When Physical Intimacy Hurts: What Causes Painful Intercourse?

The Pain of Dyspareunia

The passion and intimacy of sex within a loving relationship has the power to build and strengthen the bond between two people. For some, though, sexual intercourse is closely linked to discomfort, embarrassment, and anxiety rather than pleasure.

If sexual intimacy is a painful event, you may have a condition called dyspareunia, a persisting or reoccurring pain during sexual intercourse. Although dyspareunia is quite uncomfortable by receiving proper diagnosis and treatment, the condition can improve, and allow you to enjoy a satisfying sex life.

Dyspareunia Can Affect Anyone

Dyspareunia is thought of as a condition affecting only women, but men may also experience some level of pain during sex. There is no need to feel ashamed of the condition. Up to 20 percent of American women experience dyspareunia.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Dyspareunia

The most common symptoms of dyspareunia are:

  • A noticeable pain coming from one specific area
  • A more general, widespread pain or feeling of discomfort
  • Aching
  • Burning
  • Throbbing
  • Ripping sensations

If you experience any or all of these symptoms associated with sex, be sure to consult with an expert. A medical doctor will ask you questions about the unwanted symptoms you experience to accurately diagnosis the condition.

They could also perform a pelvic examination. By doing so, the professional can identify any physical issues affecting your comfort during sex.

The Many Causes of Dyspareunia

Once your diagnosis is confirmed, the focus will shift towards understanding the possible causes of your dyspareunia. Unfortunately, there are many potential sources of pain during sex including:

Physical Causes

The physical health causes of dyspareunia are numerous and frequently separated into two categories: entry pain and deep pain. Entry pain causes of dyspareunia include:

  • Vaginal dryness due to a lack of lubrication
  • Vaginismus – the painful, involuntary contraction of pelvic muscles before or during sex
  • Previous injuries or surgeries in the area
  • Childbirth – nearly half of women report some pain following childbirth
  • Inflammation called vulvar vestibulitis
  • Vulvodynia – pain around the vulva without an apparent cause
  • Infections like yeast infections, sexually transmitted infections (STDs), and urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Skin disorders like eczema
  • Irritation of the area due to soaps, lotions, and detergents

Dyspareunia with deep pain could be caused by a host of physical health issues like:

  • Cystitis
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibroids
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Uterine prolapse

As mentioned, a medical professional will ask questions and perform examinations to accurately identify if any of these situations are causing your dyspareunia.

Psychological Causes

If the physical causes are inconclusive, a mental health expert may be better able to identify the psychological causes of your painful intercourse. Possible emotional causes include:

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  • High levels of stress
  • Anxiety, depression, and other preexisting mental health conditions
  • Previous sexual abuse, assault, and trauma

Remember there is a strong connection between your emotional state and physical state. These mental health conditions can result in real changes to your physical health.

Treating Your Dyspareunia Pain

The treatment for your dyspareunia will vary greatly depending on the cause of your condition. This is why proper diagnosis from a professional is so crucial.

Simple Steps

If an infection or inflammation trigger your pain, prescribed medication can help clear up the cause and improve your symptoms. Similarly, if your pain is caused by vaginal dryness, using a personal lubrication product can ease the discomfort while increasing the pleasure of intercourse.

Professional Counseling

Overcoming the psychological causes of the condition often are more challenging and require more time paired with professional treatment. For dyspareunia related to anxiety or depression, meeting with a trained mental health therapist can reduce those symptoms, which should result in less pain during sex.

Your therapist will assess the interaction of your mental health and sexual relationships to understand the connection. From there, the professional provides interventions intended to modify your thoughts or behaviors as a way to improve the sexual experience.

The same is true for dyspareunia related to past sexual abuse or trauma, but these situations tend to be more complicated. People in this situation will not only need to address their past traumas but also their current levels of trust, safety, and communication within the intimate relationship.

You might consider bringing your significant other into your therapy sessions so that they can learn about the significance of your condition, the cause, and possible solutions. By working together throughout the process, you create a team approach to a solving a problem.

Counseling services may focus on teaching you relaxation and desensitization skills with an emphasis on attending to and relaxing the muscles around your vagina. A calm mind and a relaxed body offer the best odds of enjoyable contact.

Bonus Tips

To help reduce the pain and boost your satisfaction, consider:

  • Spending more time engaging in foreplay before sex
  • Experimenting with various sexual positions
  • Accentuating nonsexual intimacy like holding hands and kissing
  • Attending regular medical appointments to treat and prevent illness
  • Adding Kegel exercises into your daily routine

The process of overcoming dyspareunia may be complicated and time-consuming, but the positive outcomes are always worth the time and energy invested in treatment.

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