Sure, painful sex is common, but that doesn’t mean it’s normal. Whether sex is painful every once in a while, in a certain position, or all the time, no matter what, you should always discuss painful intercourse with your OBGYN.

It’s important that you don’t brush aside painful intercourse as normal and talk about any pain during sex you experience with your doctor because it could be a sign of an underlying issue.

What is dyspareunia?

Dyspareunia refers to genital pain caused by sexual intercourse. It can happen during or after sex, and it can happen internally or externally.

Painful intercourse can cause discomfort internally within the vagina, uterus, lower abdomen, or pelvis or externally on the vulva, labia, or vaginal opening. There are various causes of painful intercourse, and the treatment depends on the underlying cause.

Dyspareunia, or painful intercourse, can have negative physical, emotional, and psychological effects. It’s common for painful sex to affect someone’s sex life and relationships, but painful sex doesn’t have to create a lack of intimacy.

“Normal” causes of painful intercourse

Many people with vaginas experience painful intercourse due to a lack of foreplay or lubrication. This type of dyspareunia typically occurs during entry, and it is referred to as infraorbital or superficial dyspareunia.


When dry skin rubs together without enough lubricant (either naturally or artificially produced), it can easily chafe the sensitive skin near the opening of the vagina. If this is the problem, then using an oil-based, silicone-based, or water-based lubricant in the affected areas can help.


Foreplay is a way to “get in the mood” mentally, but it also has a physical effect on your body.

When you are aroused before penetration, blood flow to the vagina increases, causing it to expand and self-lubricate. Once a penis or toy is inside, the vagina then contracts. If the vagina is contracted prior to penetration, this can cause painful intercourse. The solution to this issue is to increase foreplay that arouses you before penetration.

If you can solve the issue of painful intercourse on your own, the problem was likely a lack of foreplay or lubricant. However, there are other types of painful sex that indicate underlying conditions.You should talk to your doctor if you continue to experience painful sex.

If you experience complete or secondary pain

Painful intercourse is categorized into four types. Primary pain describes pain that you’ve had since becoming sexually active. Secondary pain happens when you’ve had pain-free sex before, but now sex is painful. Situation pain only occurs at certain times, and complete pain occurs every time you have sex.

While you should discuss all painful intercourse with your OBGYN, if you experience complete pain or secondary pain, you should take it more seriously.

Common causes of painful intercourse

Although these causes of painful intercourse are common, they are not normal. If you suspect that you may be suffering from any of these conditions, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible.


Vaginismus is a common occurrence for people who have experienced sexual trauma. This condition refers to the involuntary contraction of the vaginal walls that arises out of a fear of being hurt.

Vaginismus can make entry especially painful, and after that, the pain may subside. Increasing foreplay with a partner you trust can sometimes help with vaginismus. Using an “ask for my yes” rather than a “wait for my no” consent communication method with your partner may also help.

Your doctor may also recommend vaginal dilators, kegels, CBT, or topical creams.

Bacterial or viral infections

Yeast infections, UTIs, and STIs are extremely common among people with vaginas, and they can be a common cause of painful sex. While some infections clear up on their own, it’s important that you take any potential infection seriously and seek medical treatment if the symptoms do not improve within 2-3 days.

Vaginal Atrophy

Certain medications, hormonal changes, and menopause can cause vaginal atrophy, which refers to the loss of tissue in the vagina. When the vaginal lining loses its normal thickness and moisture, it becomes dry, thin, fragile, and inflamed. If your vaginal walls hurt during sex, this could be why.

Cervical Issues

If you feel pain during sex deeper in the vagina, it’s possible that you or your partner could be hitting your cervix. Your cervix is the opening to your uterus, and it may sit lower in your vagina than you might expect.

There are a range of cervical issues that could cause sex to be painful, and your OBGYN can discuss any potential issues with you. These issues can range in severity from infections to cancer.

Other Issues

Other less common issues that could cause painful sex include:

  • Fibroids
  • Endometriosis
  • Ovarian Cysts
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Vulvodynia

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Psychological issues such as anxiety and depression or physical trauma (like childbirth) can also contribute to painful intercourse.

Talk to Your OBGYN

Without knowing the exact type of pain you experience during sex, it’s impossible for an article to tell you what’s happening. That’s why it’s essential that you discuss painful sex with your OBGYN.

For more information about Women’s Health, or If you’re looking for an OBGYN in the Cincinnati area, call us at 513-241-4774, or schedule your appointment.