If you experience pelvic pain during sex, you are not alone. For example, a recent study in Britain found that 7.5% of sexually active women report having had painful sex for over three years—and this number doesn’t fully account for women who may be avoiding sex because of pain. And if you experience pain, you deserve to seek help, since the same study found that painful sex is linked to poorer sexual, physical, relational and mental health. 1
Pelvic pain during sex (i.e.: pain that you feel deeper inside your pelvis or lower abdomen) is caused by a variety of conditions, all of which can be treated to varying degrees. If you are experiencing pain during sexual penetration, you should seek medical treatment.
Repeat after us: you don’t have to suffer through painful sex. Here’s what you need to know to get help.
Pelvic Pain During Sex
There are two ways to experience pain during sex, which is also called dyspareunia. You can feel pain in the vagina (i.e.: pain at penetration/sexual entry), or you can feel pain deeper inside your pelvis, typically felt during thrusting. This pain can feel like burning, aching, or throbbing, and it can last for hours after intercourse.
While vaginal pain during sex is often caused by issues like dryness, infection, irritation, or injury, pelvic pain is often due to a number of separate issues, related either to health conditions or health treatments.
Specifically, pelvic pain during sex can be caused by the following conditions:
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
- Fibroids, specifically those growing near your vagina or cervix
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Constipation 2
- Uterine Prolapse
- Retroverted Uterus
- Ovarian Cysts
- Pelvic Floor Dysfunction 3
You may also be experiencing internal pain from sex if you have scarring from pelvic surgery, or are undergoing certain treatments for cancer like radiation and chemotherapy.
Finally, in any discussion of painful sex, it’s always important to note that sex is an emotional activity as much as a physical one. Stress, anxiety and other mental health issues, and a history of sexual abuse can all contribute to painful sex. That doesn’t mean the pain isn’t ‘real,’ or that’s ‘all in your head.’ You still can and should get treatment. But this may impact what that treatment looks like.
How To Treat Painful Pelvic Sex
As you can see, internal pain during sex can be caused by any number of factors. As such, there is no one treatment for painful sex. But there is one first step: seeking medical help.
It’s totally normal to find it embarrassing or stressful to talk to someone about sex, but you deserve treatment, and the only way to get it is to take the first step. Find a doctor you trust (our Physician Finder can help), and make an appointment. If you are nervous about having an internal exam, be sure to let them know ahead of time, so they can make the process as easy and painless as possible.
Your doctor will try to find the cause of the problem, and then either direct your medical treatment, or point you to a sex counselor or pelvic floor physical therapist if that is more appropriate.
Remember, you never have to suffer in silence, and you deserve to live a happy, healthy life. And that should include a satisfying sex life, if that’s what you want!