Painful sex

If you suffer from pain during sex, it is important to take note of whether the pain is deep inside or if it's closer to the opening of your vagina. 

The term used to describe pain during sexual intercourse is dyspareunia.  

In younger women, if you feel pain as the penis is attempting to enter the vagina, it is possibly due to vaginismus (see tight and painful vagina). Deeper internal pain may be due to a penis or sex toy touching the neck of the womb, or ovaries, and having sex in a different position may help. If the pain persists, it’s a good idea to see a gynaecologist in case it is an ovarian cyst.

Problems such as skin disorders, herpes infections or thrush can make intercourse very uncomfortable or painful. 

There is always an emotional and frequently hidden component to any sexual problem, whether cause or effect, and that aspect should be acknowledged by your doctor.

In older women, particularly those who are post-menopausal, your vagina may be dry and inflamed due to a lack of oestrogen – a hormone that helps to keep the vagina moist.  A good lubricant or oestrogen cream can help. 

Another common cause of a dry vagina at any age is lack of arousal. As you get older it can take longer to become physically aroused. Lack of sufficient foreplay before penetration, either with your partner’s penis, fingers or sex toys, will cause painful sex. This sometimes becomes so uncomfortable that a woman may end up avoiding sex altogether.

Sex doesn’t always need to involve penetration. There are many pleasurable ways of being sexual with or without a partner, and experimentation can be fun. Stimulating your erogenous zones, using either a vibrator, with a partner or through masturbation, may be exciting. Sex toys are not only for the young, and can be bought on the internet if you feel self-conscious about going to a sex shop.


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The Women’s does not accept any liability to any person for the information or advice (or use of such information or advice) which is provided on the Website or incorporated into it by reference. The Women’s provide this information on the understanding that all persons accessing it take responsibility for assessing its relevance and accuracy. Women are encouraged to discuss their health needs with a health practitioner. If you have concerns about your health, you should seek advice from your health care provider or if you require urgent care you should go to the nearest Emergency Dept.

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