Sex is usually thought of as a pleasurable experience culminating into a cascade of sensual and enjoyable feelings. But for some women this is far from their reality. Sex may hurt and when it does, it can have a profound effect on their relationship with their partner.
It is estimated between 30 to 50% of women will experience some sort of painful sex in their lifetime. Pain during the point of penetration is the most common symptom and is often described as being sharp or burning. Another common symptom is pain felt deep within the vaginal area once penetration has occurred. Other painful symptoms women may feel include feelings of muscle spasms, pelvic cramping, or muscle tightness.
Reasons behind the pain or discomfort of intercourse can include a number of conditions. Until it can be figured out what is the root of the problem, this can leave a couple's sex life in limbo possibly resulting in subsequent sexual dysfunction. Women who seek to understand and recognize the source of pain is a first step in pursuing help from a healthcare professional to diagnosis and treat the underlying condition to make sexual intercourse the euphoric event it is meant to be.
Here are some possible reasons why a woman may have pain and discomfort during sexual intercourse:
• Vaginal dryness
This is one of the more common reasons for pain during sex. Most women when stimulated will naturally self-lubricate in preparation for intercourse. But there will be times when the vagina may be dry which will make penetration painful. This can be caused by insufficient stimulation to give the vagina time to self-lubricate, feelings of nervousness or tenseness about the sexual experience, hormonal imbalances during menopause when it can be common for the vagina to produce less lubrication, and the use of a condom by men without the addition of a vaginal lubricant can cause issue with pain on penetration.
• Vaginal tightness
One cause of tightness felt in the vagina is when a woman tenses up or is not fully relaxed at the time of penetration. It can also occur in the first few times of when a woman engages in sexual intercourse or if a woman has not had sex for a long time.
A more severe condition called vaginismus can also be responsible for vaginal tightness. These women may experience strong involuntary muscle spasms of the vaginal muscles during intercourse or vaginal penetration of even fingers or tampons.
• Vaginal infection
Women who may have a vaginal infection such as a vaginal yeast infection or trichomoniasis can experience discomfort during sex. A common complaint felt by women with a vaginal infection include a stinging or burning sensation caused by the thrusting motion of the penis against the vagina.
• Vaginal irritation
Certain products can contain irritants leading to vaginal irritation causing pain or discomfort during sex. These include:
• Contraceptive foams, creams, or jellies
• Allergic reactions to condoms, diaphragms, or latex gloves
• Vaginal deodorant sprays
• Scented tampons
• Deodorant soaps
• Laundry detergents
• Vaginal douching
• Clitoris pain
The most sensitive part of a woman's genitalia and body is the clitoris. When the clitoris, often referred to as the "magic button," is gently rubbed or stimulated orally, it can bring extreme pleasure to a woman by achieving an explosive orgasm.
One of the main reasons for pain felt in the clitoris is due to poor hygiene. If the clitoris is not washed and cleaned regularly it can result in sebum, a lubricating fluid produced by the glands of the clitoris, collecting and accumulating in the hood of the clitoris which irritates the clitoris producing pain when touched. Frequent bathing and good hygiene can prevent and resolve this problem. If that doesn't help, a woman should seek the advice of a gynecologist.
• Pelvic pain
For some women, the pain they may feel is deep within the pelvis when a man is performing deep, thrusting penetration movements.
This sort of pain could be due to several reasons:
• Ovarian cysts
• Pelvic adhesions
• Tears in the ligaments that support the uterus
• Cervical, uterine, or tubal infections such as pelvic inflammatory disease
If a woman is experiencing any of the above symptoms resulting in pain during sex, she should contact her primary care physician or a gynecologist to help resolve the issue.
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel's Medical A-Team Learn more at roboticoncology.com. Visit Dr. Samadi's blog at SamadiMD.com. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest and Facebook.