Painful intercourse or dyspareunia is the name given to the recurring pain in the genital region of a human being during intercourse. It is a treatable pain that occurs in women more than in men. The pain is unbearably severe and intense. It can happen anytime, before, after, or during sexual intercourse.
What is Dyspareunia?
Dyspareunia can happen to anyone, but it is common among postmenopausal women. The factors triggering dyspareunia are:
- Relationship problems
- Conditions like diabetes, thyroid disease, arthritis and cancer
- Stress that can lead to tightened muscles of the pelvic floor
- Fear, shame, or guilt related to sex
- Self-image or body issues
- Medication like birth control pills
- History of sexual abuse or rape
What are the Symptoms?
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Uterine fibroids
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Radiation and chemotherapy
- Infections like yeast or urinary tract infections
- Injury or trauma from childbirth, an accident, an episiotomy, a hysterectomy, or pelvic surgery
- Pain at the time of sexual penetration
- Vaginal dryness from menopause, childbirth, breastfeeding, medications, or too little arousal before intercourse
- Pain with every penetration, including putting in a tampon
- Skin disorders that cause ulcers, cracks, itching, or burning
- Deep pain during thrusting
- Vaginitis or inflammation of the vagina
- Burning pain or aching pain in the genitals
- Throbbing pain, lasting hours after intercourse.
What are the Causes of Dyspareunia?
- Vulvodynia: It is a chronic pain affecting a woman’s vulvar region, which includes the labia, clitoris, and vaginal opening. The pain can occur in just one spot or affect different areas every time.
- Endometriosis: In Endometriosis, the tissue similar to the one which lines the uterus grows outside the uterus
- Pelvic inflammatory disease: In this condition, the tissues deep inside become inflamed badly, and the pressure of intercourse causes severe pain.
- Ectopic pregnancy: This is a pregnancy in which a fertilized egg develops outside the uterus. This can cause pain in the genitals.
- Injury to the vulva or vagina: Such injuries could be due to a tear from childbirth or an episiotomy made in the area of skin between the vagina and anus during your baby’s delivery.
- Vaginismus: It is one of the common causes of dyspareunia. This occurs primarily due to the fear of getting hurt, causing involuntary spasms in the vagina.
- Sexually transmitted disease: Diseases transmitted through unsafe sex and related reasons can cause pain in the genitals as well
- Infections in the cervix: This causes pain during deep penetration.
- Infections and Skin disorders: Skin problems and bacterial and yeast infections near the vagina can also cause intense pain.
- Menopause: Menopause will cause your cervix to become dry and cause pain, sometimes
- Sex after childbirth: Having sex soon after childbirth can cause pain in the vagina.
- Cysts: A cysts disorder of the ovaries or the uterus may result in pain.
- Uterine fibroids: Fibroids can cause pain in the genital region.
- Congenital abnormality: Problems with the vagina since birth can cause pain in the vaginal region of a woman’s body.
- Medical procedures and surgeries: Many medical procedures can leave you with dyspareunia. These include hysterectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy.
- Other diseases: Various other diseases such as uterine prolapse, retroverted uterus, uterine fibroids, irritable bowel syndrome, pelvic floor dysfunction, adenomyosis, and hemorrhoids can cause unbearable pain during intercourse.
When to See a Doctor?
If you cannot seem to control/bear the pain during sex or experience pain even after sex, you should consult a doctor immediately.
How to Prevent Dyspareunia?
- Avoid having unprotected sex.
- Prevent STDs.
- Encourage natural vaginal lubrication with enough time for stimulation.
- Do not resume sexual intercourse soon after childbirth.
- When your vagina becomes dry, use a water-soluble lubricant.
- Practice proper hygiene.
- Get regular medical checkups.
How to Treat Dyspareunia?
- Topical or injectable corticosteroids
- Antifungal medicines
- Estrogen-increasing creams, tablets, etc.
2. Water-soluble Lubricants
4. Desensitization therapy
These therapies include various exercises for vaginal relaxation.
- Have sex in a relaxed position or a different position every time.
- Communicate with your partner and let them know your problems.
- Give some time for foreplay and encourage natural lubrication and stimulation.
- Empty your bladder before sex.
- Apply ice packs in your vulvar region if it aches.
- Take a warm bath before sex.
Dyspareunia is a continuous and recurring pain caused due to infections, surgeries, reproductive system cysts, related disorders, mental stress, sexually transmitted diseases, menopause, etc. The pain during sex can have several consequences, including mental distress due to problems between couples and physical pain. It is a common complaint of women at some point in their lives.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Does mental stress also cause dyspareunia?
A history of sexual abuse can be a cause of fear. Also, pelvic floor disorder causes stress, and mental distress causes low libido. These can be a cause of dyspareunia in women.
I am a woman in my 20s. Do I have a chance of developing dyspareunia?
It is a fairly common disorder in women. Hence, chances are high, but you do not need to worry about experiencing recurring pain. Women complain about experiencing such pain at some point in their lives, but it can be treated easily.
Does dyspareunia cause infertility?
No, dyspareunia cannot cause infertility because it is just a consequence. It does not necessarily affect a woman’s childbearing ability.