At some point in their life, almost every woman will probably feel some amount of pain or discomfort during sex. For some women, this is just a one-time or occasional experience due to circumstantial reasons, such as inadequate foreplay, an awkward position, or a larger than average partner. For others, however, painful sex can be a constant and persistent problem.
While painful sex—referred to in medical terms as dyspareunia—is not always a cause for concern, it’s important for women to understand that it is not normal. Sex should feel good for men AND women. If painful sex is a normal or a recently consistent occurrence for you, here are a few reasons that might be behind it and solutions that can help.
1) Poor Lubrication
Vaginal dryness is one of the most common culprits of painful sex for women. Often, dryness is a result of not enough foreplay. A decrease in sexual desire or arousal, which can be caused by various medications, psychological issues, relationship problems, or situational circumstances, can also interfere with natural lubrication. If you have recently given birth or started menopause, a drop in estrogen is likely responsible for dryness.
What You Can Do: use a lubricant (water or silicone-based only with condoms), estrogen cream/ring/prescription, mental health counseling for relationship or other psychological issues
There are many different infections that can cause vaginal irritation and, subsequently, dyspareunia. Many common STIs, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, etc., can lead to pain during sex. Other common vaginal infections are yeast infection, bacterial infection (bacterial vaginosis), UTI, and vaginitis (general inflammation). If you have an infection, you will likely have other symptoms in addition to painful sex, like discharge, itching, or tenderness.
What You Can Do: visit your OBGYN for a pelvic exam/vaginal swab, get tested for STDs, once the problem is identified as an infection it can usually be treated with antibiotics or antifungal medication
Endometriosis is a condition in which uterine (endometrial) tissue grows outside of the uterus, which often causes a lot of pain in women. Many women who suffer from endometriosis have endometrial tissue implants in the area behind their uterus. During sex, this inflamed tissue can be hit and cause a lot of pain. Painful sex from endometriosis is usually felt with deep penetration, and sometimes only in certain positions.
What You Can Do: discuss symptoms with your doctor to take proper diagnostic steps (pelvic exam, ultrasound, laparoscopy), pain medications, hormonal birth control, and medications that inhibit estrogen production can help manage endometriosis pain, endometrial growths can also be removed during laparoscopy to help alleviate symptoms
If you have had chronic pain of the vulva—during sex and in general—for three months or longer, you may be dealing with a condition called vulvodynia. There are many different causes of vulvodynia, as it is a term that just refers to chronic vulvar pain. Many women describe the associated pain as a rawness, burning, stinging, or throbbing.
What You Can Do: your OBGYN will likely perform tests and maybe a biopsy to eliminate the possibility of infection and other diseases, topical anesthetic medications and nerve blockers can help reduce pain, physical therapy can also help with pelvic muscle spasms/pain
5) Vaginal Injury
Injury or previous vaginal trauma can be an obvious cause of painful sex. Common injuries to this area include recent childbirth (especially if you had an episiotomy), female circumcision, pelvic surgery, past sexual trauma, or accidents.
What You Can Do: OTC medications for pain, topical anesthetic creams, refraining from sex if an injury is healing, *if you have experienced sexual abuse or trauma, you should seek the help of a psychiatrist, mental health therapist, and/or a pelvic floor physical therapist who can help teach you how to release tension
If you’re dealing with pain during sex, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Make an appointment with a women’s health professional at South Avenue Women’s Services. Our caring and compassionate specialists can help identify the cause of your pain, provide treatment for acute issues, and work on pain management strategies for chronic problems.
Get in touch with us today to schedule a visit with a medical professional!