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Why Is Sex Painful For Me?

Sex can be a joyous encounter and an important part of our well-being, but many women experience pain during intercourse.

If you’re one of those women, you’re not alone. Difficulty having sex affects anywhere from 14% to 53% of women, with approximately 40–50% of women having at least one sexual symptom over their lifetime.1

Sex is a key part of our relationships, and is important for mental and physical health. Studies have shown that sexual intercourse can help us feel happier, and more satisfied emotionally, physically, and with life in general.2 Sexual satisfaction is also linked to improved quality of romantic relationships.3

So if you’re not enjoying it, you want to know why. Let’s look at some answers to the question: Why is sex painful for me?

It’s Called Dyspareunia

There are different reasons that women have difficulty having sex. Pain during intercourse, called dyspareunia, affects between 12 and 44% of women.

This painful intercourse can occur for a variety of reasons, from structural problems to psychological concerns, and many women have painful intercourse at some point in their lives.4 

The medical term of dyspareunia is defined as persistent or recurrent genital pain that occurs just before, during or after sex.4 

Here are some possible reasons you may be experiencing pain during sex.

1. Vulvodynia

Vulvodynia is the one of the most common causes of pain during intercourse and affects 7–8% of women.1 This is a chronic pain or discomfort around the opening of your vagina, or vulva, for which there’s no identifiable cause. This pain, burning or irritation can make even sitting uncomfortable, so it’s no wonder sex would be painful.5

This condition can also lead to fear or anxiety about pain in anticipation of, during, or as a result of intercourse. It can also create a tensing or tightening of the pelvic floor muscles during sex, exacerbating the problem.1

2. Another Underlying Condition

There are several conditions that impact a woman’s pelvic floor which contains the bladder, bowels and reproductive organs that can lead to painful sex, along with other symptoms. 

These include:

  • Endometriosis: A common pelvic disorder that can lead to painful sex. It happens when tissue that normally grows on the inner walls of the uterus also grows outside the uterus, attaching to other organs. 
  • Uterine Fibroids: These are tumors that are almost always non-cancerous, but can still cause painful intercourse.
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: This is an infection of the reproductive organs that can cause severe pelvic pain and painful sex. 
  • Ovarian cysts: These are fluid-filled sacs that develop inside or outside an ovary. If they get large enough, they can lead to painful sex.

3. You May Just Need A Helping Hand

A common reason for experiencing pain during sex is a lack of lubrication. Maybe it takes you longer to get aroused than your partner, or you are aroused in different ways. 

In fact, studies have shown that men and women differ in the sorts of stimuli that they find sexually attractive and arousing. Women experience hormonal influences on our sexual arousal, and female perception of male attractiveness even varies with our ovarian cycle.6

Foreplay, trying some water-based lubricants, or trying different sexual positions may eliminate pain during sex. 

Don’t Be Embarrassed

If you’re suffering from pain during sex, it’s worth dealing with it. Despite the increased recognition of the importance of addressing that pain, up to 40% of women never seek treatment, and up to 48% never receive a formal diagnosis.1

As well, women who experience pain during sex, whether or not they have been diagnosed with a sexual disorder, are more likely to suffer from general psychological distress, depression and may even have an increased risk for loneliness.1

See a Doctor

If you think you have any of these conditions, or you have experienced pain during sex, it’s vital that you see a doctor. A proper diagnosis can help you and your health practitioner determine a treatment plan. Treatments focus on the cause, and can help eliminate or lessen the problem.4

Use our Physician Finder to seek out a women’s health specialist if you experience pain during or after sex. Treating this problem can help your sex life, your emotional intimacy and your self-image.4

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