There could be a number of reasons sex is painful for you, including an underlying medical condition, hormonal changes or something that’s more psychological. Here are five of the most commonly known reasons sex may be less enjoyable:
It Could be Vaginal Dryness
Medications, stress, anxiety, lack of sexual arousal and reduced estrogen levels all can affect vaginal lubrication. Even ingredients or detergents in the soap you use can lead to vaginal dryness. Because there are so many varying causes for this issue, it’s best to start by ruling out the most obvious or easy-to-fix things. If you’ve switched to a new soap recently, switch back or try a new product to see if that resolves the issue. Using an over-the-counter lubricant also can help make sex less painful.
If the issue is hormonal, such as perimenopause or the onset of menopause, estrogen therapy or localized treatments like estrogen inserts that are placed into the vagina may help to treat your symptoms.
It Could be Endometriosis
Sometimes painful sex is the byproduct of another health issue that your doctor hasn’t yet diagnosed.
Endometriosis, which occurs when the tissue that lines the uterus begins to grow outside of it, can cause what’s described as deep pain during sex.
The condition affects 11 percent of all American women, so it’s quite possible it could be responsible for the pain you experience. If you have other symptoms such as painful periods, chronic lower back and pelvic pain, bleeding or spotting in between periods and digestive issues like bloating, constipation, diarrhea or nausea, it may be time to see a doctor. There’s no cure for endometriosis, but the condition is usually treated with birth control, pain medication, or in severe cases, with surgery.
It Could Be Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) occurs when you have an infection that affects your reproductive organs. Sexually transmitted diseases and infections that spread from the vagina usually lead to this type of infection, which can cause ongoing abdominal and pelvic pain that makes sex less enjoyable. In addition to pain, some women also may experience bleeding during sex if they have PID. If you have all these symptoms, along with painful urination, vaginal discharge and odor, schedule an appointment with your doctor to get tested for an STI or STD. If you are diagnosed with PID, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. It’s important not to delay treatment if you suspect you may have PID because doing so could increase your risk of future infertility.
It Could Be a Cyst or a Fibroid
Abnormal growths in a woman’s reproductive organs also can cause pain during sex. During sex, your partner may unknowingly bump up against an ovarian cyst or a fibroid, which can cause a sharp, stabbing pain in the area.
Though cysts, which are filled with fluid, may be painful, they are pretty common in women and most of the time they are harmless. However, if you have severe abdominal pain along with fever and vomiting, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Fibroids are growths that occur in the uterus. They are usually benign, but they can cause pain if your partner comes in contact with a fibroid during sex. Sometimes fibroids resolve themselves on their own, but if you experience ongoing abdominal or pelvic pain, cramping and heavy periods, it may be a sign that these growths haven’t shrunk on their own and could be getting larger. In these cases, surgery is the best option to remove fibroids and to minimize the risk to your fertility.
You May Have Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can cause constipation, diarrhea, stomach cramps and bloating, all of which can make sex more painful and add emotional stress to the act of intercourse. Chances are if you’re experiencing these symptoms, you likely won’t be in the mood anyway, but trying to power through these symptoms to be intimate with your partner typically isn’t the best approach.
Though there’s no cure for IBS, identifying foods that likely irritate your stomach can help to alleviate symptoms. Regular exercise, eating more fiber and taking steps to reduce stress also can help you feel better.
If you experience ongoing pain during sex, it’s likely time to see a doctor to pinpoint what’s wrong. Though it may be something simple that you can easily correct at home, the issue also may require medical attention or treatment for an underlying condition that hasn’t yet been diagnosed. Sex is an important part of healthy relationship, so if you experience pain during intercourse see a doctor to get help and to return to enjoying intimacy with your partner as soon as possible.
Are you interested in learning more about our network of women's health physicians?
At Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, the physicians recognize that each woman has unique healthcare needs. Our team of highly skilled professionals — with advanced training and specialization in women's healthcare — is here to address your individual needs and concerns. From well-woman care to obstetrics to minimally invasive gynecologic surgery, we are here to provide the caring and expert care you deserve.Learn more now