Even though we see sexual acts all the time in mainstream media these days, most of us remain tight-lipped when it comes to discussing the finer details of sex. Because of this, we often suffer in silence when we experience things like pain during sex.
Pain during intercourse is more common than most women realize, though. In fact, 3 out of 4 women experience pain during sex at some point during their lifetime. For some women, this pain is just a temporary issue, but for others, it turns into a long-term problem. So what causes pain during intercourse and when should you call your gynecologist?
What Causes Pain During Sex?
Pain caused by sexual intercourse, also known as dyspareunia, can occur for many reasons. This pain can feel sharp and intense or dull and uncomfortable. Depending on the cause, women can experience dyspareunia before, during, or even after sexual intercourse.
According to Healthline, there are both physical and emotional factors that can cause pain during intercourse. Physical causes include vaginal dryness, skin disorders, yeast infections, UTIs, and even injuries caused by surgery or childbirth. In more serious cases, conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, and uterine cancer can also cause dyspareunia.
Emotional factors can cause a woman to feel less aroused, which can also lead to pain during intercourse. These emotional factors include relationship problems, stress, body image issues, or low self-esteem. Furthermore, women who previously experienced sexual abuse can experience pain during intercourse due to feelings of fear, guilt, or shame.
What Are The Symptoms Of Dyspareunia?
While intercourse-related pain varies from woman to woman based on the root cause and other factors, you can look out for some symptoms or signs of dyspareunia. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that you may experience pain in your vulva, vestibule (area surrounding your vagina’s opening), or inside your vagina or perineum. Furthermore, you may also experience pain in your pelvis, lower back, bladder, or uterus. This pain may be accompanied by burning, itching, or aching or feel like a stabbing pain similar to menstrual cramps.
The timing of this pain may also vary from woman to woman. However, you’ll often experience it during or after sex, including during penetration or removal of the penis. Furthermore, you may feel pain after intercourse while urinating or while using a tampon. This pain may also only happen with specific partners or positions. In other words, it may not happen every time you have sex.
When Should I Consult My Doctor?
Any type of vaginal pain is cause for concern. Something as minor as vaginal dryness during a specific part of your cycle can cause some discomfort during sex. However, most experts agree that if you experience recurring pain during sex, you should contact your gynecologist or primary care physician as soon as possible. Furthermore, if you ever experience severe pain during sex or unbearable pain that lasts several hours after intercourse, you should contact your doctor to schedule a follow-up appointment.
How A Doctor Will Help
When you visit your doctor, they will probably discuss your sexual history and ask some questions to get a better idea of when the pain started, how often it occurs, and any other factors that may be causing the pain. Also, your doctor will likely complete a pelvic exam to look for any signs of dryness, inflammation, infection, genital warts, or abnormal masses. They may also look for signs of endometriosis or PCOS as possible causes.
Depending on the cause, your doctor may treat the underlying infection or condition with antibiotics, topical corticosteroids, or antifungal medicines. Your doctor may also make changes to your current medications for other conditions or recommend estrogen if low levels are detected. Furthermore, your doctor may give you some tips to follow before or during sex, like using water-soluble lubricants or taking a warm bath before sex.
Obviously it’s important to talk to your doctor before trying any over-the-counter methods for relieving your pain during sex. So don’t just try things you read online without consulting a medical professional.
Although we often shy away from discussing what happens in the bedroom, pain during sex is never something to ignore. Whether it’s caused by vaginal dryness or something more severe, your doctor can help you identify the appropriate treatment and help you learn to cope with dyspareunia. Treating your vaginal pain during sex can ultimately help improve your sex life, your emotional intimacy, and your happiness.
Previously Published on Moms.com