4 Reasons Sex Can Be Painful

Experiencing pain during sexual intercourse is common among women, although the cause of the discomfort varies. In fact, this has happened to about one-third of women in the U.S.

Many of these women cannot properly identify what is causing the pain. Painful intercourse is often referred to as dyspareunia and can be caused by various factors, such as an infection, birth control or a serious medical condition. Women who suffer from vaginismus or endometriosis are more susceptible to experiencing pain while having intercourse.

If you are experiencing pain during sex, then it is important to notify a health care professional to ensure that you are identifying the underlying issue.   There are ways to alleviate the pain in future encounters. Once you have identified the reason behind your painful sexual experiences, you can receive the help you need to ensure your encounters become more pleasurable than painful over time.

1. Vaginismus Causes Pain

Vaginismus is one of the more common causes of painful intercourse and is defined as involuntary hypercontractility of the muscles located in the pelvic floor. This occurs either during penetration itself or with attempted vaginal penetration. This means vaginal muscles tense up prior to penetration, which causes a heightened sensation of pain once the penetration occurs. Vaginismus is often caused by an underlying emotional issue and is prevalent in women who have been sexually assaulted in the past.

Related Article: Trauma and Stress-Related Disorders

If you suffered from a groin injury as a child, then you are more likely to experience vaginismus as the anxiety caused by the trauma may cause a muscle spasm when penetration is imminent. Once you have associated vaginal penetration with a painful experience, your body automatically tenses the muscles in this region as a line of defense against further trauma. Treatment of vaginismus is possible and the recovery options may vary depending upon the severity of your pain.

Commonly, women suffering from vaginismus benefit from pelvic floor physical therapy sessions and from cognitive therapy sessions. Choosing to do a combination of these therapies may prove most beneficial, as you are treating both the physical symptoms and the emotional cause of the condition. There are various ways to receive mental health support, whether individually with a mental health provider or support group. Find the best option that works for you to tackle the underlying issue of your vaginismus.

2. Infections

If you have recently experienced pain during sexual intercourse but have never encountered this issue before, then you may be suffering from an infection. Sexually transmitted infections can cause pain during vaginal penetration and must be treated with prescribed antibiotics. Common infections that cause pelvic pain during sex include gonorrhea, herpes and chlamydia. Herpes infections are accompanied by lesions or sores around the vulva with an intensified pain in this region. If you suspect you have a sexually transmitted infection, then contact a health care professional right away to ensure that you receive the proper treatment for your symptoms.

Other infections, such as yeast infections or urinary tract infections, lead to pain experienced in the pelvic region during sex. With a yeast infection, symptoms include the following in addition to pelvic pain:

  • External itching
  • External chaffing
  • Internal itching
  • Internal burning

If you suffer from any of these symptoms, then arrange for an appointment with your doctor. You may be prescribed medication or over-the-counter medication to address this issue.

3. Endometriosis

One of the most serious causes of painful intercourse is known as endometriosis. This condition occurs when a woman develops tissue on the outside of her uterus as opposed to the normal lining of tissue occurring within the uterus. This tissue eventually develops into scar tissue, which induces extreme pain during intercourse. The buildup of scar tissue in women with endometriosis ultimately limits the movement of both the pelvis and the cervix, which contributes to the sensation of pain experienced upon vaginal penetration.

Endometriosis commonly leads to the development of ovarian cysts as well, which causes pain through the pelvis during sexual intercourse. Your overall level of discomfort may vary, as your menstrual cycle may influence the number of cysts you develop each month. Treatment for endometriosis is available and typically consists of hormone therapy sessions. Surgery may be required to alleviate severe pain associated with endometriosis or you may need to receive a prescribed medication from your doctor to help manage the discomfort.

4. Birth Control and Childbirth-Related Issues

The type of birth control you use can also contribute to pain during vaginal penetration. If you have received an intrauterine device, otherwise known as an IUD, then you may experience pain during sex if the device becomes dislodged. When the IUD is dislodged, you experience a sharp pain upon vaginal penetration. If this occurs, then seek help from a medical professional right away to ensure that the device does not tear or penetrate your cervix.

Regardless of whether you have an IUD or are on the pill, you may be at risk of experiencing pain during sex due to the hormone levels induced by the birth control. Lower estrogen levels while on birth control lead to a progressive thinning of the skin located around your vulva, which becomes inflamed or irritated during penetration. If you are experiencing pain upon penetration or other effects of birth control, then you may need to seek an alternative form of birth control to alleviate the issue.

Additionally, women who have recently given birth are more likely to experience pain during sexual intercourse if they breastfeed their child. When you are pumping or breastfeeding, your hormone levels have altered from their natural state. As this happens, your vagina becomes prone to dryness, which causes painful sex due to the lack of proper lubrication. The skin surrounding your vulva may become thinned after giving birth which adds to the discomfort you feel upon penetration.

Vaginal estrogen therapy helps to eliminate this discomfort. You can opt for either the pills, patches or suppositories to receive the needed estrogen. If you do not want to request vaginal estrogen therapy from a health care provider, then purchase lubricant from the store and apply it prior to vaginal penetration. This helps to control vaginal dryness and lessens the amount of pain you feel during sexual intercourse.

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