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Innermost Secrets / Innermost Living / Body Clock
Skip Navigation LinksFemale Sexual Problems
Page modified at: 04/01/2010

Intercourse pain, or dyspareunia, can cause problems in a couple’s sexual relationship.

Painful female intercourse can have negative emotional effects in addition to the physical pain, so the problem should be addressed as soon as it becomes evident.

What causes female sexual pain?

In some cases, a woman can experience painful intercourse if one of the following conditions is present:

  • Vaginismus—This is a common condition in which there is a spasm in the vaginal muscles, mainly caused by the fear of being hurt. 
  • Vaginal infections—These conditions are common and include yeast infections. 
  • Problems with the cervix (opening to the uterus)—The penis can reach the cervix at maximum penetration. Therefore, problems with the cervix (such as infections) can cause pain during deep penetration. 
  • Problems with the uterus—These may include fibroids that can cause deep intercourse pain. 
  • Endometriosis—A condition in which the endometrium (tissue lining the uterus) grows outside the uterus. 
  • Problems with the ovaries— Such problems might include cysts on the ovaries. 
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease— The tissues deep inside become badly inflamed, and the pressure of intercourse causes deep pain. 
  • Ectopic pregnancy—A pregnancy in which a fertilized egg develops outside of the uterus. 
  • Intercourse too soon after surgery or childbirth. 
  • Vaginal dryness – This is common in older women due to hormonal changes of the menopause 
  • Sexually transmitted diseases—These may include genital warts, herpes sores, or other STDs. 
How can sexual pain in women be treated?
Some treatments for female sexual pain do not require medical intervention. For example, in the case of painful female intercourse after pregnancy, wait at least six weeks after childbirth before attempting intercourse. Make sure to practice gentleness and patience. In cases in which there is vaginal dryness or a lack of lubrication, try water-based lubricants.

Some treatments for sexual pain do require a doctor’s care. If vaginal dryness is due to menopause, ask a health care professional about estrogen creams or other prescription medications. Other causes of painful intercourse also may require prescription medications.

For cases of sexual pain in which there is no underlying medical cause, sexual therapy might be helpful. Some individuals may need to resolve issues such as guilt, inner conflicts regarding sex, or feelings regarding past abuse.