For 14 per cent of women (that’s 1 in 7!) sex is a very painful experience.
It’s also one that’s not often talked about or taken seriously. If you do feel pain during sex, it’s a frustrating and upsetting experience.
It can have serious implications for your relationship as your partner struggles to understand and deal with a lack of intimacy.
You might not want to talk about it and you might not know where to go to get help
Just to be clear here, we’re not talking about the same pain described in Fifty Shades of Grey. We’re talking about burning, stinging or muscular pain in the vagina or vulva so intense that it stops someone wanting or being able to have sex.
So what causes it and what can you do about it?
Pain during sex can be caused by a number of factors:
Physical conditions such as a urinary track infection, a yeast infection, a sexually transmitted infection, endometriosis or other pelvic conditions. It can also be caused by dryness conditions associated with hormones, menopause or a simple lack of lubricant.
So if you are experiencing pain during sex, first see your GP and have yourself checked for these conditions
For some women though, there may not be a physical cause at all which can be frustrating to sufferers and their partners.
In these cases, we use the terms:
Vulvodynia – pain around the vulva.
Vestibulitis, vestibulodynia or vulvar vestibulitis – pain just outside the vagina.
Vaginismus – tightening of the vagina causing pain.
Sadly, a number of the clients I have seen with these conditions have previously been told by doctors that there is nothing wrong, that the pain is all in their heads, or that they just need to use more lubricant.
This is rarely helpful. And it’s just not true.
A number of things are known to contribute to these conditions including fears around sex, or of pain, stress, anxiety, past traumatic events in regard to sexuality or other emotional or psychological factors. Treating these conditions takes time, but with the right support it can be done.
It’s also important that your partner fully understands what’s happening.
The two of you can perhaps find other ways of being physically intimate that don’t cause you pain, but do meet your partner’s need for closeness.
You and your relationship don’t need to suffer. Speak to a qualified health care practitioner, sex coach or sex therapist.
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