Pain During Intercourse? Here are the Common Causes
Just because painful sex is very common does not mean you should accept it as ‘normal’. Sex is meant to be an enjoyable experience and if its not, you should speak to your doctor.
Painful intercourse is otherwise known as dyspareunia. The word dyspareunia comes from the early Greek language, and its meaning includes ‘difficulty mating’ or ‘badly mated’. In other words, dyspareunia is defined as painful or difficult sexual intercourse and occurs mostly in women. This pain during sexual intercourse can be sharp or intense.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, as many as 75% of women will experience pain during sex at some point. For some women, the pain is rare or happens only once, but for others it is persistent. In addition, some women feel pain only during sexual penetration, while others experience deep pain with each thrust and continue to feel throbbing or burning pain long after intercourse.
Causes in Men
- Infection e.g thrush- an irritation, burning sensation or redness around the head of the penis and under the foreskin, leading to difficulty pulling back the foreskin.
- Testicle pain and swelling which can sometimes be caused by getting sexually aroused but not ejaculating.
- Small tears in the foreskin that can't be seen but cause soreness and sharp, stinging pain around the tear
- Other STIs such as herpes
Causes in Women
In many cases, a woman can experience painful sex if there is no sufficient vaginal lubrication. In some cases, a woman can experience painful sex if one of the following conditions is present;
- Vaginismus, the body's automatic reaction to the fear of some or all types of vaginal penetration. Whenever penetration is attempted, the vaginal muscles tighten up on their own, causing pain during sex.
- Fibroids growths on the uterus can cause pain during intercourse.
- Vaginal Infections: Sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea or genital herpes
- History of sexual abuse can play a role.
- Fear of intimacy or relationship problems can contribute to a low level of arousal thereby resulting to discomfort or pain.
- Scarring from pelvic surgery, including hysterectomy, can cause painful intercourse.
- Menopause can cause the vaginal lining to lose its normal moisture and thickness, this results to dryness, causing pain during sex.
- Cervical problems within the cervix (such as infections) can cause pain during deep penetration.
- The absence of a fully formed vagina (vaginal agenesis) or development of a membrane that blocks the vaginal opening (imperforate hymen), could cause pain during sex.
If you experience pain during sex, it is important to speak openly with your doctor about your symptoms.
These symptoms may include;
❇ Burning or aching pain
❇ Pain during thrusting
❇ Pain with all types of penetration
❇ Throbbing pain after intercourse
- Thorough medical history: The doctor will ask about your medical history, sexual history, surgical history and childbirth. This is to easily trace and identify the cause of the pain. The doctor may also ask when your pain began, where it hurts, how it feels and if it happens with every sexual partner and every sexual position. It is advisable you answer truthfully as these questions will provide clues to the cause of the pain.
- Pelvic examination: During this exam, the doctor checks for signs of infection or structural abnormalities using a device called a speculum, which is inserted into the vagina to enable a visual examination. Telling the doctor when and where the pain occurs during the examination may help identify the cause.
- Other tests if need be: The doctor may recommend a pelvic ultrasound. A pelvic ultrasound allows quick visualization of the female pelvic organs and structures including the uterus, cervix, vagina, fallopian tubes and ovaries. Further evaluation, a procedure called a laparoscopy may be needed. A laparoscopy is a surgical procedure carried out to view pelvic organs.
Finding treatment for dyspareunia depends on its underlying cause. Physical causes are typically treated with medical interventions and home remedies. Psychological causes may require counselling or sex therapy to revive communication and intimacy in the relationship.
- Medications: For cases of infections and sexually transmitted diseases, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics. Women suffering from dyspareunia due to hormonal problems may be recommended for hormonal therapy. Surgical intervention may also be required for women suffering from problems such as abnormal endometrial tissue growth or uterine fibroids.
- Counselling: If sexual abuse, trauma, or other emotional issues are the root cause of the dyspareunia, counselling may help. Couples experiencing dyspareunia are advised to attend counselling to revive communication or intimacy in the relationship.
- Sex Therapy: This can address concerns about sexual function, sexual feelings and intimacy, either via individual therapy or couple/family therapy. Sex therapy can be effective for individuals experiencing dyspareunia.
If you are experiencing pain during intercourse, please speak with your doctor.
You can also download the CareClick app to speak with a doctor anytime and anywhere.
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