About painful intercourse

Painful intercourse is medically classified as dyspareunia, which is a persistent pain that happens during sexual intercourse. This pain during sex can affect both men and women, but it is much more common among women. There are various factors that contribute to this condition, some physical, and some psychological. However, the location of the pain may help to identify a specific physical cause. The pain can range from moderate to severe, and it may occur at the opening of the vagina, or deeper in the pelvis.

Symptoms of this condition

The symptoms of dyspareunia in women can include:

  • Entry pain is usually associated with vaginal dryness. During sexual arousal, the sex glands secrete fluids to aid intercourse. Too little secretion can result from a lack of foreplay, a reduction in estrogen after childbirth or during menopause. Some side effects from antidepressant meds, over-use of antihistamines, and even birth control pills may contribute to dryness. A good lubrication cream will help.
  • Inflammation of the female reproductive organs and involuntary contraction of the pelvic floor muscles, usually caused by infection, leads to painful sex.
  • Trauma to the genital area such as pelvic surgery, or an injury arising from an accident may make sex painful.
  • If you have sex too soon after childbirth when the delicate tissues of the uterus have not yet properly healed, sex will be uncomfortable and hurt quite a bit.
  • Skin disorders such as eczema or other allergic reactions may also cause pain.
  • A throbbing type of pain that lingers after sex.
  • A prolapsed uterus where one or more of the pelvic organs extend into the uterus will make sex very painful.

Painful intercourse may cause you to lose interest in sex, and this can damage your relationship, sometimes beyond repair if nothing is done to remedy the situation.


After a thorough examination, which can include ultrasound or a scan, the doctor can establish the cause of the problem, and advise treatment accordingly.

  • Treatment for painful sex can include estrogen therapy, and investigating the side effects of your regular medications. If it is possible, the doctor may suggest changing some of the existing meds if they are causing vaginal dryness.
  • Studies have shown that estrogen in a topical form, (if your estrogen levels are low,) is extremely helpful to combat vaginal dryness, and also helps to relieve irritation from eczema and skin allergies.
  • Inflammation and infections can be treated with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory meds.
  • A serious medical issue may require surgery to resolve the problem, but the doctor will obviously discuss this with you.

If you are stressed and anxious about painful sex issues, some doctors may suggest counselling to help you cope with the situation. Painful sex should not be ignored in the hopes that it will go away. This will not happen without a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment by a doctor.

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