The SMSNA periodically receives and publishes ‘guest editorials.’ The current article was submitted by Mia Barnes, a freelance writer and researcher who specializes in women's health, wellness, and healthy living. She is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Body+Mind Magazine.
Pain during sex, or dyspareunia, is often treatable and very common among women. You could experience pain during intercourse, and you shouldn’t be embarrassed or afraid to discuss it with your doctor. It may feel like a burning sensation or a more profound physical pain. Some common causes of discomfort during penetration can be dryness, irritation, injury or inflammation. Here are some other reasons you could experience pain during sex.
You can experience pain before, during or after sex. Vulvodynia is pain that originates from the vulva and has numerous causes. It can occur from sitting for long periods, and you can treat it with prescription medication or creams. Often, vulvodynia is mistaken for yeast infections, making women endure pain for longer than necessary.
Vaginismus, also known as high-tone or non-relaxing pelvic floor dysfunction, happens when the muscles that support your vagina tighten involuntarily. If you tighten your pelvic floor muscles in anticipation that sex will be painful, it can make the discomfort worse. Physical therapy is typically a treatment for vaginismus.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Being sexually active comes with many risks, no matter how old. STDs don’t discriminate and are spread easily without protection. Safe sex education is a crucial part of overall health. Without knowing what the risks are, it can be easily forgotten to prepare and protect yourself. It is essential to use a condom during sex and do so correctly.
STD testing is also essential in regular visits to the doctor when you are sexually active with multiple partners. Cases of chlamydia and syphilis almost tripled from 2000-2010 in people aged 45-65. Frequent STD testing can catch conditions early and prevent them from spreading to partners.
Symptom of Endometriosis
Pain during sex can also be a sign of endometriosis. Endometriosis happens when the lining of the uterus grows in your pelvic region or other parts of your body. Many symptoms can make it challenging to diagnose, such as upset stomach, upper body pain, frequent urination, and diarrhea or constipation. Endometriosis typically causes deep pain that occurs from inflammation and fibrosis. This pain can become more intense depending on sexual positions, how advanced the endometriosis is and where it is located.
Surgery can remove endometriosis and drastically improve your sex life and well-being. You should communicate pleasure and pain with your partner and your doctor so you are all on the same page. Vocalize when and where your pain occurs and discuss treatment options with your provider.
Other ways to mitigate pain during sex can be to explore different forms of intimacy like mutual masturbation, oral sex, or fulfilling other avenues of fantasies or desires.
Pain During Intercourse
Discussing sex with your physician can seem taboo, but it shouldn’t be. It should be an ordinary conversation at the forefront of your visits, especially if you are experiencing pain during intercourse. Practicing safe sex is crucial to an active sex life and can contribute to your overall health. If you’re experiencing pain during intercourse, don’t be afraid to speak to your doctor about it — diagnosing your pain can play a vital role in the overall happiness of your life.
Firger, J. (2014, July 3). Pain During Sex? What Women Need to Know. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/pain-during-sex-what-women-need-to-know/
Medical Guardian. (2013, Spetember 24). Seniors and Sex: The Rise of STDs. https://www.medicalguardian.com/medical-alert-blog/health-wellness/seniors-and-sex-the-rise-of-stds
Endometriosis Foundation of America. Endometriosis Symptoms: Painful Sex (Dyspareunia). https://www.endofound.org/painful-sex-dyspareunia