Painful intercourse: five causes and solutions

Written by: Editors

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On 4 September, we celebrate World Sexual Health Day (WSHD). Sexual problems are, unfortunately, often still taboo topics. And yet sexual health is a critical part of our overall health and something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. This article talks about a problem that affects many women: painful intercourse. We’ve also written a blog post for men: ‘Ten tips to last longer in bed’.

Painful sex in women

Female sexual dysfunction is often linked to a lack of desire to have sex. Unlike male sexual dysfunction, most problems related to female sexual dysfunction seem to be psychological. Emotions, stress and restlessness are factors that can affect women’s sexual health. Pain during intercourse is also a common problem. Having sex should be a fun, enjoyable and relaxing experience. But when sex is painful, this can really put a damper on your ability to enjoy it. So what causes vaginal pain and what can be done about it? If you are one of the women who experience vaginal pain, please know that you are not alone. Painful intercourse can be caused by a number of conditions, and all of them are treatable. Here are five tips you can try to relieve pain during sex:

1. Vaginal dryness

Painful intercourse is often caused by vaginal dryness. Without sufficient vaginal lubrication, the cells in the wall of the vagina transmit pain signals caused by friction from the penis. The pain is characterised by a sore or stinging feeling at the vaginal opening. Using a lubricant can be an easy way to increase comfort during intercourse. It’s also important to be sufficiently aroused before attempting penetration.

2. Vaginal thrush

If, in addition to pain, you experience symptoms such as itching and an increase in vaginal discharge, you could have a vaginal fungal infection. See a doctor, pharmacist or go to your local pharmacy to rule out this option.

3. Deep pain

Some women experience deep pain during sex. This is caused by the thrust of the penis against the cervix. This type of pain is not felt at the vaginal opening but deep in the pelvis. If you suffer from this type of pain, it may be useful to play with positions that allow for more shallow penetration. In some women, the pain is caused by a physical problem or disorder, such as a tilted uterus, uterine prolapse, irritated bowel syndrome or endometriosis. In this case, it is important to find help from medical professionals. A doctor will be able to diagnose the problem and suggest treatment options.

4. Pelvic floor

During sexual intercourse the pelvic floor needs to be relaxed. This allows the vagina to open and expand. If the pelvic floor muscles are too tight, intercourse may become painful. This can turn into a vicious circle, with pain leading to nervousness about having sex, and nervousness leading to further pain. Pelvic floor exercises can help to relax the muscles. You can also go to a physiotherapist for advice.

5. Pelvic floor muscles

Sometimes pelvic floor muscles can be so tight that intercourse is extremely painful or even impossible. This condition is called vaginismus. While vaginismus can have a physical cause, such as deformity of the vagina, endometriosis or a tenacious hymen, in most cases its cause is psychological. Vaginismus can happen if a woman has had a bad experience with sex in the past, or it can be caused by stress, shame or other strong emotions. A sex therapist can be an important source of support for women with vaginismus.

If you get pain during sex regularly and our tips are not effective, then we advise you to see a doctor. A doctor can diagnose the underlying cause of pain during sex and determine what treatment you need so you can enjoy pain-free sex again.

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