Sexual Dysfunction

Painful Sex in Women

Painful intercourse is something women deal with more than you may realize. It can affect not only their intimacy, but also create emotional stress. Many women struggle with pain during sex, also known as dyspareunia, at some point in their lives. For some women this can lead to a formal diagnosis of genito-pelvic pain/penetration disorder. When women experience painful intercourse, it impacts their physical and mental health, as well as their relationships. If you are one of the women who suffer from a sexual pain disorder, you are not alone. With the right guidance, there is hope for recovery so you can enjoy a fulfilling sex life and a deeper relationship with your partner.

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What Constitutes Painful Sex in Women?

If you experience painful sex, you are among many. Countless women experience minor to severe pain either before, during, or after intercourse. Some women feel overwhelmed or discouraged because they cannot enjoy sex or have a low libido due to chronic pain. Seeking professional treatment can help women identify the root cause of their painful symptoms so they can restore their sexual health and enjoy connecting with their partners.

Women with dyspareunia may have an underlying medical condition, suffer from emotional trauma, or have trouble connecting with their partner. Men sometimes have penile deformities, making penetration uncomfortable for their partner. While this is not an uncommon issue, it can create stress in relationships and be a sign of a significant medical condition. Working with a certified sex therapist, in conjunction with a sexual medicine physician, can help women identify the cause of their pain and work toward recovery.

Symptoms of Painful Intercourse

Painful sex is a common issue in many women, and the symptoms may range in severity and duration. A few common symptoms of painful sex include:
  • Painful sensations that occur on the vulva (or genitals surrounding the vagina)
  • Difficulty with penetration
  • Pain or discomfort upon penetration
  • Severe pain during deep thrusting
  • Burning or aching 
  • Pelvic cramping
  • Vaginal spasms
  • Intense throbbing after intercourse (may last for hours)

Types of Dyspareunia 

Dyspareunia can occur in several locations and at a variety of times. Entry pain is a familiar feeling when women experience initial penetration. This may occur because of a lack of lubrication or vaginal injury. The second type of pain during sex is a deep pain that occurs with deep penetration and may grow in severity in certain positions. Some women may notice an intense pain in their abdomen or cervix. Women may experience pain whenever they have sex or only at certain times or in specific positions. Pain can occur outside of the vagina on the labia, vestibular bulbs, or the vulva, or inside near the cervix or uterus. Pain can also extend into the abdomen. Women may experience pain just before, during, or after sexual intercourse.

Why Do Women Experience Painful Sex?

Persistent pain associated with sex can trigger frustration and lead to generalized or performance anxiety and/or depression if not addressed. There are several reasons women experience pain during or after sex:

Injury or Trauma

Accidents or trauma sustained to the vaginal region can make sex feel painful. Surgery, childbirth, pregnancy, or injury are a few factors that can contribute to pain. Uterine fibroids or endometriosis are other common issues that can make sex uncomfortable.  

Infection or Inflammation

Infections such as yeast overgrowth, STDs, pelvic inflammatory disease, urinary tract infection, and certain skin conditions can produce inflammation in the vaginal area and trigger pain. If you experience any of these medical conditions, see a healthcare professional for treatment.

Lack of Lubrication

Skipping foreplay may lead to pain or discomfort during intercourse. Foreplay is an essential and helpful step that increases natural lubrication in the vagina for a more enjoyable sexual experience. If women experience pain during sex because of vaginal dryness, using a lubrication product is an excellent solution.

Certain Medications

Some medications can also decrease natural lubrication and create vaginal dryness, leading to irritation and painful sex. Medications like antidepressants, sedatives, high blood pressure medication, or birth control pills are common medications that reduce natural lubrication.

Vaginal Spasms

Vaginal spasms or vaginal atrophy can occur as women reach menopause and can cause significant pain. Vaginal atrophy occurs when moisture decreases and the vagina becomes inflamed, causing considerable irritation and discomfort. If women are too tense before or during sex, vaginal spasms can create pain.

Physical Deformities 

Some women are born with vaginal deformities or an imperforate hymen that prevents them from enjoying sex. Penetration may feel uncomfortable or painful, causing women to disengage from or even avoid sex. 
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Emotional or Psychological Stress

Emotional or psychological distress can prevent women from feeling aroused, which can lead to painful intercourse. Anxiety, depression, or previous sexual trauma are common reasons women experience pain during intercourse or become disinterested in participating in sex. Seeking help from a certified sex therapist can help women address the cause of emotional or psychological distress so they can enjoy a fulfilling sex life once again.

How Can Women Recover From Painful Sex?

Women who struggle with dyspareunia, or painful intercourse, may try different positions, use lubrication, or adjust their nutrition and exercise routines. While these solutions may provide temporary relief, they are not a permanent solution to the root cause of painful sex. Whether women struggle with painful sex because of physical illness, mental health conditions, or emotional trauma, sex therapy may help them find healing. Different forms of sex therapy include online education courses that help women identify the cause of their pain and work toward an enjoyable, pain-free sex life.
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Online Therapy Can Help Women Recover From Painful Sex

Painful sex is a common issue in women and often occurs from stress, dysfunction, or medical conditions. Women may experience pain because of physical trauma or emotional turmoil. Regardless of why women struggle with pain during sex, MendEd offers sexual education courses, such as From Sexual Distress to Sexual Satisfaction, to help women understand their anatomy and sexual needs. 

Nonjudgmental Atmosphere 

At MendEd, we offer science-based sexual education courses that help educate sex therapists and clients on restoring sexual intimacy. This course can help women address their sexual health concerns and receive treatment to pursue a fulfilling sex life, and can be a much-needed addition to working with a physician or general mental health practitioner such as a counselor or psychologist who doesn't specialize in sex therapy. Once women understand the source of their pain, they can begin their healing journey and cultivate a deeper relationship with their partner.
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Identifying the Source of Dyspareunia

Women who experience dyspareunia symptoms may also struggle with low libido, anxiety, depression, or feel unfulfilled in their relationships. Our online course deeply explores sexuality and the importance of an enjoyable sex life. Women and their partner can enjoy seven modules in this course, including:

  • Sexual health and Sexual Dysfunction
  • Psychoeducation and assessments about the impacts of Childhood Maltreatment on current relational or sexual distress
  • Sex positive psychoeducation
  • Self-assessments to understand the unique contributions and aspects to enhance being in your body
  • Experiential exercises to improve sexual functioning

Online Psychoeducation and Coaching Can Help With Sexual Distress and Dysfunction

Painful intercourse often triggers feelings of frustration and inadequacy in women. This course can help them identify pain triggers and provide solid answers for recovery. You don’t have to suffer with pain during sex any longer. MendEd offers exceptional resources to help you recover and achieve a great sex life. 
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About Kimberly Keiser

Kimberly Keiser is licensed professional counselor, AASECT certified sex therapist, AASECT certified sex therapist supervisor, EMDRIA certified EMDR therapist and trauma expert providing client care, clinical supervision, and clinical consultation. Kimberly is a researcher in Dr. Kristine Jacquin's clinical forensic neuropsychology lab at Fielding Graduate University. Kimberly develops educational training, presentations, CEUs, and webinars for professional and lay audiences in the fields of sex therapy and trauma therapy. 

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Ask Me Anything

If you aren’t sure whether this course is right for you, submit an anonymous question that Kimberly will respond to through our Ask Me Anything inquiry. 
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Schedule a Call

If you would like a complimentary 15-minute consultation with Kimberly to ask any questions related to your specific experience, feel free to reach out to Kimberly directly at or schedule your 15-minute consultation online.