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:
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.
Certain significant events in a woman's life can cause painful sex, particularly in regards to motherhood and menopause. You may experience painful sex:
Sometimes sex is painful upon entry. Usually this type of pain is caused by a problem with the vulva or vaginal walls:
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.
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.