When sex hurtsSex is supposed to be fun, intimate, respectful, exciting, and – most of all – pleasurable. When sex hurts, it is impossible to have a healthy sex life or embrace that part of yourself. Painful or uncomfortable sex shuts down the libido, contributes to anxiety and feelings of inadequacy, and takes a toll on a couple’s romance and intimacy. 

The good news is that there are almost always solutions to painful or uncomfortable sex. The key is to be open and honest with your OB/GYN so we can identify the cause and offer you a new leash on life between the sheets. Some of the ways sex feels uncomfortable or painful include:

● Pain during penetration (this may include using a tampon)
● Pain during thrusting
● Burning or aching pain
● Pain or discomfort that lingers after you have sex, sometimes as much as hours later

If any of those rings true for you, it’s time to get to the bottom of things.

Reasons Why Sex Is Painful

Here are some of the most common reasons sex is painful and potential solutions. But, again, a visit to your OB/GYN or midwife and a full disclosure conversation are essential to paving a more positive and pleasurable way forward.

1. You’ve experienced sexual trauma in the past

Women who were sexually abused, raped, or experienced sexual trauma can find sex extremely uncomfortable to downright painful. This is a psychological response rather than a physical one in most cases. However, even in the most comfortable and trusting environments and with a partner who makes you feel safe, the very act of being physically intimate or sexual can cause involuntary muscle contractions and “fight/flight/freeze” responses that reduce lubrication.

A recent study published in BMC Women’s Health found that women who experienced sexual trauma were far more likely to have reduced libido, tried to avoid sex altogether, or experience painful or uncomfortable intercourse than their non-traumatized counterparts. If you’ve suffered sexual trauma, search online or ask your physician for a referral to a therapist who specializes in sexual abuse. 

2. You have a latent infection

If you have pelvic inflammatory disease, urinary tract infections, STDs, or other latent issues like a yeast bacterial infection, it can irritate the vaginal tissues, including the labia and clitoris. Itching, burning, and feelings of rawness compound the issue. Getting cleared of potential infections or inflammation is a step in the right direction, and it prevents you from spreading something to your partner. Even yeast infections can pass back and forth, even though men tend to be more asymptomatic than women.

3. Lack of lubrication

Every vagina is different and, while they are designed to be self-lubricating, some do a better job of that than others, and lubrication levels can ebb and flow throughout our lives. Lubrication is essential to pleasure, or hyper-friction causes discomfort. You may lack lubrication:

● Lack of foreplay (get your partner on board for more foreplay, which results in more satisfying sex)
● During certain times of the month, due to hormone fluctuations
● As the result of a hormone imbalance
Due to perimenopause or menopause
● You’ve just had a baby or are still breastfeeding
● Medication side effects (any medications that cause dry mouth or affect mucous membranes can inhibit lubrication or negatively affect libido)
● Stress, depression, lack of libido – all can diminish natural lubrication

If you feel your lubrication levels are lower than usual, see if any of those may be the cause. Over-the-counter products are there to help. Some of our patients’ favorite lubricants include:

● Sliquid
● Shine
● Lelo Personal Moisturizer
● Astroglide’s water-based lubricant

4. Certain conditions or illnesses

Any condition or disease that affects your body can affect how you experience sex. That’s especially true if the conditions in question already affect the pelvis, abdomen, or reproductive organs. Besides the infections we’ve already covered in #2, some of the issues most likely to cause sexual discomfort or pain are:

● Pelvic surgery or trauma
● Cystitis
Uterine fibroids
● Autoimmune disorders that heighten inflammation
● Irritable bowel syndrome

5. Anatomical potentials

There is also a range of anatomical reasons for pain or discomfort during intercourse. For example:

● Shorter or smaller vagina
● Pelvic organ prolapse or a uterus that’s tilted forward or located lower than normal
● Scarring
● Muscle spasms that tighten the vaginal entry or canal (called vaginismus)
● Skin disorders

While many of the most common reasons sex is painful can be eliminated or supported, others may require education about different approaches or positions that minimize discomfort. 

Are you ready to embrace a more pleasurable and pain-free sex life? We’d love to help you out! Contact Overlake OB/GYN today to schedule an appointment.