Dyspareunia is never discussed in sex education classes, in fact as a woman you might not know that 1 in 10 British women find sex painful.
If you are a man this might be the first time you have ever heard the word but pain during sexual intercourse is really common and women are often are too embarrassed to seek treatment and make sex enjoyable again.
Nearly 1 in 10 British women find sex painful, according to a big study,” BBC News reports. The study’s results highlight the arguably neglected issue of pain during sex, medically known as dyspareunia.
The thing is, sex isn’t supposed to hurt unless you give consent and want it to so what are the causes and what can you do about it?
Pain during or after sex can be caused by many things, such as:
- a physical problem
- a psychological problem
If you get pain during or after sex, your body may be trying to tell you something is wrong, so don’t ignore it.
See your GP or go to a sexual health clinic. Find a sexual health clinic in UK near you.
Painful sex in women
Women can experience pain during or after sex, either in the vagina or deeper in the pelvis.
Pain in the vagina could be caused by:
- an infection – thrush or a sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea or genital herpes
- the menopause – changing hormone levels can make your vagina dry
- lack of sexual arousal at any age
- vaginismus – a condition where muscles in or around the vagina shut tightly, making sex painful or impossible
- genital irritation or allergy caused by spermicides, latex condoms or products such as soap and shampoo.
Pain felt inside the pelvis can be caused by conditions such as:
- pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- fibroids growing near your vagina or cervix
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
What to do
Get advice from your GP or a healthcare professional at a GUM clinic if you have pain during or after sex.
They’ll try to find the cause of the problem and be able to tell you whether you need any treatment.
if you have pain, unusual discharge, itchiness or soreness around your genitals, they may recommend treatment for thrush or an STI test
if your vagina is dry, you may be advised to try using a lubricant – remember to use a water-based product if you’re using condoms because oil-based lubricants can damage them and make them ineffective
if you have an allergy or irritation around your genitals, you may be advised to avoid using products that could be causing it
if there’s an emotional reason or anxiety that’s causing problems, a counsellor or sex therapist may be able to help – your GP or sexual health clinic can refer you to one
Women going through menopause might also experience pain during sex as a result of vaginal dryness that happens due to low estrogen levels.
People who recently gave birth may also grapple with discomfort during sex. It takes time for the vagina to heal after pushing out a baby, and scar tissue could develop and make sex painful.
There are so many other things that can mess with your sexual response, making sex uncomfortable or legitimately painful.
Any negative emotions—like shame, stress, guilt, fear, whatever—can make it harder to relax during sex, turning arousal and vaginal lubrication into obstacles.
Of course, the source of these negative emotions varies from individual to individual. For some, it’s a matter of mental health. Feeling uncomfortable in your body or having relationship issues might also contribute.
In an unfair twist, taking care of yourself in some ways, like by using antidepressant medication, blood pressure drugs, allergy medications, or some birth control pills, can also cause trouble with lubrication that translates into painful sex.
You shouldn’t use painkillers or a numbing agent to try to get through painful sex.
This might seem like the best way to handle your pain, your body has pain receptors for a reason, and by numbing them, you could end up subjecting your body to trauma (think: tiny tears or irritation) without realizing it—which can just leave you in more pain.
If you’re not ready to see a doctor yet, there are a few things you can try at home, first.
Acording a few DIY methods might mitigate your symptoms:
- Use lube, especially if you feel like your problem is caused by vaginal dryness.
- Apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel to your vulva to dull a burning sensation when needed.
- Have an honest conversation with your partner about what’s hurting and how you’re feeling. Let them know what hurts, what feels good, and what you need from them right now—whether that’s a break from certain sex acts, more time to warm up before you have sex, or something else.
- Try sex acts that don’t involve penetration, like mutual masturbation and oral sex, which may help you avoid some of the pain you typically experience.
It’s totally OK to experiment with these things, especially if they help you associate sex with something positive. But these tactics cannot and should not replace professional care.
If you’re regularly experiencing painful sex, you should talk to a doctor. When in doubt, mention your concerns to your care provider, especially if any of these sound familiar:
- Sex has always been painful for you
- Sex has always been painful but seems to be getting worse
- Sex is usually pain-free but has recently started to hurt
- You’re not sure whether or not what you’re experiencing is normal, but you’re curious to learn more about painful sex
When you see your doctor, they’ll likely ask questions about your medical history and conduct a pelvic exam and/or ultrasound. It’s important for doctors to ask the right questions and for patients to voice concerns about things.
From there, your doctor should take a holistic approach to treatment to address the possible physical, emotional, and situational concerns.
Many women think that it’s acceptable to experience pain during intercourse but it probably isn’t acceptable. And it can probably be made better.
Article from SELF – 8 Things Doctors Wish You Knew About Dyspareunia, AKA Painful Sex | SELF