What am I to do when sex is painful?
When sex is painful: What is considered normal and When to seek help
Pain during sex is a common problem. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, nearly 3 out 4 women have pain during intercourse at some time during their lives. Pain during or after (see dyspareunia) can be caused by many things, among them illness, infection, physical problems, and even psychological ones. If you experience pain during or after sex, your body might be telling you that something is wrong, so don’t ignore it.
If the pain bothers you enough that you stop having sex with your partner, see your gynecologist. Like mental health, sexual health is worth prioritizing.
Unlike in other countries, the Philippines only has a few sexual clinics. Some, if not most people might find it embarrassing to talk about sex, despite how common it is and the fact that pain during sex can affect both men and women.
Let’s discuss a few clinical conditions that cause pain in the vagina. This could be due to an infection from a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by chlamydia, gonorrhea, or genital herpes.
There could also be pain due to dryness leading from hormonal changes, especially in menopausal women. In these cases, lubricants are prescribed. There could also be a lack of sexual arousal which can occur at any age.
There are also cases of ‘locked-in’ couples being brought in the emergency room because the muscles in or around the vagina shut tightly, making sex painful or impossible. We refer to these cases as vaginismus.
There could also be some genital irritation or allergy caused by spermicides, latex
condoms, or products such as soap or shampoo.
It is quite important to maintain good genital health though good hygiene and safe sexual practices.
If, however, the pain is felt in the lower abdomen or seems to be felt in the pelvic area, other causes are entertained. These may include upper genital tract infection as in pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), endometriosis, myomas present in the vagina or cervix, and even conditions referable to the digestive system like irritable woes syndrome or constipation.
Management of these clinical conditions will entirely depend on the cause seen by the gynecologist after a thorough work-up.
Some self-care health tips to relieve pain during sex include using a lubricant (water soluble and hypoallergenic) for dryness. An open communication between couples can also help, including engaging in non-sexual but sensual activities like massaging each other.
But when all else fails, don’t forget that your ob-gyn can can also help. Don’t ignore the problem, as sex is a very important part of maintaining a healthy, loving relationship.
• ACOG Patient Education Bulletin on When Sex is Painful
• Cedars Sinai Blog What Women Need to Know about Pain during Sex
About The Expert
DR. CHRISTIA PADOLINA, OB-GYN
Dr. Christia S. Padolina is the president of the Philippine Obstetrics and Gynecological Society (POGS) Foundation Inc. It is the premiere organization of obstetricians and gynecologists nationwide.
It was a dream come true for her to become a physician. Her mother was sickly and she had so much expectations on the healthcare system being on the other side of the equation. She is a graduate of the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center. It was there that she realized that she wanted to become an obstetrician Gynecologist. She does not mind waking up in the wee hours of the morning as she finds delivering babies exhilarating.
Her subspecialty in Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology in the University of New Mexico in USA paved the way for better maternal care. She is locally and internationally known advocate for safe motherhood.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.