Are You Experiencing Painful Sex? You Could Have Dyspareunia
This is why you’re saying ouch rather than Ah!
“Pain during intercourse is very common – nearly 75 percent of women experience this at some time during their lives and about 30 percent report pain during their last sexual encounter,” says Dr Elmarie Mulder Craig, sexologist and president of the SA Sexual Health Association. There are a number of sexual pain disorders that can be treated successfully with the most common being dyspareunia. For some women, the pain is only a temporary problem; for others, it’s long-term.
“You may be tempted to dismiss sexual pain as ‘all in your head’, but don’t make that mistake,” explains Craig. Sexual pain is real, no matter what its ultimate cause. It can have much greater consequences: fear of sex, lowered sex drive and overall loss of intimacy.
What is it?
Women with this condition may experience pain in the vagina, clitoris or labia. There are numerous causes of dyspareunia, many of which are treatable. Common causes include the following:
– Vaginal dryness
– Atrophic vaginitis, a common condition causing thinning of the vaginal lining in postmenopausal women
– Side effects of drugs such as antihistamines and tamoxifen
– An allergic reaction to clothing, spermicides or douches
– Endometriosis, an often painful condition in which tissue from the uterine lining migrates and grows abnormally inside the pelvis
– Inflammation of the area surrounding the vaginal opening, called vulvar vestibulitis
– Skin diseases, such as lichen planus and lichen sclerosus, affecting the vaginal area
– Urinary tract infections, vaginal yeast infections, or sexually transmitted diseases
– Psychological trauma, often stemming from a past history of sexual abuse or trauma
What are the symptoms?
Women with dyspareunia may feel superficial pain at the entrance of the vagina, or deeper pain during penetration or thrusting of the penis. You can also experience severe tightening of the vaginal muscles during penetration, a condition called vaginismus.
How can you prevent it?
Although some causes of dyspareunia, such as a history of sexual abuse or trauma, can’t be avoided, other causes can be prevented:
– To decrease your risk of yeast infection, avoid tight clothing, wear cotton underpants and practice good hygiene. Change your underclothes after prolonged sweating. Bathe or shower daily, and change into dry clothing promptly after swimming.
– To avoid bladder infections, wipe from front to back after using the toilet, and urinate after sexual intercourse.
– To avoid sexually transmitted diseases, avoid sex or practice safe sex by maintaining a relationship with just one person, or using condoms to protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
– To prevent vaginal dryness, use a lubricant, or seek treatment if the dryness is due to atrophic vaginitis.
– If you have endometriosis, avoid very deep penetration, or have sex during the week or two after menstruation (before ovulation), when the condition tends to be less painful.
When should you call a doctor?
Although sexual intercourse may be uncomfortable the very first time, it should never be painful. If you suddenly begin having pain before, during or after intercourse, see your doctor. It is important to seek care early, before you begin to avoid sexual intercourse or feel anxious in anticipation of your partner.
Looking for more info on your sexual health? Here are 12 more reasons why you could be experiencing painful sex.