Painful Sex for Women, Why?

Painful Sex for Women, Why?

Painful sex for women is not only painful for her, but for a couple’s relationship. Painful intercourse is also described as dyspareunia, and though people don’t talk about it often, is very common. Anywhere from 20-50% of women experience some form of sexual dysfunction in their life, including pain during sex. For some women, the pain is temporary and others experience it at every sexual encounter. Dyspareunia involves pain in the vagina during intercourse, either at the entrance of the vagina or inside.

Reasons for Painful Sex

Typically, sex is painful because of a lack of vaginal lubrication. Pain can go away if a woman becomes more relaxed, foreplay is increased, or by using a sexual lubricant. Other causes of painful sex for women include:

  • Vaginismus – An involuntary spasm in the vaginal musclesVaginismus image
  • Allergic reactions – The skin can become irritated if you have a reaction to soap, detergent, or scented tampons or pads
  • Vaginal infections – Common infections including yeast infections
  • Cervix issues – Cervix infection or other problems with the cervix causes pain when the penis reaches the cervix in deep penetration
  • Cysts on the ovaries
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease – Tissue becomes inflamed and pressure of intercourse causes pain
  • Menopause – During menopause the vagina can lose it’s natural moisture
  • Sexually transmitted diseases including genital warts, herpes, etc.
  • Attempting intercourse too soon after pregnancy
  • Injury to the vagina – Common after childbirth, tears in the vagina during labor cause pain


Many women find success in lubricants, added foreplay, and relaxing. However, if painful sex is due to an underlying medical condition, the medical condition should be treated before sex is attempted. For example, doctors can provide estrogen creams for menopause issues, prescription drugs for STDs, or repairing a tear in the vagina after childbirth. For vaginal pain due to no underlying medical cause, therapy is recommended. Some women feel stress, guilt, conflict regarding sex, or have a history of abuse. Therapy can help women work out their issues and feel more comfortable and relaxed during sex. If ever a women starts to experience bleeding, genital lesions, irregular periods, vaginal discharge, or muscle contractions, she should see a doctor right away. A gynecologist will be able to perform a pelvic exam to look for signs of skin irritation, infection, etc. Finding the location of your pain by applying pressure to the vagina and pelvic muscles may help determine the cause. Some women who experience dyspareunia also experience pain during a vaginal exam.

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