Sex can be painful for many reasons. Occasionally men suffer from painful sex but painful sex is more common with women. For women, sometimes it can be something basic like needing a quality lubricant, feeling safe/comfortable and relaxed, or getting the foreplay needed to be physically ready for sex. If it’s related to the foreplay you need, it’s time to have a conversation with your partner. In heterosexual relationships the old saying goes –
“men are like microwaves and women are like crock pots.”
Meaning that it takes women a lot longer to get hot than it does men. If your body isn’t fully aroused it isn’t ready for penetration. Never try to force penetration – sex is for PLEASURE!
Occasionally it could be hormonal, if our bodies are not hormonally balanced this can actually result in sex being painful. Being hormonally imbalanced is more common after a pregnancy, during the different stages of menopause, and for women being treated or in recovery from cancer. There are a variety of diagnoses that are biologically driven and a variety that are psychologically driven.
Studies estimate that between 12-20% of women experience ongoing genital pain.
Unfortunately, many of the clients that I see struggle with genital pain and painful sex for months and sometimes years before they are properly diagnosed and then eventually get the appropriate treatment.
In most of the “painful sex” cases I see my clients have at some point experienced both physical and psychological symptoms. I treat only the psychological symptoms. We work to resolve issues such as guilt, inner conflicts regarding sex, negative or shaming thoughts about sex and sexuality, or feelings regarding past abuse or sexual trauma. For the physical symptoms I may refer to an OB-GYN that is knowledgeable about these types of disorders – not all are. In some cases I also refer to a Pelvic Floor Specialist – they are like physical therapists for the genitals and pelvic floor region and often create amazing results.
Some of the clients that I treat struggle with Dyspareunia- painful sex; Vaginismus- an inability to have penetrative sex or even have a gynecological exam; others with Vulvodynia/Vestibulitis – experience chronic vulvar pain without an identifiable cause; or even PGAD – Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder -unwanted, intrusive, non-sexual arousal of the genitals causing discomfort, anxiety, and distress.
When sex is painful your body is telling you something… stop having sex!
If you are having painful sex, it’s time to ask yourself why. Sex is for PLEASURE. Women sometimes get it in their heads that it is their obligation to have sex with their partner, husband, boyfriend…potential boyfriend. If you are having sex for reasons other than pleasure, if you are having sex because you feel it’s your obligation to your partner or the relationship, then your body may likely be trying to protect you because you are not saying no or giving your body what it needs.
If you are experiencing painful sex, get a medical exam and get some emotional support. You are not the only one suffering and there are on-line support groups and sex therapists that can help.
Now Go Have Sex! … (as long as it’s not painful!)