Unless you enjoy exploring the outskirts of sexuality, perhaps inspired by Fifty Shades of Grey, pain probably doesn’t enter into your idea of a romantic encounter and sexual intercourse. Nor should it. Intercourse should be pleasurable, exciting, and joyous for both you and your partner.
But what if it’s not? Anywhere from 5-14% of women experience pain during intercourse. If you’re one of them, you may avoid sex or not be able to fully enjoy yourself during intimate acts.
At Mian OB/GYN & Associates in Silver Spring, Maryland, Dr. Rafiq Mian and our team believe all humans are entitled to a pleasure-filled, pain-free sex life. If you suffer pain during intercourse, we help you find a solution.
Whether you need to balance your hormones or treat an underlying condition, the first step is finding out what factors are involved in your pain. Some of the most common reasons for painful sex are found below.
Your vagina is dry and thin
Intercourse is an extremely physical act that creates friction. When you’re young, your vagina naturally lubricates to eliminate that friction. As you age, however, the hormones that signal the production of lubrication diminish.
In addition, your skin thins and becomes more fragile. You can see this happening on your face and body, but it also happens in your vulva and vagina.
The technical term for a dry, thin vagina is vaginal atrophy. Women who are in perimenopause or menopause often suffer from vaginal atrophy and, consequently, experience irritation or even intense pain during intercourse.
However, you can also have vaginal atrophy due to:
- Use of certain medications
- Cigarette smoking
- Lack of foreplay
- Medication side effects
You may get relief and find pleasure again if you use water-based lubricants to cut down on friction during intercourse. Dr. Mian may need to adjust your medications, if they’re causing vaginal atrophy.
You and your partner may also benefit from sexual counseling during which your partner learns how to spend time preparing you for intercourse so that you’re fully lubricated. You learn to listen to your body and judge when your vagina is ready for sex.
However, if you’re in perimenopause or menopause, you may also benefit from hormone replacement therapy (HRT) that restores your missing hormones. After your body adjusts to HRT, your vagina grows thicker, stronger, and more lubricated.
You have inflammatory bowel disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, results in inflamed and painful gastrointestinal (GI) organs. Since your GI tract is located in your pelvic region, in and around your sexual reproductive organs, pain from IBD can affect sex, too.
Even if you’re fully lubricated, if you have IBD, your partner’s thrusting may trigger pain in an inflamed bowel. You may need to take medications and make lifestyle changes to control your IBD.
You’re dealing with trauma or stress
A condition called vaginismus could be behind your painful intercourse. Women with vaginismus have often undergone psychological trauma, such as rape, that make it difficult for them to accept anything into their vaginas.
Even inserting a tampon may bring on painful contractions and spasms. Living under stressful conditions can also create tension in all of your muscles, including your pelvic floor muscles. If you have vaginismus, we may refer you to a counselor who can help you identify and manage the emotional issues that contribute to your painful intercourse.
You have an abnormality or infection
It’s fairly common for women who’ve recently undergone childbirth to have trouble with intercourse. Your body may not be fully healed. If you’ve recently given birth or have had surgery in the pelvic area, you should refrain from intercourse until your body feels strong enough to handle it.
Abnormalities in your reproductive organs can also cause sex to become painful. Even the way that your uterus is shaped could influence whether sex brings you pleasure or pain.
Other structural abnormalities that could cause painful sex include:
- Ovarian cysts
- Uterine fibroids
- Retroverted uterus
- Uterine prolapse
You may also experience pain during intercourse if you have a urinary tract infection or a sexually transmitted infection. Treatment may include antibiotics to resolve an infection or procedures to correct structural abnormalities.
Intercourse should be pleasurable; resolve your pain by finding out what’s causing it and getting treatment today. Contact us via phone or online form for HRT or other remedies today.