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When Sex Hurts for Women: The Causes of Painful Sex

If sex is a painful experience, it could be caused by a serious illness that might require medical attention. Read on for its most common causes.

when sex hurts - causes

Sex is meant to be a pleasurable and intimate thing, but for some women, it just doesn’t feel enjoyable at all. While painful sex is often associated with a variety of health conditions, it can also be caused by psychological and emotional issues.

Pain during sex, if very mild, can often be nothing serious to be alarmed about. Some slight pain during sex may sometimes be caused by little issues such as a lack of foreplay, or just a bad angle during penetration.

However, when the pain is intense or frequent, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. It is much better to be safe than sorry, since pain is not a natural feeling to experience while having sex.

The most common causes of painful sex for women

If you often experience pain during intercourse with your partner, and no remedy seems to be working, the following may be the culprits:

#1 Lack of lubrication. Insufficient lubrication is one of the main causes of painful sex for a female, and in many cases, men also feel discomfort when there’s not enough lube. It can be caused by insufficient arousal, possibly resulting from a lack of foreplay, but it can also be caused by a range of other factors.

Some medications have been linked to decreased levels of arousal, which also affect lubrication levels. Birth control, allergy medications, sedatives, antidepressants, and high blood pressure medications are known to cause lowered levels of arousal in women. Decreased estrogen levels after having a child, while breastfeeding, and after menopause can also cause insufficient lubrication.

If lubrication is the problem, ask your doctor if a change of medication is possible, as it results in an inability to enjoy sex. If medication is not the concern, or age may be a factor, store-bought lubricant can make a huge difference in making the sexual experience more pleasurable and comfortable. [Read: How to turn yourself on with your senses]

#2 Infection or Inflammation. Infections are common causes of irritation and inflammation linked to pain during sex. Rough sex is also a factor that causes inflammation and swelling in the vaginal cavity, making penetration difficult.

Yeast infections, also incredibly common, can lead to itching and burning during sex. Even a urinary tract infection, can give you an unpleasant, tingly, or burning sensation while having sex.

#3 Trauma, injury or surgery. Painful sex can also be caused by trauma or injury following an accident or surgery, such as a pelvic surgery or a fracture. Episiotomy, which is the emergency surgery to increase the size of the birth canal while in labor, is also considered a type of trauma that can result in painful sex. Female circumcision, though less common in the Western world, can also cause excruciating pain during intercourse.

Cancer treatments, including chemo and radiation therapy, can affect the sensations in the vagina, causing painful penetration. A hysterectomy or other pelvic surgeries can also cause unwelcome changes down there.

#4 Illness or a health condition. A range of illnesses and serious health conditions can make sex a less than pleasant experience. Pelvic inflammatory disease, an ectopic pregnancy, uterine prolapse, retroverted uterus, cystitis, uterine fibroids, irritable bowel syndrome, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, and hemorrhoids are all culprits that cause severe pain during sex. These conditions range from moderate to severe, and often require antibiotics and prescription medication in order to heal properly.

Vaginismus is another prevalent condition that causes muscle spasms within the walls of the vagina, and it causes incredible pain. Without seeking medical examination, you may ignore the warning signs, and thus make the problem worse.

#5 Sexually transmitted diseases. STDs are a common cause of painful sex, and the symptoms of the disease can also be intensified by engaging in penetration without treatment. These symptoms can also be passed to your sexual partner, making it just as uncomfortable to have sex for them as well. Herpes, genital warts, and HPV can all lead to pain, though symptoms are not always recognized in the early stages. [Read: 7 common problems “down there” that you shouldn’t ignore]

#6 Childbirth. An ectopic pregnancy can make for a very rough recovery and uncomfortable sex. In addition, having sex too soon after giving birth *less than 6 weeks* can be just as dreadful if the vaginal canal hasn’t healed properly yet.

Sometimes, a woman’s vaginal opening may be cut to allow a larger opening for the baby to come through, and this requires sufficient healing time to prevent complications or infection. It is important to wait 6 weeks, or as long as is recommended by your doctor, before having sex if you have recently given birth. You should also steer clear of any rough play until everything down there is back to normal. [Read: 7 tips for reviving your sex life after having a baby]

#7 Psychological and emotional causes. There are quite a few emotional and psychological causes that make sex largely uncomfortable. Stress is a factor that tightens the muscles in your pelvic region as a result, and this can cause discomfort and difficulty during sex. Deep-seated insecurity, depression, anxiety, low self-worth, body image issues, relationship conflicts, or being afraid of intimacy are also possible causes.

Sexual abuse at any point in your life could also affect your views on sex as an intimate and safe act between consenting individuals. The emotional trauma as a result of sexual abuse could cause physical symptoms to manifest while having sex. Having fear associated with sex can also cause you to tighten your pelvic muscles, which often causes discomfort during penetration.

If you feel that sex is painful for you because of an emotional or psychological issue, a therapist may be able to help you deal with the problem, so that you may later enjoy the pleasures of sex.

Remember: You are not alone!

Painful sex is not an uncommon experience. A variety of women can experience this at some point in their lives. Some causes of painful sex can be temporary, whereas others can be serious, or even fatal if left untreated. It is important to know exactly what’s going on in your body, and seek medical assistance if there is any kind of pain.

Waiting too long to get treatment can lead to potentially devastating consequences, and it is essential that you also book regular appointments with your gynecologist. A full physical examination is also necessary to make sure an infection hasn’t been left unchecked so long that it’s travelled through your blood stream.

Most importantly, realize that you are not alone, and that you can overcome the issues causing you to be unable to enjoy sex as you should. There is no shame in seeking help for problems that arise in your sex life. Sexual intimacy is a natural and beautiful thing, so be sure to get assessed if you often experience discomfort. [Read: 9 awkward signs you’re having bad sex with your lover]

Sex is not meant to be a painful or traumatic experience. However, if you feel any type of pain or discomfort while having sex, it may be caused by any of these 7 factors.

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The editorial team of LovePanky comprises relationship experts and real-life experts that share their experiences and life lessons. If you want the best love ad...