Hitting below the belt

A journey through pelvic pain

A journey through pelvic pain

Krystal Carroll is a very brave 30-year-old wife and mother of two. Over the past six years, she’s dealt with a painful and private issue that was slowly unraveling her life.

It all began during her pregnancy with her first child, when she started experiencing pelvic pain, especially when she and her husband were together.

“Prior to this, our intimate life had been great,” Carroll said. “My obstetrician told me it was likely a lubrication issue and suggested using a lubricant, but that didn’t seem to take care of the problem.”

The pain got worse after her daughter was born, making it very difficult to be intimate with her husband. After suffering for about six months, she made an appointment with a pelvic pain specialist in hopes of getting answers and some relief.

“I needed this not only for myself but for my marriage,” Carroll said. “My husband was trying to understand, but he was starting to wonder if I was no longer attracted to him.”

Carroll described her pain as a “barrier” not allowing penetration all the way through, like having to squeeze between two big boulders. It was so painful that she would end up crying and asking her husband to stop.

The specialist diagnosed her with interstitial cystitis, also called painful bladder syndrome. She was prescribed medications and took them for several months with no relief of symptoms and with added side effects.

She returned to the physician, who then tried twice monthly injections into the bladder and massage therapy. This provided enough relief that Carroll was able to become pregnant with their second child, but she was still experiencing pain.

“During those years I endured many treatments, hoping that if I gave it enough time I would finally start feeling some relief,” she said.

With no improvement in her symptoms, her intimate life all but gone and her marriage strained, she gave up on the treatments.

“It was a very frustrating time because when I reluctantly allowed myself to get intimate with my husband, we both would end up upset,” Carroll said.

“I would get upset because I couldn’t give him what he needed and he would get upset because I was in so much pain.”

She reached a point where she just shut herself off, avoiding all affection, because she didn’t want to deal with the pain.

She finally decided enough was enough and sought a second opinion through the Pelvic Health Program at Norton Women’s and Children’s Hospital, where she met Ali Azadi, M.D., a urogynecologist, and learned about a special physical therapy program for pelvic health issues.

Dr. Azadi explained that pelvic disorders don’t just happen in older women and that one in four women is affected by a pelvic disorder. Carroll no longer felt so alone.

After some testing and exams, Dr. Azadi suggested Carroll see the physical therapist to help loosen her pelvic muscles. He also started her on a new medication.

“When I had my first appointment with the physical therapist, I was amazed,” Carroll said. “When she did my pelvic exam, she felt my ‘barrier,’ or ‘boulders,’ and I knew it wasn’t just all in my head.”

Carroll continues to go to physical therapy twice a month and finally has found not only relief, but pleasure again.

“It’s a hard story to tell, but one I want to share in hopes it will help other women,” she said. “As patients, we need to be active in our own health care. If something isn’t working, speak up. If that doesn’t work, look for a second opinion. Don’t suffer in silence!”


Find the answers you’ve been looking for

The Pelvic Health Program, based at Norton Women’s and Children’s Hospital in St. Matthews, offers help for women of all ages and stages in life. A women’s health nurse navigator is available to help guide women to the answers they need, confidentially, on a one-on-one basis. From specialists certified in female pelvic medicine to physical therapists and emotional support services, the Pelvic Health Program has comprehensive services for a wide range of issues. If you’re ready to take the first step to improving your quality of life, call the women’s health nurse navigator at (502) 251-4561


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