Pain during intercourse is medically referred to as dyspareunia. It is defined as recurrent or persistent pain that occurs before, during, or after vaginal intercourse. It is most common among women, but in some rare cases, it also affects men. Studies have shown that sexually inexperienced women, more so if their partners are also inexperienced, are at a higher risk of experiencing pain during intercourse. Perimenopausal and post-menopausal women are also at a higher risk of experiencing pain during sex.
Causes of Painful Intercourse:
There are many possible causes of pain during sex or dyspareunia. The pain could be due to physical causes or a variety of emotional factors.
Physical causes tend to differ depending on whether pain occurs during penetration or with deep thrusting. Below are some of the physical causes:
- Vaginal Infections
Vaginal infections are common conditions that include yeast infections, some sexually transmitted diseases, and urinary tract infections (UTIs). They normally cause itching and burning sensations in the vaginal area. If you are suffering from any of these conditions, then you are likely to feel pain while having sex. Several treatments are readily available for yeast infections and UTIs. Most sexually transmitted diseases can also be treated or are easily managed.
This is another common condition involving involuntary contraction or spasm of the vaginal muscles that occurs during penetration. Therefore, if you have vaginismus, your vaginal muscles squeeze, making any form of penetration painful. The exact cause of this condition is not known, but it is normally linked to fear of having sex and anxiety. If you have vaginismus, there are exercises that you can do in the privacy of your home, designed to help you learn how to relax and control the muscles surrounding your vagina. These exercises are called Kegels and they involve squeezing the same muscles that you use to stop the flow of urine continuously for about 2 seconds and then relaxing the muscles. Practice this exercise for as many times as possible for better results. Women whose vaginismus is a result of fear or anxiety should get therapy.
This is a condition whereby the uterine-lining tissue develops outside the uterus. When it spreads to the top of the uterus, you’ll likely feel a sharp pelvic pain when having intercourse. Most women describe it as a stabbing, burning, or deep aching pain that starts from penetration and could last up between 24 to 48 hours later. Treatment options usually include hormones, pain relievers, and surgery.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
PID is an infection that occurs in the female reproductive organs, including the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and lining of the uterus. This infection is primarily caused by sexually transmitted infections, which spread up from uterus opening to the other organs. When you have PID, the tissues deep inside you become highly inflamed, and thus any form of penetration would cause considerable pain. PID can be treated using antibiotics, and in severe cases, one may require surgery.
- Vaginal dryness
Some women report having lubrication problems which make them experience pain during intercourse. This condition can be caused by factors such as:
- Change in hormones- this often occurs after giving birth, during breastfeeding, menopause, and perimenopause, where you experience a significant drop in your estrogen levels. This decrease in hormones causes a woman to have insufficient vaginal lubrication. Chemotherapy and radiation to the pelvis may also lead to lower estrogen levels.
- Irritants such are chemicals in soaps, dyes, hygiene products, and perfume, to which you might be allergic.
- Insufficient arousal.
- Emotional and psychological factors such as anxiety and stress which reduces your sexual desire, leading to vaginal dryness since normal lubrication does not occur.
- Treatment for vaginal dryness is dependent on the cause. For instance, if it’s due to hormonal changes, then you can benefit from estrogen therapy.
- Congenital abnormality:
For some women, pain during sex may be as a result of congenital disabilities. These are disorders such as the absence of a fully-formed vagina; referred to as vaginal agenesis or the development of a membrane which blocks the vaginal opening known as the imperforate hymen.
- Skin disorders
If you have skin problems such as eczema in your genital area, then you are very likely to experience pain during intercourse. This is because some of these disorders make the skin around your genitalia itchy and sore, making penetration painful. However, with the right kind of medication, such problems can be treated.
- Injury or trauma to the vulva or vagina
This may include damages resulting from accidents, female genital mutilation, pelvic surgeries, injuries during childbirth, or even surgical incisions made to enlarge the birth canal during childbirth (medically known as episiotomy).
- Bladder pain
If your bladder is inflamed, then you are also likely to feel pain during sex. This is because the bladder is located at the top of the womb, and as such (just like the womb) it experiences the pressure and movement created during intercourse. Therefore, if your bladder is sensitive and painful; due to bladder infections, any pressure applied to it during sex, will cause you pain.
- Uterine fibroids
Uterine fibroids are benign or noncancerous lumps that grow on the uterus. If you have large fibroids, these produce pressure in your uterus which can make sexual intercourse painful. Also, if the tumors spread to the area of the cervix, just at the end of your vaginal tract, penetrative sex also becomes quite uncomfortable and even painful.
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is an endocrine system disorder, which affects women in the reproductive age. The term “polycystic ovary syndrome” is coined from the fact that most women with PCOS develop many small cysts (fluid-filled sacs) in their ovaries. Although the cysts are virtually harmless, they typically cause hormonal imbalance in the woman’s body. Women who suffer from PCOS report having pain during and after having sexual intercourse. This is because, during intercourse, the penis can strike your ovaries causing you pain.