Somewhere between 5-14% of women experience pain or discomfort when they have sexual intercourse. Of course, when something hurts, you tend to avoid it. Painful sex, therefore, doesn’t just have physical consequences: It has emotional consequences, too.
You may feel disconnected from your body. Your libido may drop. Your relationship can suffer.
If the pleasure of sex has turned into pain, our expert OB/GYNs Daniel McDyer, MD, FACOG, and Julian Stephen Suhrer, MD, diagnose and treat the causes. At Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Florida, you get the relief you need to enjoy intimacy again.
Following are some of the most common reasons why women experience painful sex. Sometimes more than one factor is involved.
Uterine fibroids are benign growths in the muscle tissue that makes up your uterus. Even though fibroids are benign (i.e., non-cancerous), that doesn’t mean they can’t cause problems.
When fibroids grow large enough, they can press against your bladder and other organs when you have sexual intercourse. You may feel pain in your bladder itself or just generalized pelvic pain.
Your uterine lining (aka endometrium) engorges itself with blood in preparation for a baby each month, then sheds through your vagina during menstruation. If you have endometriosis, your endometrium has grown outside of your uterus. When it’s time to shed the blood, it has nowhere to go.
Endometriosis can cause abnormally heavy bleeding and extreme pain. The pain is especially noticeable when you have sex. We may recommend short-term hormonal therapy to shrink your lining, or surgery to remove the abnormal tissue.
When your ovaries release an egg each month, a cyst forms where the egg matures. Normally, these cysts disintegrate after the egg matures and starts its journey down the fallopian tubes. Sometimes, though, the cyst remains.
When ovarian cysts grow large enough, they may become painful. They can also twist or burst, causing extreme pain. Most of the time, watching and waiting resolves an ovarian cyst, but we may give you pain medication. In some instances, you’d benefit from surgery.
Perimenopause and menopause
As you head toward the end of your fertility, you may develop a series of unpleasant symptoms due to drastic drops in estrogen, progesterone, and other hormones. Women who are in perimenopause (which usually occurs in your 40s) and menopause (which usually happens around age 51) often find that sex is no longer pleasurable.
The drop in your hormones affects the health of your vagina. The vaginal skin thins. The thinner skin doesn’t produce as much lubrication as it once did. When you have intercourse, you don’t become lubricated enough to cut down on the friction. Instead of pleasure, you feel pain.
If your painful sex is due to the hormonal changes of perimenopause and menopause, we may recommend bioidentical hormonal replacement therapy (BHRT). After BHRT, your vagina produces lubrication again, sex is pleasurable, and your orgasms tend to become more intense and frequent, too.
Trauma or sexual issues
If you were molested or raped in the past or recently, your body may not feel safe enough for intercourse. Or, if your partner doesn’t engage in sufficient foreplay, your vagina may not be lubricated enough, which causes pain.
We may refer you to a counselor to help you resolve and heal past traumas. If your sex life isn’t satisfying, we may refer you and your partner for counseling, too.
Did you know that smoking dries out your body’s tissues, including your labia and vagina? If sex is painful, you may benefit from lifestyle changes that make your body thrive and glow, such as quitting smoking, improving your diet, and adding more exercise into your daily life.
Even medications may influence your lubrication. That’s why we take a complete medical and personal history when you come in to find out why sex is painful. We also conduct a thorough physical exam to identify any structural abnormalities or medical conditions that contribute to your pain.
You deserve a healthy, vibrant life, and that includes pain-free sex. If sex is painful, find out why and get the best treatment for you by contacting our supportive team today. Call one of our two Jacksonville, Florida, locations nearest you or use our online scheduler.