Navigating the healing process of something as complex as sexual pain can be extremely difficult and often overwhelming. One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to painful sex is how the number one word of advice you will find online is simply to talk to your doctor. On the surface that seems like perfectly good advice, but what happens when your doctor doesn’t know what to do? Or worse, what happens when your doctor tells you there isn’t anything wrong, implying that it is all in your head? My response, get a second opinion—or third or fourth or fifth, as the case may be.
I learned the hard way how important it is to get a second opinion (for a refresher, read my story Part 2 and Part 3). My first doctor meant well, but she just wasn’t educated in the area of sexual dysfunction (as are most doctors). I believe the second doctor was simply going down a checklist, never mind that he was recommending surgery before exploring other possibilities. I had unnecessary surgery as a result of my doctors’ poor consideration and my own naivety. Not only was the surgery itself a very bad experience; going through something so extreme with no signs of a potential diagnosis significantly compounded the hopelessness I felt.
The first step to getting a second opinion is to acknowledge that doctors do not know everything; they are regular people like you and me. Yes, they spent many years in school and hopefully have learned even more through their years practicing medicine, but there is no way they can know everything there is to know about every ailment that presents itself through their patients. This is especially true in the area of sexual dysfunction, and even more so for female sexual dysfunction. I have not validated this statement, but I have heard that in the 8 years of college courses required for medical doctors only one class discusses the topic of sexual dysfunction. Add to that the slow progression of medical research on female sexual disorders with many of the most important advances in diagnosis and treatments coming in recent years, and your average doctor probably knows less than you do on the topic (assuming you have been reading this blog).
As I talk to other sufferers of pelvic pain or read others’ stories, the theme is the same—doctor after doctor, misdiagnosis or no diagnosis, years until finding healing. I don’t mean to discourage you—healing is absolutely possible! But it often comes after taking the next step to get a second opinion. I want to encourage you to move on to the next source, the next possibility, leave no stone unturned. Don’t give up because your first doctor can’t find an accurate diagnosis. And never agree to an invasive test or treatment unless all other possibilities have been exhausted. Just because one doctor says surgery (or some other invasive treatment) is the only other option doesn’t mean it is true. (I was flabbergasted when my doctor referred me to a urologist after surgery—after!!) Please learn from my mistake and get a second opinion first.