How common is painful sex?
Pain during intercourse is very common—nearly 3 out of 4 women have pain during intercourse at some time during their lives. For some women, the pain is only a temporary problem; for others, it is a long-term problem.
What causes pain during sex?
Pain during sex may be a sign of a gynecologic problem, such as ovarian cysts or endometriosis. Pain during sex also may be caused by problems with sexual response, such as a lack of desire (the feeling of wanting to have sex) or a lack of arousal (the physical and emotional changes that occur in the body as a result of sexual stimulation).
Where is pain during sex felt?
You may feel pain in your vulva, in the area surrounding the opening of your vagina (called the vestibule), or within your vagina. The perineum is a common site of pain during sex. You also may feel pain in your lower back, pelvic region, uterus, or bladder.
Click on the FAQs below to expand
When should I see a health care provider about painful sex?
If you have frequent or severe pain during sex, you should see a health care provider. It is important to rule out gynecologic conditions that may be causing your pain. Your health care provider also can help you address problems with sexual response.
What causes sexual response problems?
The following reasons are among the most common:
What kinds of gynecologic conditions can cause pain during sex?
Pain during sexual intercourse can be a warning sign of many gynecologic conditions. Some of these conditions can lead to other problems if not treated:
What can I expect when I see my health care provider about pain during sex?
Your medical and sexual history, signs and symptoms, and findings from a physical exam are important factors in determining the cause of your pain. Sometimes, tests are needed to find the cause. A pelvic exam or ultrasound exam often gives clues about the causes of some kinds of pain. Further evaluation, sometimes involving a procedure called a laparoscopy, may be needed.
You also may be asked about medications that you are taking, whether you have any medical conditions, and past events that may affect how you feel about sex, such as sexual abuse. Other health care providers may be consulted for further evaluation and treatment, such as a physical therapist or a dermatologist (a specialist in diseases of the skin).
Are there things a woman can do on her own to help with pain during sex?
If you have pain during sex, see a health care provider. However, there are some self-help measures you can try to relieve pain during sex:
Adhesions: Scarring that binds together the surfaces of tissues.
Cyst: A sac or pouch filled with fluid or other material.
Endometriosis: A condition in which tissue similar to that normally lining the uterus is found outside of the uterus, usually on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and other pelvic structures.
Episiotomy: A surgical incision made into the perineum (the region between the vagina and the anus) to widen the vaginal opening for delivery.
Estrogen: A female hormone produced in the ovaries.
Laparoscopy: A surgical procedure in which a slender, light-transmitting instrument, the laparoscope, is used to view the pelvic organs or perform surgery.
Masturbation: Self-stimulation of the genitals, usually resulting in orgasm.
Menopause: The time in a woman’s life when the ovaries have stopped functioning; defined as the absence of menstrual periods for 1 year.
Pelvic Exam: A manual examination of a woman’s reproductive organs.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: An infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and nearby pelvic structures.
Perimenopause: The period around menopause that usually extends from age 45 years to 55 years.
Perineum: The area between the vagina and the anus.
Ultrasound: A test in which sound waves are used to examine internal structures.
Vagina: A tube-like structure surrounded by muscles leading from the uterus to the outside of the body.
Vestibule: The space within the labia minora into which the vagina and urethra open.
Vulva: The external female genital area.