Painful Intercourse

Dr. Max Izbicki Chicago Il OB/GYN cares for women with a wide range of obstetric and gynecologic conditions including painful intercourse. 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. 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 or a lack of arousal.

Women may feel pain in their vulva, in the area surrounding the opening of the vagina, or within the vagina. The perineum is a common site of pain during sex. Women also may feel pain their lower back, pelvic region, uterus, or bladder. If a woman has frequent or severe pain during sex, she should see a health care provider. It is important to rule out gynecologic conditions that may be causing the pain.

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. Some skin disorders may result in ulcers or cracks in the skin of the vulva. Contact dermatitis is a common skin disorder that affects the vulva. It is a reaction to an irritating substance, such as perfumed soaps, douches, or lubricants. It may cause itching, burning, and pain. Treatment of skin disorders depends on the type of disorder. Vulvodynia is a pain disorder that affects the vulva. When pain is confined to the vestibule (the area around the opening of the vagina), it is known as vulvar vestibulitis syndrome (VVS). There are many treatments available for vulvodynia, including self-care measures. Medication or surgery may be needed in some cases.

During perimenopause and menopause, decreasing levels of the female hormone estrogen may cause vaginal dryness. Hormone therapy is one
treatment option. Using a lubricant during sex or a vaginal moisturizer also may be helpful. Vaginitis, or inflammation of the vagina, can be caused by a
yeast or bacterial infection. Symptoms are discharge and itching and burning of the vagina and vulva. Vaginitis can be treated with medication. Vaginismus is a reflex contraction (tightening) of the muscles at the opening of your vagina. Vaginismus may cause pain when women try to have sexual intercourse. Vaginismus can be treated with different forms of therapy. Women who have had an episiotomy or tears in the perineum during childbirth may have pain during sex that may last for several months. Treatments include physical therapy, medications, or surgery. Pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, and adhesions are all associated with pain during sex.

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