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Painful Sex in Women

Intercourse pain, or dyspareunia, can cause problems in a couple's sexual relationship. In addition to the physically painful sex, there is also the possibility of negative emotional effects, so the problem should be addressed as soon as it becomes evident.

What Causes Painful Sex in Women?

In many cases, a woman can experience painful sex if there is not sufficient vaginal lubrication. When this occurs, the pain can be resolved if the female becomes more relaxed, if the amount of foreplay is increased, or if the couple uses a sexual lubricant.

In some cases, a woman can experience painful intercourse if one of the following conditions is present:

  • Vaginismus. This is a common condition in which there is a spasm in the vaginal muscles, mainly caused by the fear of being hurt.
  • Vaginal infections. These conditions are common and include yeast infections.
  • Problems with the cervix (opening to the uterus). In this case, the penis can reach the cervix at maximum penetration, so problems with the cervix (such as infections) can cause pain during deep penetration.
  • Problems with the uterus. These problems may include fibroids that can cause deep intercourse pain.
  • Endometriosis. A condition in which the endometrium (tissue lining the uterus) grows outside the uterus.
  • Problems with the ovaries. Such problems might include cysts on the ovaries.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease. The tissues deep inside become badly inflamed and the pressure of intercourse causes deep pain.
  • Ectopic pregnancy. A pregnancy in which a fertilized egg develops outside of the uterus.
  • Menopause. The vaginal lining can lose its normal moisture and become dry.
  • Intercourse too soon after surgery or childbirth.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases. These may include genital warts, herpes sores, or other STDs.
  • Injury to the vulva or vagina. These injuries may include a tear from childbirth or from a cut (episiotomy) in the perenium (area of skin between the vagina and the anus) that is made during labor.

How Can Painful Sex In Women Be Treated?

Some treatments for painful sex in women do not require medical intervention. For example, in the case of painful sex after pregnancy, wait at least six weeks after childbirth before attempting intercourse. Make sure to practice gentleness and patience. In cases in which there is vaginal dryness or a lack of lubrication, try water-based lubricants.

Some treatments for female sexual pain do require a doctor's care. If vaginal dryness is due to menopause, ask a health care professional about estrogen creams or other prescription medications. Other causes of painful intercourse also may require prescription drugs.

For cases of sexual pain in which there is no underlying medical cause, sexual therapy might be helpful. Some individuals may need to resolve issues such as guilt, inner conflicts regarding sex, or feelings regarding a past abuse.

Call a doctor if there are symptoms such as bleeding, genital lesions, irregular periods, vaginal discharge, or involuntary vaginal muscle contractions and ask for a referral to a certified sex counselor if there are other concerns that need to be addressed.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Marina Katz, MD on July 30, 2012
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