Pain during sex is still an extremely taboo topic and one that is rarely discussed due to shame, embarrassment, and general misunderstanding/lack of education. A lot of women seem to still expect pain during sex, and don’t see their pain as anything ‘solvable’: it becomes something of a ‘grin and bear it’-situation. This, of course, leads not only to physical pain and discomfort but can contribute towards feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression. Alternatively, others, not realising just how common painful sex can be, choose silence due to embarrassment or awkwardness over bringing it up in conversation, even to their doctors (although there is a long history of doctors minimising the physical pain of women – this alone is enough to stop women from seeing help). To try and open up the conversation a bit more, here’s a list of some causes of painful sex.
1. Vaginal infections
This one is pretty straightforward, and one the most common causes of painful sex. Any infections (yeast infections and herpes, for example), can cause pain during sex due to an inflammation of the mucous lining of the vagina walls. If you think you might have an infection, please consult your doctor as soon as possible.
2. Vaginal irritations
Anything from tampons to laundry detergent and soaps can cause vaginal irritation. Luckily, this usually doesn’t lead to anything too serious: you just have to make sure you use products that maintain the vagina’s natural pH level (there are special soaps for this) and try your best to rule out anything that may irritate the skin. However, if the irritation persists, it’s definitely best to talk to your doctor about this!
3. Vaginal dryness
Dryness causes friction, which can lead to painful sex. This, however, is pretty easily solved with lube.
Vaginismus affects 2/1000 women but is often not spoken of. The condition causes involuntary spasms and tightness of the pelvic muscles, making penetration difficult and painful, if not impossible. If you think this may affect you, talk to your doctor and partner about this to see what the best options for you are.
This is a chronic condition that causes an inflammation of the vulva. Although there is currently no cure, it can be eased with anti-inflammatories and anti-histamines. Its symptoms are a stinging or burning sensation of the vulva, and it is usually diagnosed after other options (like STIs) have been ruled out.
6. Skin disorders
Skin disorders like eczema and irritation/allergic reactions caused by things like laundry detergents and soaps can also cause painful sex.
This is an inflammation of the bladder wall, which can cause pain during sex. It can also be a chronic condition (interstitial cystitis).
8. Urinary Tract Infections
UTIs are a bitch – and can lead to painful sex. On top of this, sex can make UTIs worse (as well as causing them). Basically, best not to have sex until after the UTI clears up.
Another disorder affecting women that is rarely spoken off: endometriosis causes the tissue of the uterine lining to grow outside the uterus, which can lead to excruciating periods as well as painful sex. This one often takes a long time to diagnose (due to a general lack of education surrounding the topic) so bring this up with your doctor if you think it may be something you suffer from!
10. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
With this, the tissues inside the pelvis become badly inflamed (including the reproductive system), meaning sex can be very painful. This is usually caused by an STI like gonorrhea or chlamydia, so it is imperative that you see your doctor as soon as you can – it can, however, be treated with antibiotics.