resources on our website, thesensatespace.com 

Until next time, take care! You’ve got this.


Conforti, C. (2017). Genito-Pelvic Pain/Penetration Disorder (GPPPD): An overview of current terminology, etiology, and treatment. University of Ottawa Journal of Medicine, 7 (2), 48-53.


Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle


This is a psychology podcast about vaginismus and other pelvic and sexual pain disorders, and related issues (genito-pelvic pain/penetration disorder, dyspareunia, vulvodynia, painful intercourse, gynaecological pain, sexual dysfunction, chronic pelvic pain) for the purpose of education and collaboration; it’s not therapy or medical advice. Information is general in nature and does not replace individualised assessment or treatment advice. Please seek professional support tailored to your specific needs. If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help now, call triple zero (000). You can also call Lifeline on 13 11 14 — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please see our About page for more information.

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