When Sex is Painful: 7 Common Causes

January 12, 2023

woman sad sitting on side of bedSex is supposed to be one of the most glorious and physically satisfying activities a human can participate in. Studies tout the benefits of a healthy sex life in terms of improving sleep habits and elevating mood. Good sex has even been shown to boost immune system function. These findings are great for women who have a healthy sex life, but what happens when sex is painful or uncomfortable?

What Does It Mean When Sex Is Painful? 7 Common Causes of Painful or Uncomfortable Intercourse

If sex is painful or uncomfortable for you, don’t suffer in silence. Please schedule an appointment with an OB/GYN and let her know what’s up. You should never feel embarrassed to ask questions about sex, anything that seems abnormal regarding your body, or your feelings about sexual intercourse.

In the meantime, here is a list of 7 common situations, conditions, or reasons why sex may be uncomfortable for you.

1. Lack of natural lubrication

Ideally, your body will produce ample lubrication when it is sufficiently stimulated. Operative word: sufficiently. One of the leading causes of a lack of lubrication is insufficient foreplay. Get your partner to spend more time kissing, cuddling, caressing, or doing whatever turns you on, and the lubrication issue might resolve itself. Lack of lubrication can also result from
hormonal changes during menopause, after childbirth, or while breastfeeding. Certain medications and even certain forms of birth control (ironic, isn’t it?) can also cause a drop in lubrication production. Plenty of over-the-counter products can help provide lubrication so that penetration and friction created by movement will be pleasurable rather than painful.

2. Injury or trauma

If you have had a baby, had some internal surgery (even if it was in the past), or had an episiotomy during labor, the resulting incisions, bruising, and/or scar tissue can create an uncomfortable situation. Your doctor can look to see if there is anything that can be done to correct or remedy things for you.

3. Irritation

The labia, vagina, and cervix can become irritated for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s as simple as a change in laundry detergent or soap. It could be a yeast or bacterial infection. Sexually transmitted diseases cause irritation and/or sores that can be painful. Even eczema and other skin irritations can cause a problem.

4. Anatomical abnormalities

Every body is different, meaning that your anatomical parts might be a different size or shape than the norm. A smaller, narrower, or shorter vagina can make sex more uncomfortable. A tilted uterus can make certain positions more painful than others. A complete gynecological exam will help your doctor determine if your anatomy is the problem.

5. Various medical conditions

A wide range of medical conditions can cause sex to be painful. These include things like endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, fibroid tumors, ovarian cysts, pelvic organ prolapse, and the list continues. In almost all of these cases, inflammation and/or tissues encroached upon by other tissues cause the vaginal and pelvic area to be tender.

6. Surgical history

Surgery performed on or around your pelvic area, or sexual organs can cause scarring or resulting tenderness that makes sexual intercourse uncomfortable. These include hysterectomies, tubal ligations, Cesarean sections, or other pelvic surgery. Radiation and/or chemotherapy can also cause changes that make sex more uncomfortable.

7. Emotional factors

Psychological and/or emotional issues can also contribute to uncomfortable or painful sexual intercourse. Or, they can make it so that it is difficult to enjoy sex. We mentioned that lubrication is necessary for sex to be pleasurable; if you are stressed, depressed, or anxious, your body will have difficulty producing the necessary lubrication. If you have any anxiety about having sex, or your sexual partner, your vaginal walls can tighten or spasm, making it challenging to allow penetration. Victims of sexual abuse often have difficulty experiencing pleasure from sexual activities until they have worked through their trauma and healed old wounds. Women’s Health Associates has connections with excellent therapists in the Kansas City area, and we are happy to provide referrals as necessary.

Is sexual intercourse causing you pain or discomfort? Please schedule an appointment at Women’s Health Associates. We are here for you and will work patiently and compassionately with you to address any issues you are having around sex and sexuality.