Painful Sex

If you have frequent or severe pain during intercourse this may be a sign of a gynecologic problem.

Painful Sex

If you have frequent or severe pain during intercourse this may be a sign of a gynecologic problem.

Pain during intercourse is very common—nearly 3 out of 4 women have pain during intercourse at some time during their lives. For some women, the pain is only a temporary problem; for others, it can be a long-term problem. Persistent pain during intercourse may be a sign of a gynecologic problem. 

What can I expect when I am evaluated for pain during intercourse?

  • Your medical and sexual history, signs and symptoms, and findings from a physical exam are important factors in determining the cause of your pain.
  • Sometimes, tests are needed to find the cause. An ultrasoundexam often gives clues about the causes of some kinds of pain. Further evaluation, sometimes involving a procedure called a laparoscopy, may be needed. 
  • You also may be asked about medications that you are taking, whether you have any medical conditions, and past events that may affect how you feel about sex, such as sexual abuse.
  • Other health care professionals may be consulted for further evaluation and treatment, such as a physical therapist or a sex therapist.
  • Painful intercourse may be a result from a woman’s natural aging process called menopause. Treatments are available to aid in restoring vaginal elasticity and health. See MonaLisa Touch for more information on this non surgical vaginal laser treatment. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What gynecological conditions are commonly associated with painful intercourse?

  • Ovarian cysts
  • Endometriosis
  • Emotional changes can result in reduced arousal
  • Medications side effects
  • Menopause
  1. Use a lubricant. Water-soluble lubricants are a good choice if you experience vaginal irritation or sensitivity. Silicone-based lubricants last longer and tend to be more slippery than water-soluble lubricants. Do not use petroleum jelly, baby oil, or mineral oil with condoms. They can dissolve the latex and cause the condom to break.
  2. Make time for sex. Set aside a time when neither you nor your partner is tired or anxious.
  3. Talk to your partner. Tell your partner where and when you feel pain, as well as what activities you find pleasurable.
  4. Try sexual activities that do not cause pain. For example, if intercourse is painful, you and your partner may want to focus on oral sex or other forms of mutually fulfilling intimacy.
  5. Try nonsexual, but sensual, activities like massage.
  6. Take pain-relieving steps before sex: empty your bladder, take a warm bath, or take an over-the-counter pain reliever before intercourse.
  7. To relieve burning after intercourse, apply ice or a frozen gel pack wrapped in a small towel to the vulva.
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