Sex is a normal, healthy part of life; it should never hurt. Some conditions, though, can cause painful intercourse. It’s important to be aware of these, so you know when to seek medical help.

At Viva Health, board-certified OB/GYN Dr. Aleksander J. Bodnar and his staff know how important a healthy sex life is to their patients’ well-being. This is why they offer a number of treatments to tackle sexual dysfunction, including painful sex.

Here they describe five common causes of the pain and what you can do about them.

What is dyspareunia?

Dyspareunia is the medical term for persistent or recurring genital pain during or after sex. Painful intercourse can be felt externally in the vulvar region — the labia (lips of the vagina) or at the vaginal opening. It may also be felt internally — in the cervix, uterus, or lower abdomen.

Pain during sex is a common gynecologic problem, affecting 10%-20% of Americans. In addition to physical pain, the condition can have emotional and psychological effects. Couples may experience a loss of intimacy or a strained relationship because of it.

There are two types of dyspareunia:

Entry pain (intraorbital or superficial dyspareunia)

You feel this pain at the vaginal entrance during initial penetration, often caused by a lack of lubrication, injury, or infection.

Deep pain (collision dyspareunia)

You feel this pain with deep penetration in the cervix or lower abdomen, and it may be worse in certain sexual positions. It’s often caused by an underlying medical condition or prior surgery.

5 common causes of painful sex

There are many potential causes of painful sex, but these five are among the most common:

1. Vaginal atrophy

Menopause or other hormonal changes are the most common reasons for vaginal atrophy, when the vaginal lining loses its normal moisture and thickness, becoming dry, thin, and inflamed.

2. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

Common STDs that cause painful sex include human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, and trichomoniasis. Other infections, such as yeast infections, can also be problematic.

3. Uterine problems

Problems include fibroids and endometriosis. In the latter, the tissue lining the uterus grows outside the organ, causing pain. Infections of the cervix, the opening to the uterus, can also cause pain during deep penetration.

4. Pelvic inflammatory disease

When the tissues deep inside the pelvis become badly inflamed, the pressure of intercourse causes pain in the lower abdomen.

5. Injury to the vulva or vagina

Injuries can be caused by a tissue tear during childbirth or from a cut made in the perineum (skin between the vagina and the anus) during labor.

Treating painful sex

Viva Health offers several treatments to address painful sex as well as a loss of libido that often accompanies menopause. These include:

Acoustic wave therapy, which repairs soft tissues, may also be an option, as well as antibiotics for bacterial STDs.

If you’re experiencing painful sex, it’s important to seek medical treatment to restore your reproductive health. Viva Health can help. Give us a call at either of our locations, in Clark and Clifton, New Jersey, or book your appointment online.

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