Sexual intercourse is meant to be pleasurable, but for some women, it can be a source of considerable physical pain. If you are experiencing pain during sex, you may find it reassuring to learn that it is not uncommon and is generally very treatable. Although it may be uncomfortable to talk about it, your doctor can help you find a solution. Here is a look at some of the management and treatment options for pain during sex.
Diagnosing Pain During Sex
Before finding the best way to address painful sex, it is important to identify its cause. Your doctor will begin by compiling a thorough medical history, asking you questions about when your pain begins, where you are feeling it, and whether it happens in every position or with every partner.
They may also ask you whether any nonsexual activities cause pain in the area and whether you are experiencing other symptoms such as itching, burning, or irritation. Your doctor might ask questions about your childbirth and surgical history. It is important to be forthcoming and answer these questions as truthfully as possible.
Next, they will carry out a pelvic exam to look for signs of skin irritation, anatomical issues, or infections. They may also conduct a visual exam of your vagina using a speculum to keep it open. If this causes you pain, you can ask the doctor to stop the exam. A pelvic ultrasound may also be used if certain causes of painful intercourse are suspected.
The precise treatment your doctor will recommend depends on the cause of your pain. Here is a look at some of the most common approaches.
If a medical condition or infection is behind your pain during intercourse, treating the cause may be enough to bring about relief. If you are taking any medications that can cause lubrication issues, changing to a different medication may also lead to improvements.
Painful intercourse for postmenopausal women is often caused by insufficient lubrication due to low levels of estrogen in the body. Birth control pills, menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and some types of antiestrogen medications may also result in decreases in estrogen production that lead to dryness and pain during sex. Applying topical estrogen directly to your vagina may alleviate this problem; there are also other medications that can help.
Other Types of Treatment
There are also some nonmedication approaches that may help with painful intercourse.
Counseling or Sex Therapy
For some women, painful sex is psychological and may be linked to trauma or low self-esteem. Even in cases where painful sex has a medical cause, you may develop a negative emotional response to any sort of sexual stimulation, even after the pain has been treated, if sex has been painful for a long time. Moreover, in cases where you and your partner have avoided getting intimate due to your pain, it may be necessary to seek outside help in restoring sexual intimacy and improving your communication surrounding these issues. A counselor or sex therapists can be very helpful. In addition, cognitive behavioral therapy can help you to change any negative thought patterns and behaviors that you have concerning intercourse.
Pelvic Physical Therapy
For some women excess tension or dysfunction of the pelvic floor muscles contributes to painful sex. Referral to a special physical therapist with expertise in this area can help to alleviate this problem.
For women who experience sharp pain during thrusting, switching to different positions may provide some relief. For example, doctors recommend that women try being on top as they may be able to regulate penetration to a more comfortable depth from this position.
Don’t Skip Foreplay
Foreplay can help to stimulate your body’s natural lubrication, which can make sex more comfortable. Try to delay penetration until you feel completely aroused to see if your pain subsides. Many women report that sex is less painful when they are relaxed and can take their time.
There are many personal lubricants on the market that can help to make sexual intercourse more comfortable. Water or silicone based lubricants are frequently good options. If you are using latex condoms for birth control or STD prevention, be sure to avoid oil-based lubricants as they may lead to condom breakage.
Avoid Irritating Products
If you have pain during sex, it could also be due to irritation from certain types of products. Avoid using vaginal perfumes, scented toilet paper, sanitary pads, and bubble baths. Switch to underwear that is 100 percent cotton, and try a gentler laundry detergent to see if any of these products could be related to your pain.
Reach Out to the Women’s Healthcare Professionals
There are many reasons you may be experiencing painful sex, but you do not have to continue suffering. The women’s healthcare professionals at Raleigh Gynecology & Wellness can help to identify the cause of your painful intercourse so you can manage it effectively and restore normal sexual function. Call us today to set up your appointment with a gynecologist or to schedule an appointment online.