If you experience pain and discomfort during or after intercourse, you may wonder what’s wrong. The onset of sexual pain can be incredibly frustrating. In addition to the physical pain, it can also lead to emotional anxiety and problems with your self-esteem and relationships. The official, medical terminology for pain during or after sexual intercourse is dyspareunia, and it can be treated with a combination of lifestyle changes and medical treatments.
This article provides all the information you need about dyspareunia.
What is dyspareunia?
Dyspareunia is a medical condition characterized by pain during or after sexual intercourse. The pain can be so severe that it makes sexual intercourse impossible. The pain can be felt in the vulva, vagina, or both. It’s estimated that as many as 3 out of 4 women will experience dyspareunia at some point in their lives.
There are many possible causes of dyspareunia. It can be caused by a medical condition, such as endometriosis, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or menopause. It can also be caused by psychological factors, such as anxiety, depression, or trauma. If you’re experiencing the symptoms of painful intercourse, it might be time to consult a doctor.
What causes dyspareunia?
One of the most common is vulvodynia, a condition characterized by pain and/or burning in the vulva (the external female genitalia). Vulvodynia can be caused by a number of things, including infections, inflammation, skin disorders, and nerve damage. Another potential cause of dyspareunia is vaginismus, a condition that causes the involuntary contraction of the muscles around the vagina. This can make sexual intercourse very painful, or even impossible. Vaginismus is often the result of psychological factors, such as fear of pain or fear of sex.
Dyspareunia can also be caused by certain medical conditions, such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease, and uterine fibroids. In some cases, it may be the result of a side effect of medication. Menopause can also cause dyspareunia. As women approach menopause, their bodies produce less estrogen. This can cause the vaginal walls to thin and become less lubricated. This can lead to pain during sex. Dyspareunia can also be caused by psychological factors, such as anxiety, depression, or trauma.
The following are some of the potential causes of dyspareunia:
- Vulvodynia, a condition characterized by chronic vulvar pain
- Vaginismus, a condition characterized by muscle spasms in the vagina that make penetration difficult or impossible
- Vaginal atrophy, a condition characterized by the loss of moisture and thickness from the vaginal tissues, leading to dryness, inflammation, and thinning
- Pelvic inflammatory disease, an infection of the reproductive organs
- Endometriosis, a condition in which tissue from the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus
- Uterine fibroids, benign growths in the uterus
- STIs, i.e., sexually transmitted infections, can also cause pain during intercourse
- Cervical stenosis, a condition in which the opening of the cervix is narrower than normal
- Ovarian cysts, fluid-filled sacs that develop on the ovaries
- Sexual trauma
- Vaginal dryness because of menopause, breastfeeding, medications, or childbirth
- Skin disorders, such as itching, cracks, ulcers, and burning
- Health conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, thyroid disorders, and arthritis
- Psychological factors, such as anxiety, stress, depression, or a history of sexual abuse
What are the symptoms of dyspareunia?
- Pain in the vagina, bladder, or urethra
- Pain during penetration
- Pain after intercourse
- Pain in the pelvis
- Pain only in some circumstances
- Pain only with some partners
- Pain when using tampons
- Burning, aching, and itching sensations
- Stabbing pain
- Pain similar to menstrual cramps
- Pain accompanied by vaginal dryness
Who has a high risk of dyspareunia?
There are many different factors that can contribute to a person’s risk of dyspareunia, which is defined as persistent or recurrent pain during sexual intercourse. While it can affect both men and women, the condition is more common in women. There are a number of different factors that can increase a woman’s risk of dyspareunia. One of the most common is vaginal dryness, which can be a result of menopause, certain medications, or other health conditions.
The following are some of the risk factors for dyspareunia:
- Pelvic floor muscle spasms or other pelvic pain disorders
- Vaginismus, which causes the muscles around the vagina to involuntarily contract
- Skin disorders in the genital area
- History of sexual abuse or trauma
- Certain health conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis, or cancer
- Surgery in the pelvic area
What does dyspareunia feel like?
For women suffering from dyspareunia, sex can be a painful experience. The condition can cause a burning or stinging sensation in the vagina, as well as throbbing pain in the pelvic area. Intercourse may also be accompanied by cramping in the thighs or lower abdomen. In some cases, the pain is severe enough to make sex impossible. For some women, the pain is only a temporary problem. For others, it is a chronic problem.
How can I improve sexual sensation?
Dyspareunia can be a problem for both you and your partner. It can make sex less enjoyable and even lead to relationship problems. But there are things you can do to make sex more comfortable. For example, you may want to:
- Talk to your partner about the problem. This can help your partner understand what you’re going through and how he or she can help.
- Try different positions. Some positions may be more comfortable than others.
- Use a water-based lubricant. This can help if vaginal dryness is the problem.
- Take breaks during sex. If you need to, stop and take a few deep breaths. This can help you relax. When you’re comfortable, you can start again.
- Use sex toys. If you’re uncertain about engaging in sexual intercourse with your partner, you can try masturbating with sex toys. If penetration is an issue, you can use clitoral suction toys, such as Namii, which can induce deep orgasms by stimulating your clitoris.
- Talk to your doctor. If none of these solutions work, you can talk to your doctor to explore your treatment options. If dyspareunia is caused by physiological problems, you may need medications, treatment, or even surgery for the underlying problem. And if your symptoms are caused by psychological or emotional issues, therapy may help.
Sexual health and wellness are intrinsic components of your overall wellbeing. If you experience pain and discomfort during or after sex, we encourage you to visit a doctor who can discuss your symptoms and diagnose the root cause of the problem.