6 Causes of Pain During Sex

If you are experiencing pain during sex, there are a number of potential causes. In some cases, it may not be anything serious or concerning; however, pain during sex can be a sign of a serious underlying health problem, which is why it is important to get it checked out. Even if it’s something that can easily be treated, dealing with the cause of the pain can improve your comfort and your quality of life. Pain during sex is known medically as dyspareunia. Some common reasons for it include:

Sexually Transmitted Infections

There are several different STIs that may cause pain during sex, including herpes, gonorrhoea, and trichomoniasis. STIs that go untreated may also lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can cause significant pain and even lead to infertility. Untreated STIs that may lead to this condition include chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and bacterial vaginosis. STIs can cause pain during sex for various reasons. Some lead to irritation, swelling, or discharge, while others cause sores or blisters that are either painful, or become painful when infected. If you are experiencing pain during sex, a gynaecologist can help. Gynaecology services can run tests to rule out any STIs and check for other potential underlying conditions that may be causing pain. Circle Health Group offer gynaecology services and treatments for a wide range of conditions. They are a private healthcare network with top gynaecology professionals and state of the art equipment and facilities.

Uterine Fibroids

Some medical conditions such as uterine fibroids that are located near the cervix can be the reason behind pain during sex. When pressure is placed on the fibroids during sex, it can lead to anything from mild discomfort to severe pain. In some cases, friction may also increase the discomfort or pain. There are several things you can do to reduce the pain and discomfort if this is the case including experimenting with different positions to find one that is more comfortable for you and communicating openly with your partner.


Vulvodynia is a condition that causes chronic discomfort or pain in the vulva. Symptoms may include irritation, stinging or burning sensations. There are two main subtypes of this condition: generalised vulvodynia and vulvar vestibulitis. With generalised vulvodynia, the pain occurs spontaneously and is typically constant, but there may be some periods of relief. On the other hand, vulvar vestibulitis involves pain that is limited to the area that surrounds the opening of the vagina, which occurs during or after pressure is applied. It can cause problems with day-to-day life including causing severe pain not only during sex but also when using tampons, during gynaecological exams, or even during regular activities such as work or physical exercise.


Vaginismus is either a physical or psychological condition that impacts your ability to tolerate vaginal penetration due to involuntary muscle spasms in the vagina. Women with this condition are unable to consciously control the muscle spasms. It is an automatic reflex that occurs as the result of an object coming towards the vagina and may even occur when simply thinking about the object. It may happen during sex or when inserting a tampon, using a vibrator, or during gynaecological exams such as smear tests. This makes penetration painful or in some cases, impossible. There are two types: primary and secondary vaginismus. Primary vaginismus has always been present and women diagnosed with this condition will have never been able to have penetrative sex without discomfort or pain. On the other hand, secondary vaginismus happens when a woman who previously did not have the condition develops it. The exact cause is unknown; however, it may have both physical and psychological causes including infection, trauma, anxiety and fear.

Vaginal Dryness

Painful sex can also be caused by the thinning and drying of vaginal tissue. When healthy, the vaginal lining will stay lubricated with a thin layer of clear fluid. However, there are several factors that can lead to dryness. Over time, the vagina’s ability to produce its own mucus will decline, which can lead to irritation, itching and pain. Insufficient lubrication can lead to discomfort or mild to significant pain, and affects many women, especially as they get older. If this issue begins to affect your sex life, consider speaking to your doctor who can help. Using lubricating products during sex can also help to reduce pain and discomfort.


There are several products that contain chemicals which irritate the vagina and vulva, leading to painful sex. Products include latex condoms, vaginal deodorants and sprays, perfumed soaps, laundry detergents, scented tampons, and scented sanitary pads. These products can lead to inflammation, burning and itching along with vaginal dryness, which can make it more prone to injury during sex. Avoid using scented products and only use warm water and mild soap to wash the area.

Pain during sex can be caused by several underlying reasons. If you are concerned, a gynaecologist can help you get to the root of the issue and start enjoying your sex life once again. 

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