The LEEP procedure risks damaging the nerves in the cervix that contribute to orgasm function. Some women seem to be completely fine afterwards. But there is a significant proportion of women, whose orgasms become much less intense afterwards, and in some cases practically non-existent. And we are not just talking about women losing their ability to have an internal vaginal orgasm. The clitoris can also go numb too.
Anatomy of a women’s sexual organs is still in it’s infancy, so we don’t have a full understanding yet of how the LEEP damages the nerves or causes numbness. Many doctors performing it don’t even realise that the cervix has nerves! So the potential for healing from LEEP is even less certain.
All I can talk about is my own experience. I cannot say for sure that what I have done will help other women, because each woman who sustains damage from the LEEP is an individual, and science just doesn’t understand enough about this yet.
In my own experience I have recovered my orgasm function. I also have learnt how to have a deeper relationship with my sexuality than before my LEEP, and I have actually had better, longer, and more intense orgasms since having the LEEP. I am not completely healed, as I still have lots of pain/tension/discomfort in my cervix, but being some way on the journey to mending my sexuality, gives me hope.
How did I do it? What I had to learn was to completely slow down. Regular sex is a race to orgasm. Often we desperately want to get there, and our body contracts with more and more tension, until we finally get to that moment of tension release. For someone whose pelvic region is completely tensed up, physically traumatised, and suffering from nerve damage, the body just can’t take any more tension.
The practise of tantra based on cultivating relaxation, deep breathing, and slowing down. Instead of the race to orgasm we relax more and more, opening up to pleasure and allowing orgasms to happen, rather than desperately trying to reach our destination.
The way we have sex in our culture, lots of fast, thrusting movements, as we try to get nearer and nearer orgasm, can hurt and bruise the cervix, even in healthy women who haven’t had the LEEP. For some women who have had the LEEP and have experienced nerve damage, this kind of sex can actually leave them in pain, and discomfort for days, or even weeks afterwards.
What happens when we slow down, is instead of building more tension, we release tension, so that we are actually healing the body, to get rid of knots, and tightness. Sex or self-pleasure using tantric principles can actually be like a form of internal massage, healing the body from emotional and physical trauma. The pelvic area is vulnerable to holding tension, whether or not we have experienced sexual trauma so this is of benefit to everyone!
In Teach Us To Sit Still author Tim Parks talks about his experience with chronic prostatitis, a pelvic condition in men that often has no organic course. He learnt about how our genitals tend to go into armouring mode, as if they are sensing danger and retract as a form of protection. It’s a survival mechanism designed to protect us, but the long term tension it can cause can be extremely painful.
What I noticed is that after I had my LEEP my entire pelvic region was tensed and in pain. When we have LEEP we may be told by the doctor that what’s happening is safe, and minor. We are given an anaesthetic so that we don’t feel physical pain. But under that numbness our body does experience pain that we are not consciously aware of. Our body tenses up, after a huge physical trauma of losing a piece of what is one of the most important parts of the body.
The practise of relaxing the pelvic area, which I have done through, yoga meditation, and some tantric exercises has helped to release this armouring. So I no longer experience pain or tension everywhere, but more localised in my vagina and cervix. As I become more aware of the source of the tension, I can use my mind to consciously try to relax as much as possible. And when the muscles aren’t contracting as much, it’s possible to feel pleasure.
I tried all these approaches in the first 6 years after my LEEP. I wasn’t completely successful and I realise that one of the problems is that I was missing information about what had happened to me. During this time, I didn’t know there were other women who had this problem, and so I assumed it was a freak reaction of my own body, almost like it was my own fault. I assumed that it was entirely something I could heal and wasn’t aware of the fact that actually the LEEP causes physical damage to the nerves, and removes a much larger piece than I realised.
Discovering this was devastating, but in some ways vital to my healing process, because I suddenly realised that my cervix has spent these last 12 years being in a state of constant fight, flight or flee, wondering what on earth had happened to it. Now I’m not only focusing on relaxing and healing, but also on expressing those feelings, that my body felt, that I’d been ignoring. Huge anger at a medical system that can do this. And huge grief that something was taken away from me without informed consent. It’s been essential to be able release these feelings with a supportive listener.
One of the things that has helped me most in recent weeks is an amazing online course called Self-Cervix. Self-Cervix is 21 day journey of discovery for women who want to get in touch with their cervixes and release numbness. The founder, sexologist Olivia Bryant explains that many women have numbness in their cervixes that can get in the way of sexual pleasure, which can come from uncomfortable sexual experiences, pap smears and also the LEEP.
. In one of the course videos Olivia interviews Dr. Barry Komisaruk, one of the doctors who is involved with the research with Dr. Irwin Goldstein on the effect of the LEEP on women’s orgasm function. Dr. Komisaruk, talks about some research on rats when the pelvic nerve in the cervix was cut. The pelvic nerve is one of a pair, and what was found, is that when the rats were vaginally stimulated each day, their other nerve grew extra nerve endings! This points to the possibility of our bodies amazing healing capacity, not to just to release the trauma from the LEEP, but even work around the physical damage that is sustained.
I am not sure if it’s possible to completely recover and to be the same as before, or whether this will work for every woman. The damage that LEEP does to our physical, emotional and spiritual health is a complex tangle of trauma that very few people fully understand. But the Self-Cervix course gives me hope.
I like it because it’s something you can do to heal yourself. For someone who’s been through the LEEP, a lot of the time it can be threatening to have sex with someone else, and spending time healing your own body can give you a safe space to to let go without an agenda. As we get to know our bodies again, and heal the trauma, it may become possible to slowly think about involving a partner in sex again.
One book that helped me a lot was Slow Love: A Polynesian Pillow Book, by James N. Powell. Powell spent time on a Polynesian island learning about the Polynesian art of lovemaking and how it involves slowing down to experience deeper pleasure. I like this book because you don’t need to be a tantric guru to follow the ideas! He introduces some very simple principles that can result in more pleasure for you and your partner.
I hope these suggestions offer you a bit of hope and the possibility of healing. For more support you can join my online facebook support group Healing From LEEP. And if you liked what you’ve read, then please like and support my Intact Cervix campaign for celebrating our wonderful cervixes, and giving women informed choice about cervical procedures.