It’s Valentine’s Day, many people will feel under pressure to get intimate.
However, for millions of women – pain or discomfort during sex is an agonising reality. Experts have estimated that at least one in 13 women experience pain during sex.
The medical name for it – dyspareunia – covers a variety of reasons why intercourse might hurt including vaginal dryness and endometriosis.
And it can cause so much discomfort, lots of women even go to great lengths to avoid getting intimate with their partners. Thankfully, understanding the specific discomfort you’re experiencing can help you find the right way to solve it.
Here, is why sex can hurt and how you can start enjoying your time between the sheets…Unsafe sex: If you’re experiencing painful sex, have a new partner and aren’t using barrier contraceptives like condoms, it’s worth visiting your clinic to get tested for sexual transmitted infections. STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhoea and herpes can cause vaginal irritation and painful sores.
Endometriosis: If you’re experiencing heavy periods, fatigue, severe period cramps and pain during sex, you could be in the ten per cent of women worldwide who have endometriosis. Women with endometriosis have cells, like the ones in the lining of the womb, elsewhere in the body which build up and break down during the menstrual cycle.
Eventually, these cells bleed but, unlike in the womb, the blood has nowhere to go causing inflammation, pain and scar tissue. The disease isn’t predictable, meaning women can experience varying types and degrees of pain during or after sex and this can fluctuate at different times of the month. Don’t suffer in silence, visit your doctor who can refer you to a specialist.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) occurs when there’s a bacterial infection in the womb, Fallopian tubes or ovaries and most commonly affects sexually active women aged 15 to 24. PID can cause painful sex and bleeding afterwards. You may also notice unusual vaginal discharge which looks and smells unpleasant. If diagnosed early, PID can be treated with antibiotics. If you experience a fever or severe abdominal pains, seek urgent medical care.
Vaginal dryness: Any woman can experience dryness down below, making sex uncomfortable or painful. Known medically as vaginal atrophy, dryness is more common during the menopause, if you’re taking hormonal contraceptives or are pregnant. While we wouldn’t recommend home-made lube, finding a natural, water-based lubricant can help make sex more comfortable. So too can perfume-free soaps.
Vaginismus: Vaginismus is when the vagina suddenly tightens during sex or foreplay, even if you feel relaxed and aroused. It can be related to underlying stress or anxiety issues.
The condition varies from person to person – some women are unable to insert anything into their vagina, some can use a tampon but cannot have sex and some can have sex but find it extremely painful. Talking things through with your partner can also help you to overcome vaginismus faster. Pelvic floor training can also help – either through manual Kegel exercise or with the help of an electronic pelvic toner – to gain more control over the vaginal muscles.
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