Monday 21 October 2019

Dear Mary: I'm terrified to meet a new man because of sex problem

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File photo
Illustration: Tom Halliday

Mary O'Conor

You are my very last hope. I have a cervical ectropion which means that I bleed after sex. I have been to a gynaecologist and had all the available treatment.

I stopped taking the pill and had treatment under anaesthetic. The doctor did say surgery was no guarantee of success but for me it was worth the risk. However, the problem persisted.

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I was in a long-term relationship when the problem started and while it caused me a lot of stress, it did not contribute to the ending of the relationship. We had been together since school and in the end the relationship just ran its course.

It has been three years since that relationship finished and since then I have been terrified to even think of starting another one.

I feel the doctor has done all she can on the medical side but it's the emotional side of it I can't deal with. It was so upsetting every time it happened and that was in a relationship where I knew my partner and he was aware of, and understood, the problem.

I just can't see how I can start a new relationship. To say I am terrified is actually an understatement - I am literally gripped with fear to think of starting something new. How would I even begin to explain this to a new partner? He would just run a mile. I don't know what to do. I am desperate. I am only 32 and all I see is a long and lonely life ahead of me.

I look at all my friends meeting guys and would love to have the courage to do the same but I really don't know how to deal with it. It scares me so much - and lately I am so depressed by it that I wonder if life is going to be worth all the loneliness this is causing me.

Help me please.

Mary replies: I hope that I can be of some help because you seem to be pretty much at the end of your tether with all this.

You have tried everything you can medically, and indeed I believe that this condition often recurs even after treatment, as has been the case for you.

I'm glad to know that this was not the reason why your previous relationship ended. Because if this were the case - although there is no reason why it should have been - then you would be even more upset than you are now. So be happy in the knowledge that you had a successful relationship even having this condition.

Your biggest problem seems to me that you are allowing your condition to define you as a person, rather than being a young woman who happens to have cervical ectropion. After all, what is happening is simply that the soft cells that line the inside of the cervical canal spread to the outer surface of your cervix. These cells are very delicate and tend to bleed easily, which is why you sometimes bleed when you have intercourse.

As I understand it the condition is fairly common among women of childbearing age and it doesn't affect fertility.

It is interesting that apart from your age you haven't told me a single thing about yourself. So please have a think, and come up with three things that you really like about yourself. It can be personality traits, some aspect of your looks, your hair or whatever. Then concentrate on those good points whenever you begin to get worried about your condition and you will begin to get a better perspective on the real you.

You are staying away from meeting a new partner because you fear their reaction to all this. But this is the exact opposite of what you should be doing. You should be getting to know new people and allowing them to get to know you. When we meet somebody new we don't tell them all our secrets - whether big or small - immediately we meet them.

We see first if we are attracted to each other and if we want to meet them again. Then after some time of dating, and if it seems to be going well, then we might mention the fact that one of our parents is an alcoholic who is still drinking, or that a relative is serving time in prison, or whatever it is that is bothering us.

They may then feel safe enough to divulge a few secrets of their own, or perhaps they don't have any. It doesn't really matter - what matters is that you have to allow somebody to get to know you for yourself before you take things any further.

When you eventually tell a guy that you fancy, and with whom you have established a rapport, you don't have to make it sound like it is the most awful thing, which is what you seem to think. Bear in mind that some men don't even mind having sex while a woman is menstruating and it may help you to get a better perspective. Obviously you will have to tell them before you have intercourse for the first time. Then you can mention that sometimes you bleed after sex, and explain your condition, but not in any great detail.

You will no doubt be using condoms, so that means that there is protection in place. At a very practical level you should have dark-coloured sheets so that there is not too much of a visible reminder to upset you.

So please do yourself a favour and get back out there on the dating scene. I fully appreciate that this seems to be an insurmountable problem, but it may not be viewed that way at all by a guy who has gotten to know you and who likes what he sees.


Mary O'Conor is a sex therapist and relationship counsellor.

You can contact Mary anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot St, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O'Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately

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