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Addressing Painful Sex

The OB/GYNs at North Florida's All About Women discuss the common causes of painful intercourse and how to resolve them

Dyspareunia is the medical term that refers to painful intercourse. While many women have had painful sex at some point, it's important for all women to remember that sex shouldn't be consistently painful. Female sexuality is a complex issue —your thoughts can affect your body's level of arousal, being tired or certain medications can hinder your body's sexual response— but sometimes the cause of pain during sex can be an underlying health problem.

You should always talk to your OB/GYN if you are experiencing recurrent painful intercourse, as treatment may be available. Here are some of the most common reasons women experience such pain, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:

Underlying Health Conditions

Some health conditions you wouldn't associate with women's health can cause sex to be painful. Women with arthritis, thyroid conditions, diabetes, or cancer may experience painful sex or lack of arousal.

Women who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or constipation may also feel deep pain within the pelvis during sex.

Beyond these general health conditions, painful sex can actually be an identifying symptom for certain reproductive health conditions. This pain is usually felt deep in the pelvis during the thrusting motions of sex:

If you experience painful intercourse and have abnormal periods, you may be suffering from one of these conditions. You should always talk to your provider if your periods are abnormally long, heavy, or painful. Your doctor may need to perform a pelvic exam, ultrasound, or laparoscopy to determine your condition and course of treatment.

Motherhood and Menopause

Certain significant events in a woman's life can cause painful sex, particularly in regards to motherhood and menopause. You may experience painful sex:

  • When taking hormonal birth control: Hormonal birth control, like the pill, can result in lower sexual arousal, making sex painful. You may want to switch birth control types if you think your current option is affecting your sex life.

  • After childbirth: After delivering a child, your tissues can take a while to recover, particularly if you've had any tearing or an episiotomy. If sex is painful, wait longer for your body to heal. It could take several months for the pain to cease. Make sure you're sticking to your follow-up checks with your obstetrician or midwife to assess the healing of your tissues.

  • For the duration of breastfeeding: When nursing a baby, a woman's estrogen levels drop, which means that sexual lubrication can also drop. Water-based lubricants can help.

  • During and after menopause: Perimenopause marks the time when a woman's body stops making significant amounts of estrogen. Women experiencing menopause may look into lubricants, vaginal moisturizers, or hormone replacement therapy to treat painful sex. Learn more about vaginal changes in menopause.

Conditions Affecting the Vagina or Vulva

Sometimes sex is painful upon entry. Usually this type of pain is caused by a problem with the vulva or vaginal walls:

  • Contact dermatitis or eczema: If you have eczema, it could cause painful sex. For all women, simply using harsh soaps or underwear made of synthetic fibers can cause enough irritation to your vulva and vagina to cause painful sex. Changing your self-care habits can help relieve the pain.

  • Vaginitis: Vaginitis encompasses itching of the vagina and vulva caused by a yeast or bacterial infection. Generally, these are short-term conditions that can be treated with medication.

  • Vulvodynia: Vulvodynia refers to pain that affects the vulva. This pain may feel like burning, stinging, and rawness. There are many ways that vulvodynia can be treated, from self-care measures, to therapy, to medications and surgery.

  • Vaginismus: This condition is caused by involuntary spasms of the vaginal wall muscles that make penetration very painful. Vaginismus can be treated with therapy.

Sexual Trauma

Last, but certainly not least, a history of sexual violence or abuse can lead women to have problems with sexual arousal and pain during intercourse, even in committed relationships later on in life. It's important for you to tell your healthcare providers about your history so you can get help and heal.

Take Control of Your Sex Life

Again, while female sexuality is complicated, it doesn't have to involve painful sex. Furthermore, painful sex could indicate an underlying health issue like endometriosis that can affect your fertility.

If you regularly experience painful sex, the women's health experts at Gainesville and Lake City's All About Women can help. Contact us today to make an appointment in a confidential, comfortable setting.

Contact us
‹ All About Women OB/GYN Knowledge Center
6440 W Newberry Road, Suite 111
Gainesville, FL 32605
(352) 331-3332
Lake City
4447 NW American Lane, Suite 102
Lake City, FL 32055
(386) 754-1744

Gainesville and Lake City OB/GYN Care

OB/GYN doctors at All About Women, Obstetrics & Gynecology offer personalized, technologically advanced obstetrics and gynecology services from Board Certified OB/GYB physicians. Besides expert women's healthcare, permanent birth control and prenatal care, OB/GYN doctors also offers advanced hysterectomy surgery in and around the Gainesville area.

Women's Health Care in Alachua & Columbia Counties

With offices in Gainesville and Lake City, Florida, All About Women, M.D. provides expert OB/GYN services covering the entire range of women's healthcare needs. Our OB/GYN physicians and nurse midwives provide expert care during pregnancy as well as state of the art in-office treatments for gynecologic disorders including Novasure endometrial ablation to treat/stop heavy menstrual bleeding.

Personalized & Expert Prenatal Care

Gainesville obstetricians at All About Women, M.D. help ensure pregnancy goes as smoothly as possible by offering the best prenatal care available. And for those having difficulty getting pregnant, AAW obstetricians and gynecologists offer couples the best infertility help and treatment available.

Advanced Minimally Invasive Surgery: daVinci Surgical System

Clinic founder Dr. Anthony Agrios, Board Certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist also specializes in the daVinci Robotic surgery system, a minimally invasive option commonly used for a hysterectomy and other procedures. Instead of creating several small incisions like traditional surgical methods, OB/GYN surgeons simply open one incision with the daVinci system to complete the procedure. Not only do patients experience less pain and blood loss, they recover and get back to normal much faster.

Pregnancy & Prenatal Care: Creative Pregnancy Announcement : Fruits for Pregnant Women

OB/GYN Tips: Choosing an OB/GYN : Robotic Hysterectomy

Infertility & Reproduction Health: Infertility Treatment : Permanent Birth Control

Women's Health: Preventive Care : Well Women Care : Mammogram Screenings : Abnormal Periods

Gainesville Maternity Care


FL OBGYN   Services
All About Women
Gainesville and Lake City, Florida Obstetrics & Gynecology

Offices conveniently located in the heart of North Florida (Alachua County & Columbia County). Serving women of all ages and backgrounds
in and around Ocala, Williston, Chiefland, Perry, Live Oak, Lake City, Starke, Palatka and Gainesville.