According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, as many as 75% of women experience pain during intercourse at some point in their lives. It may only happen a few times for some, but for others, it can be a persistent problem.
Sex is supposed to be a positive, enjoyable experience. When you feel pain, it can be difficult to process what it is and what to do about it. Women often blame themselves and may stop being intimate with their partner or choose to avoid dating. This can hurt a person’s wellbeing, self-esteem, and relationships.
If you feel pain or discomfort during intercourse, your body is telling you that something is wrong. You should share your feelings with your partner and talk to a doctor to determine if something needs to change or if you have an underlying health problem that requires treatment.
What Does Pain During Intercourse Feel Like?
Pain during intercourse may feel differently for you than it does for someone else. You may feel discomfort in the vestibule (the opening of the vagina), vulva, or perineum. Pain can also be felt in the pelvic region, bladder, uterus, or lower back.
What Causes Pain During Intercourse?
Many conditions can cause pain during intercourse. Some are more common than others. Even if you think that you know the cause, you should speak to a doctor to make sure something else isn’t going on, and to learn more about treatment options.
- Post-Menopausal Dryness – Post-menopausal women may feel vaginal dryness that can lead to pain during intercourse. Ignoring the problem can cause discomfort and an imbalance in the good bacteria your body needs. A doctor may recommend the use of lubricant. You can also discuss other options when treating menopausal symptoms.
- Vaginismus – Vaginismus describes a muscle spasm that occurs in the pelvic floor muscles. It can make sexual intercourse painful or even impossible. Some patients have difficultly inserting tampons or undergoing gynecological exams. A doctor may recommend pelvic floor exercises, counseling, or dilation training to treat vaginismus.
- Fibroids – Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that grow inside the uterus. Depending on where they are located, they can create problems during intercourse. Some grow to be quite large and can cause heavy periods and severe abdominal pain. They can form due to hormones, pregnancy, or genetics.
- Pelvic Floor Dysfunction – Women who experience pelvic floor dysfunction are not able to coordinate or relax their pelvic floor muscles to urinate or have bowel movements. The causes can vary from traumatic injury and pregnancy to advanced age and being overweight. Symptoms include painful urination, painful sex, frequent bathroom use, constipation, unexplained lower back pain, and incontinence.
- Infection – Yeast, bacterial, or sexually-transmitted infections can cause pain during intercourse. These conditions are often accompanied by a discharge or other symptoms. You should seek medical advice right away and avoid sex until you know what’s going on to prevent spreading an infection.
- Ovarian Cysts – Fluid-filled sacs called ovarian cysts can appear in or on the ovary. These are common and usually don’t cause any problems or discomfort. They often disappear without treatment. However, some can rupture and cause serious problems. Common symptoms of ovarian cysts include bloating, heaviness in the abdomen, and dull or sharp pelvic pain. In extreme cases, you may vomit or develop a fever and should seek immediate medical attention.
These are some of the most common causes of pain during intercourse. Other possible causes include endometriosis, uterine prolapse, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, and adenomyosis. You should speak to a doctor to learn more or to seek a diagnosis.
Pain During Intercourse and Emotional Health
Your emotional and mental health can also have an impact on your sexual health. Psychological issues like depression, anxiety, and fear of intimacy can cause sexual pain. Pelvic floor muscles can tighten due to stress. Patients with a history of sexual abuse can also experience pain.
If you suspect that your symptoms are the result of an emotional or mental health condition, you should request services from a therapist or other mental health professional. A physical examination is also recommended to ensure that nothing else is present that could be causing painful intercourse or making it worse.
Should I Talk to a Doctor About Pain During Intercourse?
No one should have to deal with pain during sex. Many treatment options are available, and some could be as simple as using a lubricant. You should speak to a doctor if you experience any discomfort or pain during intercourse that’s recurrent and/or severe.
Your doctor can also make sure that there aren’t any conditions present that are causing painful symptoms. Getting help now will help you enjoy a happy, healthy sex life and could reduce the impact an infection, injury, or illness has on your wellbeing.
Complete Women’s Healthcare is available to help you find answers and regain control of your sex life. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and find out what’s causing pain during intercourse.