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Love Hurts Coping with 5 common causes of pain during sex

Almost 30 percent of women experience pain during sex, medically called dyspareunia, but many are too embarrassed to report it to a doctor.

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Pain during sex play

Pain during sex


Almost 30 percent of women experience pain during sex, medically called dyspareunia, but many are too embarrassed to report it to a doctor.

Most resign themselves to the hurt or to a sexless existence.

The good news is that there are better options for coping with painful sex.

Whether it’s mild discomfort or excruciating pain, a variety of conditions can take sex from pleasurable to to down right hurting.

Many of these conditions happen upon penetration, whether with a penis, a finger, or a toy.

In some cases, the pain comes merely when the outside of the vagina is touched.

Regardless of where it happens, painful sex can affect not only a person’s relationship, but also overall quality of life.

To help understand what’s happening “down there,” read this breakdown of the 5 most common reasons that sex could be uncomfortable or even excruciating and how to handle them.

1) That burning sensation that comes with a side of severe itching and a cottage-cheese-like discharge.

Yeast infections (or vaginal candidiasis) are extremely common; as many as three out of four women will get (at least) one in her lifetime. The swelling and pain associated with these infections pretty much takes sex off the table.

Having sex before you’re completely healed can mean passing the infection to a partner’s genitals or mouth.

These symptoms could also be a sign of bacterial vaginosis, which is often accompanied by a fishy odor, but can cause no symptoms at all or sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia or gonorrhea.

Be wary of self-diagnosing and treating yourself for a yeast infection, especially if you’ve never had one before.

Your best bet is to see a doctor to get the issue properly diagnosed.

For a yeast infection, you may be prescribed an antifungal medication; for bacterial vaginosis or a sexually transmitted infection, you may need an antibiotic  .

2) If you feel deep pain during penetration, with anything long enough to hit your cervix, in the lower abdomen and pelvis.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), an infection of the reproductive organs, will cause this type of pain in addition to discharge.

Other symptoms include irregular bleeding, fever, or painful urination, though symptoms may be more mild. PID is caused by the introduction of bacteria into the reproductive organs through the cervix, usually as a result of chlamydia or gonorrhea. It can also happen from an infection after IUD insertion or childbirth.

See a doctor for proper diagnosis. If it is PID, the doctor will most likely prescribe a combination of antibiotics.

3) If you feel a pain deep inside you during thrusting with a penis, fingers, or toy, but it goes away when you switch positions.

Your partner may have just poked your cervix. It’s most likely an issue of position and angle.

This isn’t medically harmful, but it can make sex a whole lot less fun. If you find that this always happens in a certain position, switch things up until you find a position that’s more comfortable for you.

4) The walls of your vagina feel like sandpaper every time you attempt penetration (whether with a penis, finger, or toy).

Vaginal dryness is often associated with menopause, but there are reasons younger women will also feel a dry, tearing sensation when something is inside of them.

In a small percentage of women, birth control pills cause dryness. Decongestants, the job of which is to clear up moisture in other parts of the body, can also be the culprit. Dryness can also occur from time to time if you’re not in the mood, you’re distracted, or you’re just not that into your partner.

In many cases, something as simple as a lubricant can be a lifesaver but if dryness is more than just the occasional inconvenience, you may want to see a doctor for treatment.

If your doctor determines that medications are the cause, ask about other options that may not cause this side effect. For chronic cases, it may also be helpful to try long-acting vaginal moisturizers, which relieve dryness for up to three days by imitating the body’s natural lubrication.

5) If you’re experiencing sharp, localized pain on the outside of the vagina.

Take a look at your nether regions in a mirror, because chances are the pain is coming from a skin irritation such as a pimple or ingrown hair. Rubbing up against these bumps during sex can only make the irritation worse.

Treat these suckers the same way you would on any other part of your body. Try to keep the area clean and dry, and don’t pop them.

A warm compress may help bring the pimple or ingrown hair to a head. If it doesn’t go away on its own in a few days, a dermatologist can tell you if further steps need to be taken. They can also help determine if that lump is actually a deeper problem, like a wart.

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