A fashion stylist found sex excruciatingly painful for nearly a decade after 20 different doctors dismissed her vaginal condition as psychological.
Callista Jane Wiliams first experienced searing pain when she tried to use a tampon aged 12, which lead to years of feeling like she had been cut every time she touched herself.
When she finally worked up the courage to tell her doctor in her 20s, her symptoms were dismissed as being psychological, with one counselor later suggesting it was religious guilt for having sex before marriage.
During her mid-20s, Ms Wiliams, from San Francisco, could only endure sex with her beloved boyfriend if she was drunk, which eventually drove the couple to separate, leaving her heartbroken.
Eight years later and after seeing 20 different doctors, she was finally diagnosed with congenital neuroproliferative vestibulodynia, which causes sufferers to have around 30 times the normal amount of nerve endings in the opening of their vaginas.
After having surgery, Ms Wiliams has regained her confidence and is finally able to have a pain-free sex life.
Actress Emily Francis wrote a play on Ms Wiliams’ experience after hearing her discuss it on the radio.
Callista Jane Wiliams found sex excruciatingly painful for nearly a decade after 20 different doctors dismissed her vaginal condition as psychological, even blaming religious guilt
WHAT IS CONGENITAL NEUROPROLIFERATIVE VESTIBULODYNIA?
Congenital neuroproliferative vestibulodynia is pain in the small area of tissue just before the vagina’s opening that has been present since birth.
It is caused by too many nerve endings in the vaginal opening. Some sufferers have up to 30 times too many.
Past research suggests up to 16 per cent of women in the US suffer pain during sex at some point in their lives.
Congenital neuroproliferative vestibulodynia’s prevalence in the UK is unknown.
Women with the condition usually notice it the first time they try to insert a tampon or have intercourse.
Some sufferers are prescribed topical painkillers that numb the nerves in the vagina’s opening, however, many feel this does not give sufficient relief.
Surgery is usually considered a last resort and involves removing a postage-stamp sized piece of tissue from the vaginal opening.
It usually takes between six and eight weeks to heal after surgery.
Source: Maze Women’s Sexual Health
‘I want every young girl and woman to know it’s not her fault’
Ms Wiliams, whose condition made her depressed and drove her apart from her parents, told the BBC: ‘What I want the most in the whole world, is for young women who are up against this to know that there is a language for their issue, it’s not some mysterious, imagined thing.
‘I want every young girl and woman to know it’s not her fault and that she isn’t the only one.’
Ms Wiliams underwent a procedure that involved removing a layer of skin around her vagina’s opening and replacing it with healthy cells from elsewhere.
After having the operation, which took months to heal, Callista called up a good friend and had pain-free sex for the first time in her life.
She said: ‘I cried, it was so emotional and it was so beautiful.’
Ms Wiliams then went on to start a new relationship but the pair later split due to other reasons.
Having regained her confidence, Ms Wiliams is looking forward to meeting someone new.
Actress Emily Francis wrote a play on Ms Wiliams’ experience after hearing her discuss it on the radio. In doing research, she found many doctors had never heard of the condition
Women see painful sex as normal
In doing research for the play, Ms Francis spoke to doctors about the condition, with one not knowing what it was and others saying they had not received much training on how to treat it.
She also found certain women involved in the play, called The Internet Was Made for Adults, which has since finished its run, accepted sex during pain as normal, particularly during their first time.
After meeting with Ms Wiliams, Ms Francis said she found her experience ‘desperately sad’, adding a healthy sex life should be available to all.