Painful sex (dyspareunia)

There are a wide number of reasons a woman might feel uncomfortable or experience pain during or after sexual intercourse. Its important not to ignore it and just put up with it. It may be an indication there is an underlying problem you have not detected.

woman holding herself in bed pelvic pain

It can be a sign of a number of conditions and can also cause issues between couples. Some women say they are never sure it is not normal or worry about talking about it. Whatever your thoughts are be reassured that we will take it seriously and listen to you to offer you advice and help.


The medical term for painful intercourse is dyspareunia (dis-puh-ROO-nee-uh), its defined as persistent or recurrent genital pain that occurs just before, during or after intercourse. Treatments focus on the cause, and can help eliminate or lessen this common problem, many women say just talking about it helps


Painful sex for Women


If you have painful intercourse, you might feel:

  • Pain only at sexual entry (penetration)
  • Pain with every penetration, including putting in a tampon
  • Deep pain during thrusting
  • Burning pain or aching pain
  • Throbbing pain, lasting hours after intercourse

Women can experience pain during or after sex, either in the vagina or deeper in the pelvis.

Pain in the vagina could be caused by:

Infections – thrush or a sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea or genital herpes

Menopause – changing hormone levels can make your vagina dry creating discomfort

and lack of sexual arousal at any age

Vaginismus – a condition where muscles in or around the vagina shut tightly, making sex painful or impossible

Genital irritation or allergy caused by spermicides, latex condoms or products such as soap and shampoo


Pain felt inside the pelvis can be caused by conditions such as:

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)


Fibroids growing near your vagina or cervix

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Emotional factors and impact

Emotions are deeply intertwined with sexual activity, so they might play a role in sexual pain.

Emotional factors include:


Psychological issues. Anxiety, depression, concerns about your physical appearance, fear of intimacy or relationship problems can contribute to a low level of arousal and a resulting discomfort or pain.

Stress. Your pelvic floor muscles tend to tighten in response to stress in your life. This can contribute to pain during intercourse.

History of sexual abuse. Not everyone with dyspareunia has a history of sexual abuse, but if you have been abused, it can play a role.

It can be difficult to tell whether emotional factors are associated with dyspareunia. Initial pain can lead to fear of recurring pain, making it difficult to relax, which can lead to more pain. You might start avoiding sexual intercourse if you associate it with the pain.

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