The Doctor Is In: Why Does Sex Hurt Me?

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sex hurts

Talking sex with your doctor isn’t always easy. Whether you are afraid she or he will judge you,  you just don’t feel comfortable sharing the intimate details of your life between the sheets, or you can’t think straight with a speculum between your legs, many people get tight lipped in the doctor’s office. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have questions.

We thought we’d help and every Thursday our friend Dr. Lissa Rankin will be answering your questions. The ones you couldn’t ask your doctor in person and didn’t really trust the Yahoo community to answer for you. Just leave your questions in the comments, or send em over to us. (We’ll keep it all anonymous for you.) Dr. Lissa will answer anything – really, anything – about sex and other lady things. Don’t be shy; she’s waiting for ya!

Q: I am not in a serious relationship, so I don’t have sex very often. When I do, though, it always hurts. Sometimes even more than the first time. Why is that? Is there something I can do so it doesn’t hurt anymore?

A: Oh, sweetie, I’m sorry! Sex is supposed to be fun, right? Isn’t sex always easy, painless, and orgasmic in the movies? Maybe so, but what you’re experiencing is not uncommon in real life.  In fact, I suffered from the same problem myself back when I was in my twenties.  Have you seen a gynecologist about this issue? There are a number of reasons you may be experiencing pain, and your doctor might be able to help you.

Painful sex (we docs call is dyspareunia) is normal when you first have sex. Because your hymen may still be intact when you lose your virginity, sex often hurts in the beginning. But after a while, the pain should lessen and then resolve. If it doesn’t, a variety of conditions can be responsible, including vulvar vestibulitis (inflammation of the vestibule), vaginismus (involuntary contraction of the vaginal muscles), allergic reactions to things such as latex condoms, and endometriosis (when lining from the uterus gets on the ovaries, bowel & pelvic lining).  As women age, they also have lower levels of estrogen, which can make the vagina thinner, leading to atrophic vaginitis.  Many of these conditions can be treated, but it’s important to know the reason for your pain.  If you find yourself having sex regularly and are still having pain, be sure to tell your gynecologist. There may be a simple solution.

Feeling safe in a relationship is also an important part of making sure sex feels good.  Those who have had traumatic experiences with sex in the past, such as being the victim of a rape or child molestation, often experience pain with intercourse. As women, our bodies can be amazingly powerful at manifesting physical signals in response to psychological issues.  If any of these issues might play a role in the pain you feel, please see a therapist who can help you work through what you’ve experienced.

In the meantime, make sure that before you have intercourse, you are adequately aroused. If your partner isn’t already doing so, encourage your partner to assist you with a little foreplay.  If that’s not enough, try a personal lubricant like Astroglide. Sometimes, lubing up can decrease the friction against the vaginal wall, making things glide more easily and causing less discomfort. Also, certain positions may be more comfortable than others, so experiment with what feels better and listen to your body.

Most importantly, be honest with your partner about your experience. Don’t pretend you’re having fun when you’re not. You don’t want to train your body to endure pain when it’s supposed to be experiencing loving connection and sexual pleasure.  Doing so can train your body to shut down, which can damage your ability to be properly aroused in the future. Get help, be honest, and know that this won’t last forever.

In case it gives you hope, I’ll tell you that my story ended happily. After years of painful intercourse, the pain (caused by vulvar vestibulitis in my case) disappeared over time.  I think part of it was learning to live comfortably within my skin, part was finding the right relationship, and part was giving my body the opportunity to be heard. Perhaps, when you find yourself in a loving committed relationship having sex more regularly, this problem will melt away and you’ll be on your way to sexual bliss. Let’s hope so!

Let’s hope so!

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