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5 Reasons You May Be Experiencing Pain During Sex

June 19, 2024

Today, we’re tackling a topic that many find challenging but incredibly important to address: painful sex or pain after sex.

Painful sex or pain during sex can cause physical and emotional distress often affecting the health of your relationships

Pain after sex (or pain during sex) is also known as dyspareunia.

It can affect women of all ages and can be a source of significant discomfort and distress.

Understanding its causes and knowing when to seek help can lead to better sexual health and overall well-being. Let’s explore what causes this pain, how to manage it, and when to seek professional advice.

Following this, we’ll look at frequently asked questions on the subject.

Dyspareunia is a common but poorly understood problem affecting around 7.5% of sexually active women aged 16-74 years.

It is most common in women aged 55-64 (10.4%) and those aged 16-24 (9.5%).

British Medical Jourmal

Causes of Painful Sex

Post-coital pain can be attributed to a variety of factors, each requiring different treatment approaches. Here are some of the main causes:

1. Infections

 Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs): Conditions like chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and herpes can cause pain during and after intercourse.

 Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): A UTI can lead to pain during urination and sex due to inflammation and irritation of the urinary tract.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): 

 An infection of the female reproductive organs, often caused by untreated STIs, can result in significant pain during and after intercourse.

2. Hormonal Changes:

 Menopause: Reduced estrogen levels can cause vaginal dryness and thinning of the vaginal walls, leading to discomfort during and after sex.

 Postpartum Period: Hormonal fluctuations after childbirth and during breastfeeding can also result in vaginal dryness and sensitivity.

Conditions like PCOS can affect vaginal lubrication and elasticity.

Vaginal dryness can also arise from insufficient lubrication. This, in turn, maybe from lack of arousal or medication.

These drugs affect sexual desire and can decrease lubrication and make sex painful. Some examples are antidepressants, high blood pressure medicines, sedatives, antihistamines and certain birth control pills.

3. Physical Conditions:

 Endometriosis: This condition, where tissue similar to the uterine lining grows outside the uterus, can cause deep pelvic pain during and after sex.

 Vaginismus: Involuntary muscle spasms in the vaginal walls can make penetration painful and result in lingering discomfort.

Other physical conditions are pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine prolapse, retroverted uterus, uterine fibroids, irritable bowel syndrome, pelvic floor conditions, adenomyosis, haemorrhoids and ovarian cysts.

There may be physical conditions from trauma or scarring from medical treatment.

Here, think about scarring from pelvic surgery, such as hysterectomy.

It can also develop after cancer treatments, like radiation and chemotherapy, causing changes that make sex painful.

4. Psychological Factors:

 Stress and Anxiety: Emotional factors can contribute to physical tension and pain during sex. 

Our pelvic floor muscles tend to tighten in response to stress in our lives, which can contribute to pain during intercourse.

Factors affecting our emotions, like concerns about physical appearance, fear of intimacy or relationship problems, can contribute to a low level of arousal and resulting discomfort or pain.

 Past Trauma: A history of sexual abuse or trauma can result in chronic pain issues related to intercourse.

5. Allergic Reactions:

 Latex Allergies: Allergic reactions to condoms or lubricants can cause irritation and pain.

 Product Sensitivities: Reactions to soaps, lotions, or spermicides can also lead to discomfort.

Managing Pain During or After Sex

Managing post-coital pain involves a combination of medical treatments and home remedies. Here are some practical tips:

Medical Treatments:

 Antibiotics: For bacterial infections such as UTIs or STIs.

 Hormonal Therapy: Estrogen creams or hormone replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms.

 Pain Management: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen can help manage acute pain.

Home Remedies:

 Lubrication: Using water-based lubricants to reduce friction during intercourse.

 Warm Baths: Soaking in a warm bath can soothe muscle tension and pain.

 Kegel Exercises: Strengthening pelvic floor muscles can help alleviate pain from conditions like vaginismus.

 Hydration: Staying well-hydrated can help prevent UTIs and promote overall vaginal health.

Lifestyle Adjustments:

 Open Communication: Discuss any pain or discomfort with your partner to find mutually comfortable solutions.

 Relaxation Techniques: Practices like yoga or meditation to reduce stress and muscle tension.

When to Seek Help for Painful Sex

It’s crucial to know when post-coital pain warrants professional medical advice. Seek help if you experience:

  • Persistent Pain: Pain that continues or worsens after several instances of intercourse.
  • Severe Discomfort: Intense pain that interferes with daily activities or quality of life.
  • Associated Symptoms: Additional symptoms include unusual discharge, bleeding, fever, or foul odour.
  • Emotional Distress: Pain impacting your mental health or causing significant anxiety.
  • Over-the-counter treatments and home remedies do not provide relief.

Early intervention can lead to better outcomes and prevent complications from untreated conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Ok, so now, let’s address some common questions on this subject.

  • How can I differentiate between normal discomfort and a problem that needs medical attention?

Occasional mild discomfort might be normal, but persistent, severe, or worsening pain, especially with other symptoms, indicates a need for medical evaluation.

  • Can post-coital pain affect my fertility?

Some underlying causes, like untreated STIs or endometriosis, can impact fertility. It’s important to address and treat these conditions promptly.

  • Are there any preventive measures to avoid post-coital pain?

Yes! Regular STI screenings, using lubricants, maintaining good hygiene, staying hydrated, and having open communication with your partner can help prevent pain.

  • Can post-coital pain be a sign of a serious condition?

Yes, it can indicate serious conditions like infections, endometriosis, or even early signs of cancer. It’s important to seek medical advice for a thorough evaluation.

  • Is it normal to feel pain after sex occasionally?

Occasional mild discomfort might not be unusual, especially if related to temporary issues like rough intercourse or lack of lubrication. However, recurrent or severe pain should be evaluated by a doctor.

  • Can emotional factors really cause physical pain after sex?

Absolutely. Stress, anxiety, and relationship issues can contribute to physical symptoms by causing muscle tension and reducing arousal, which can lead to pain.

  • How can I talk to my partner about this issue?

Open communication is vital. Explain that the pain is not related to their actions but is a medical issue that needs addressing. Encourage mutual support in seeking solutions together.

Your doctor might recommend pelvic exams, ultrasounds, or tests for infections and hormonal levels to determine the underlying cause of the pain.

Wrapping Up

Hopefully, you understand more about the condition, and recognizing when to seek medical help is a crucial step in maintaining your sexual and overall health. 

If you have any further questions or experiences to share, please leave them in the comments below.

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Editing by AskAwayHealth Team

Disclaimer

All   AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising  Medical Practitioners on a wide range of healthcare conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality healthcare. 

The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified healthcare practitioner. To discuss your condition, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a health practitioner or reach us directly.

This blog post may contain marketing links to third-party sites that Askawayhealth is not affiliated with. We do not endorse or guarantee the products or services offered on these sites. Please exercise discretion when making purchases or using services from these third-party sites. Askawayhealth bears no responsibility for any outcomes resulting from such actions.

Image Credits: Canva

Review Date

June 19th, 2026

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Askawayhealth aims to deliver reliable and evidence based women's health, family health and sexual health information in a way that is easily relatable and easy for everyone to access.

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