I’ve noticed that a rather unlikely percentage of people who find this site are here because they searched “hymenectomy stories” on Google. I was really shocked to see that I’m the second hit on that list! Given that my hymenectomy (or “hymenotomy,” they refer to the same surgery) is a small part of my story, I didn’t think that one post about it would get so much attention. But it did.
So now, I’d like to write another post dedicated to all of you Googlers who are either considering getting a hymenectomy or already in the process. This is the stuff I wish I’d known before having the surgery, things my gyno never bothered to tell me.
Hymens and Hymenectomies, 101:
- First: your hymen should NOT completely cover your vagina. (If it did, you would know by the time you first menstruated. Girls with completely imperforate hymens usually have severe pain when their body attempts to menstruate, and need to have hymenectomies in their early teens.) The hymen is ring of tissue that surrounds the opening… Or, at least, it’s supposed to be. If you’re here, you probably have learned that yours is thicker/covers more area than normal. This handy image from the Wikipedia page about hymens shows the many different configurations that hymens can have. I had hymen microperforatus, the micro-perforate hymen, where the opening was so small that not even a slim tampon could get through.
- Your hymen should NOT pop, burst, or do anything that sounds combustible when you first have sex. It might stretch, but it shouldn’t tear. Stretching the opening can cause a bit of bleeding (as I’ve noticed when using my largest dilator), but this is from teeny tiny abrasions, and it doesn’t feel like cutting your skin open. It’s not some violent act where the entire tissue gets torn off in one go. Some people have remnants of hymens their whole lives; some people are born with none.
- So. Your hymen’s a thick one, and needs to be opened. It’s okay, that happens to the best of us. So here’s what you should know about the hymenectomy itself.
You should have anesthesia for this procedure. You shouldn’t feel a thing.
My gyno basically cut an “X” shape, pulled the excess tissue back and stitched it shut. Other doctors might do it another way, but I think that’s a pretty standard method.
It takes a couple weeks to fully recover. I didn’t feel okay to drive or attend class for about a week, primarily because I was on lots of pain medication. (3x the normal dose of Ibuprofen and Darvocet, an opioid which has since been taken off the market for causing fatal aarhythmias…) A hymenectomy is a surgery; a minor one, but a surgery nonetheless. Expect to be on something like Vicodin for a while and be out of work/school for up to seven days, give or take.
You will bleed for several days afterward. It’s not normal period blood, but it’s just as heavy; if you’re anything like me, it WILL freak you out, but there’s nothing wrong with it. The doctors will tell you what’s too much and when to call.
TMI, but good to know: be careful when doing a #2. Straining too much will cause a lot of pain in the vestibule. Try to keep yourself from getting constipated (lots of water, soft foods with fiber, etc.)
You get stitches in the vestibule, and they come out on their own. It took a couple weeks before mine were all gone. They usually just come out when you’re urinating. It might feel a little weird but it shouldn’t hurt, other than maybe a bit of a poke here and there.
This doesn’t happen to everyone, but I got a bit of a bacterial infection after 7-10 days. It’s not a huge issue; just go back to your gyno and they’ll collect a fluid sample with a Q-tip, run the sample to the labs, and give you antibiotics. They cleared my infection just fine. However: bacterial infections are a BITCH. It was easily the worst itch I’d ever felt. It’s more than normal for me, because I have localized vulvodynia and that makes ANY sensation in my vestibule feel like rugburn. But I imagine it still doesn’t feel great even if you’re otherwise “normal.”
- Afterward: for many people, this was their only problem, and they can begin inserting tampons/have normal gyno appointments/have sex once they’ve cleared the waiting period from their doctor. But…
(And in case it isn’t clear by now: you can’t tell someone’s virginity or lack thereof by looking at their hymen. Many virgins don’t have any noticeable hymenal tissue at all.)
There IS a statistical correlation between people who have a hymenectomy, and people who develop vaginismus. I can’t cite specific studies, but from a sampling on the Vaginismus.com forums, up to 20% of women with vaginismus had hymenectomies first. (Obviously far fewer than 1 in 5 women have hymenectomies. So there’s a correlation here.) But PLEASE, before you make any assumptions, remember these facts about statistics:
Correlation DOES NOT equal causation. Meaning, there’s no evidence that the hymenectomy CAUSED vaginismus. Every woman’s situation is different, so I can’t say “this is what happens for everyone,” but here’s my own personal theory:
Women who get hymenectomies realized, maybe subconsciously, that something was “wrong down there.” They knew they wouldn’t be able to insert things normally because, on some level, they could feel that their vaginas were blocked off. So this idea, “I can’t insert things,” gets established very young, in the teens or earlier, and this idea can be a precursor for developing vaginismus. A person who thinks she has “a wall down there” is going to have a harder time inserting, if only because she’s worried she can’t do it. So there’s a mental roadblock that forms and then, often with the addition of other mental contributors, can develop into vaginismus. And if you tried having sex before having a hymenectomy and it was a painful experience, your body might develop a defensive reaction against further pain. That’s how the mind and body work. It’s a perfectly instinctual thing to do.
But you can overcome that. And if you “catch it early,” you’ll be much better prepared than women like me. Hopefully, just a couple weeks of training your body will be all it takes.
It takes some conditioning, like training for a 5k. You’ll want to spend some time getting familiar with your vagina after you’ve recovered from surgery, looking at it in the mirror and learning what all the parts are. You’ll want to practice inserting with something small, like a tampon applicator or a small, smooth vibrator. (I recommend using something seamless, either plastic or silicone, with no potential scratchy bits. You won’t have to worry about it getting stuck that way.) Practice alone, with plenty of time to yourself and with as few distractions as possible. Buy yourself some good quality lube, and use it liberally. Don’t ever force it to the point of pain, but no push it forward even if it feels like your muscles are resisting a little. It’s a new sensation; you’ll have to coax them into it. Just be patient; if you have a worthy partner, he will be patient too.
Good luck with your hymenectomy, dear reader!