Sex is supposed to be a pleasurable encounter, however, in some cases it ends up being a painful one. Pain during intercourse is a common problem in women. You may have experienced sexual joy, but at some point, it becomes painful. The fear of pain often limits many men and women from indulging in sexual activity. The medical term for painful intercourse is dyspareunia, which refers to persistent genital pain that occurs just before, during, or after sexual intercourse. For many women, the pain is rare and happens only once, but for others, it seems to be quite persistent.
Painful intercourse is not a result of any underlying disease. Instead, it can be caused due to inadequate lubrication, rough sex, trauma, or bitterness towards your partner. Just because it is considered common among females, does not necessarily mean that you should accept it as normal. Experiencing minor soreness occasionally is nothing to worry about however, if you get intense pain frequently, you need to address this issue immediately.
However, some men can also experience pain during or after sex. It is the body’s way of telling you something is not quite right. It could possibly be an indication of some underlying condition involving illness, infection, a physical as well as a psychological problem, so do not commit a mistake by ignoring it.
What Exactly Is Dyspareunia?
Dyspareunia is a pain experienced in the genitals during or after sexual intercourse. The pain due to intercourse can be felt externally on the vulva (opening of the vagina) or internally in the cervix, vagina, uterus, or pelvis. Pain during sex can be a sign of underlying medical conditions or infections. It can be treated by examining the factors and identifying the exact cause of the pain.
Although it is considered to be a common condition it can have adverse effects on mental and psychological health. Along with physical pain, couples can also undergo loss of sexual desire which can further cause relationship strains.
Symptoms Of Painful Sex Or Dyspareunia
You may experience:
- Sharp pain during penetration
- Intense pain during thrusting
- Throbbing or aching sensation after intercourse
- Burning pain
- Pelvic cramping
- Muscle tightening or spasms
Who Is More Prone To Dyspareunia?
Condition of dyspareunia or painful sex is more common in women. It can affect both men and women irrespective of their age. The pain is most probably due to a physiological factor or medical condition, but it can be due to psychological factors as well.
The type of dyspareunia you are experiencing can be determined depending on where exactly you are feeling the pain. Let us have look at its types:
- Intraorbital or Superficial Dyspareunia
Also known as entry pain, it is usually felt at the entrance to the vagina during penetration. The factors responsible for entry pain may include lack of lubrication or dryness, injury, or infection.
- Collision Dyspareunia Or Deep Pain
This type of pain is felt during deep penetration and can get aggravated in certain sexual positions. You will feel this pain deep within, in the cervix or lower abdomen. The cause of this intense pain could be either an ongoing medical condition or prior surgery.
Pain During Sex In Women
Pain during or after sex can be felt either in the vagina or deeper in the pelvis. Pain in vagina can be experience due to:
- Lack of lubrication – It could be a reason of lack of sexual arousal. A drop in estrogen levels after menopause or childbirth or during breast-feeding also can be a cause.
- An infection – Thrush or sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, or genital herpes.
- Menopause – Hormonal fluctuations can cause dry vagina
- Vaginismus – In this condition, the muscles inside or around the vagina shut tightly, making the sex painful or even impossible.
- Genital Irritation – It is caused due to the usage of spermicides, latex condoms, or products such as soaps and shampoo.
Pain experienced deep within the pelvis can be caused by conditions like:
- Fibroids near vagina or cervix
- Pelvic inflammatory diseases (PID)
- Irritable bowel syndrome
Pain During Sex In Men
- Tight Foreskin – It makes sex painful as the foreskin gets pushed back.
- Infections – Soreness and itching can be caused by Thrush, and some STIs such as herpes.
- Cuts or tear in the foreskin – These are hardly noticeable but can cause sharp, stinging pain.
- Prostatitis – Inflammation of prostate gland
- Pain and swelling in testicles – It could be a sign of an infection, such as chlamydia.
- Penile Deformities – Some deformities of penile or Peyronie’s disease can cause pain.
- Painful erections – Priapism can lead to persistent and painful erections.
Psychological Factors Responsible For Painful Sex
Emotional intimacy is being able to share your deep bond during sexual activity and hence emotions are interlinked with sexual intimacy. So there might be some emotional or psychological issues that can get reflected through pain during sex. Some factors may include:
- Psychological factors – Stress, anxiety, depression, guilt, trauma, distorted body image, fear of intimacy or relationship problems can contribute to a low level of arousal that can lead to discomfort or pain.
- History of sexual abuse –An abuse can leave a mark on the memory and cause hindrance due to the fear of intimacy which can affect the arousal and cause pain during sex.
Sometimes, an initial pain especially during the first time can establish fear in the mind regarding the recurring events of pain. Due to this fear, one might find it difficult to relax and enjoy, which can further lead to more pain. You might as well develop a fear of sex and avoid indulging in it if you associate it with pain.
Sex is supposed to be a pleasurable experience for both, and if it is not, do not feel hesitant to speak up to your partner. Try to engage in open and honest communication with your partner such that they can do their part in the resolution of your sexual conflicts.
Ask Your Doctor
Your healthcare provider can diagnose the underlying cause of pain during sex with a thorough health history and physical examination. The physical exam could include checking your reproductive organs and suggesting some tests to diagnose dyspareunia. Lastly, they can recommend the appropriate treatment based on your symptoms and determine the underlying cause of your pain.