When Sex is Painful: 7 Common Causes

September 18, 2018

Sex 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. Schedule an appointment with an OB/GYN and let her know what’s up. You should never feel embarrassed to ask questions about sex or anything that seems abnormal in regards to your body or your feelings about sexual intercourse.

Painful Sex

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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 it is that turns you on and the lubrication issue might resolve itself. Lack of lubrication can also be the result of hormonal changes that occur during menopause, after childbirth or while breastfeeding. Certain medications and even certain forms of birth control (ironic, isn’t it?) can cause a drop in lubrication production as well. There are plenty of over-the-counter products that can help to provide lubrication so that penetration, and resulting friction created by movement, will be pleasurable, rather than painful.
  2. Injury or trauma. If you have had a baby, had some type of 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 take a 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, and that means 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 full gynecological exam will help your doctor determine if your anatomy is the problem.
  5. Various medical conditions. There are a wide range of medical conditions that 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 that are encroached upon by other tissues cause the vaginal and pelvic area to be tender.
  6. Surgical history. Surgery that has been performed on or around your pelvic area or sexual organs can cause scarring or resulting tenderness that makes sexual intercourse uncomfortable. These include things like hysterectomies, tubal ligations, Cesarean sections, or any 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 a more difficult time 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 difficult 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 amazing 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.