Understanding Post-Sex Pain

Worried woman in bed

There are times when women experience pain during or after sex, and the story we always hear is “Oh. That’s normal.” The problem is that this isn’t always true, and some women can disregard serious issues with their bodies because of this misconception. In truth, there can be many reasons for your pain, some ordinary and some not. We’re here to shed a little more light on this part of the sexual experience and to bust some of these false ideas about the female body.

Do I Need to See a Doctor?

Most causes of a woman’s pain during or after intercourse can be isolated and treated with a little investigation. However, do not be afraid to talk to your doctor about exactly what’s going on if you need. There is no reason to suffer through if sex hurts; it is supposed to be pleasurable for both partners.

Woman talking to doctor

Normal pain during intercourse (dyspareunia) is focused in a woman’s labia, vaginal area, or pelvic area, occurring during or immediately following. The first question you need to ask yourself when this happens is “does the pain go away within a minute or two afterwards?” If so, it is probably not something that needs to be dealt with by a trip to the emergency room and a follow up with your gynecologist. If your symptoms are more prolonged or not centered in these areas, it’s possible your problem has nothing to do with sex, and you should make an appointment to see a professional immediately.

There are a few more questions you can ask yourself to help diagnose the problem—and to help your doctor understand your condition if you have to consult help. At what point during sex does the pain start? What does the pain feel like—cramping, stabbing, or aching? Where is it specifically located? Upper abdomen, lower abdomen, right side, left side?

Is there a specific position that triggers it? Does switching position relieve the pain, make it worse, or change the type of pain that is occurring? Is the pace of the sexual encounter different? Is your partner going faster or deeper with his thrusts? Many of these things can cause different problems in different areas of the body.

What Medical Conditions Might Be the Cause?

If you’ve determined that your pain isn’t linked to sex itself, then there are a number of things a doctor will check for when trying to diagnose the cause. You could be experiencing a urinary tract infection, pelvic infection, cysts, or a few others things that are generally less common.

UTI paperwork

Urinary tract infections can be very painful and may not always be apparent right away. Some of the most common symptoms of this condition include painful urination, burning, itching, fever, and abdominal pain. Treatment consists of a round of antibiotics prescribed by your physician.

What many people don’t realize is that UTIs can actually be caused by sex for a woman. Urinating shortly after sex is generally recommended to stop this from happening. There are obviously other causes too, and as such, other preventative measures. Make sure you are cleaning yourself by wiping from front to back after you use the restroom, drink an adequate amount of water each day, and in some cases, take cranberry tablets. Always check with your doctor before self-treating.

There are several types of pelvic infections and for diagnosis the doctor will probably have to do a pelvic exam to make sure it isn’t something that is causing issues down there. They may also do an abdominal ultrasound to check for cysts on your ovaries as well. If a cysts ruptures, it can cause all kinds of problems, including bleeding in the abdomen. Cysts can be extremely painful and not just during sex.

Even an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that has attached in the fallopian tube or ovary rather than the uterus) can cause pain, and it is very dangerous if not diagnosed. Normally this kind of discomfort will occur with or without sex, and it will be more isolated to one side. If the tube ruptures, this is a medical emergency and must be treated immediately.

My Pain Is Normal, But How Can I Get Rid of It?

So if your problem isn’t caused by a physiological reason such as infection, why are you having pain during sex?

Everyone is built differently, so it should come to no surprise that not all women have the same gentalia. Shape, size, and pH all vary for everyone and can affect your comfort level with your partner.

First and foremost, make sure you are sufficiently aroused to ease penetration. This is the main function of foreplay for a woman. Arousal relaxes your muscles and causes the vagina to self-lubricate in preparation for intercourse. If, for some reason, you still are having issues with vaginal dryness (women going through menopause often suffer this), then don’t be afraid to get extra lubrication. You can even try different types to see what works for you, but make sure to watch the type you purchase if you are using condoms. Some don’t work with the latex of a condom and will break down that barrier. You don’t want an unplanned pregnancy because you didn’t realize there was a problem.

Couple having a talk

Don’t be afraid to communicate with your partner if you feel they are part of the issue. If they are going too deep, tell them to ease off. Some women are physically smaller than others and can’t comfortably take in as much as someone else. Make sure your partner understands that you are hurting because of this, and make clear when you want them to ease up. Relax, try to enjoy, shift positions a little, and use more lube!

If your pain is new, try some of these simple solutions first, but if it persists or is constant, seek medical attention. You might have a condition that needs to be treated.

The big thing is to discuss any frequent problems with your doctor. If there is a physical reason for the pain, that can be treated. If the reason is emotional, the counsel of a therapist may be required, but it is still treatable. You do not have to suffer alone.

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