We Go There. By Waxon

A Safe Space for You and Your Vagina

Why does it hurt when I have sex?

March 18, 2020

Why Does It Hurt When I Have Sex? The Causes of Painful Sex 

Today, we’re kicking things off with the cold hard truth: The vast majority of women have experienced pain during sex. While we wish this wasn’t the case, studies have shown that roughly 75% of women will experience painful sex (also known by its medical term, dyspareunia) at some point in their lives. For some, the pain is rare (maybe it only happened once), but for others it is persistent. No matter where you fall on that spectrum, it’s important to speak to your doctor about it.  

One of the great tragedies about dyspareunia is that it is severely underreported. That is why many women who experience pain during sex are often unaware that it is a real medical condition. Instead, we are left thinking there is something wrong with our bodies. But at WE GO THERE, we’re seeking to normalize painful sex for women so that you never blame yourselves again. We want to make known that not only is dyspareunia EXTREMELY common, it’s also treatable! Keep reading to educate yourself about the most common causes, symptoms, and treatments for dyspareunia so you that you can (fingers crossed) say goodbye to painful sex for good. Pain-free sex is in your future, we promise! ;)  

Remember: Sex isn’t supposed to hurt 

First thing’s first, sex isn’t supposed to hurt. Sex is about pleasure and enjoyment, so if you’re experiencing the complete opposite of that, it’s time to seek medical help. These are the types of pain to be on the lookout for:  

  • Pain during thrusting 
  • Throbbing pain that lasts hours after sex 
  • Pain during entry  
  • Aching or burning pain 

Potential Causes: What is your body trying to tell you? 

Now that you know the symptoms of dyspareunia, let’s consider the potential causes. The culprit typically relates to where the pain is felt. 

If you feel pain upon entry: 

  • Vaginal dryness: This occurs when estrogen levels are low (estrogen is responsible for lubricating the lining of the vagina). Estrogen levels often drop after childbirth, during breastfeeding, or after menopause. Lack of foreplay can also cause dryness, as can certain medications like antidepressants, sedatives, and birth control pills.  
  • Infection: Infections in your genital area or urinary tract, ranging from thrush to STIs, can make sex painful.  
  • Irritation: Spermicides, latex condoms, and even soap can cause genital irritation or allergic reactions in some women.  
  • Vaginismus: Vaginismus is a condition involving involuntary spasms, where the muscles in or around the vagina shut tightly, making penetration painful. 

If you feel pain in the pelvis during deep penetration: 

  • Illnesses or conditions: The most common causes in this situation are endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine fibroids, irritable bowel syndrome, ovarian cysts, cystitis, and hemorrhoids. 
  • Surgeries or medical treatments: Pelvic surgeries such as hysterectomies and medical  treatments for cancer like radiation and chemotherapy, can lead to discomfort during sex.  

The emotional causes 

If none of the above really applies to you, then it’s possible the pain you’re experiencing is caused by psychological factors. After all, the mind and body are one, which is why feeling stressed can result in a physical response like the tightening of your pelvic floor muscles. Psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, lack of self-esteem, or relationship issues can also contribute to painful sex.  

PS: Lube is your friend 

Now that we’ve gotten the scary stuff out of the way, it’s time to break down your treatment options. The reality is that dryness is the most common cause of painful sex, which is why for most women personal lubricant is the answer. (Seriously, if you haven’t tried lube, check out South’s probiotic sex H20 - it’s about to change your life). For all those issues that lube can’t solve, your doctor will likely recommend one of the following courses of action:  

  • Changing any medications you’re on that are known to lower estrogen levels 
  • Prescribing topical estrogen that can be applied to the vulva 
  • Advising against the use of personal care products that cause irritation  
  • Testing for thrush or STIs and treating you for any infection you may have 
  • Referring you to a counselor or sex therapist so you can further discuss any underlying psychological issues 

As you can see, pain during sex is real, ladies, and it is not to be taken lightly! Mild soreness happens, but severe pain shouldn’t. If you currently experience any of the above symptoms, we urge you to consult with your doctor. Because let’s be honest, life is way too short for painful sex.  

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