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Medically Reviewed April 2023, by Mr. Bryan Mayou (GMC: 1414396) - founder of the Cadogan Clinic and one of the world's leading plastic surgeons
Sexual intercourse should not be painful. Pain during sex and pain after sex, known by the medical term dyspareunia, are signals from your body that something is wrong. Women may experience this pain during or after sex either in the vagina or deeper in the pelvis, depending on exactly what is causing the pain.
Painful sex may be the result of a medical condition such as endometriosis, which may require further investigation, or an infection, such as chlamydia or thrush, which will need to be treated.
It is important for a woman to be aroused before sexual intercourse takes place, as without sufficient vaginal lubrication, sex will cause friction and pain. While physical attraction to your partner and an appropriate amount of foreplay is important in order to avoid pain during sex, sometimes there may be emotional reasons or anxiety at play. If this is the case, then the doctor may recommend some counselling or sex therapy in order to get to the bottom of exactly what is causing your pain during sex.
Sometimes painful sex can be accompanied by other symptoms, such as bleeding after sex or unusual discharge.
Words from our clients:
"I was extremely satisfied with the care and treatment I received at the Cadogan Clinic. My surgeon was friendly and informative and explained the procedure fully. My procedure went very well and with the excellent care of the nursing staff, I made a speedy and full recovery. Would recommend to anyone."Eva Berry
"At the beginning before the operation the nurse taking care of me made me feel so comfortable. The surgeon and anesthetist helped me feel so calm. Fantastic before and after treatment"Scarlett Elliott
"The girls on the reception at the clinic were very pleasant and professional. The nurse who took out my stitches after my surgery was just lovely and took me through step by step what she was doing and she also recommended a great cream to use to help with healing."Georgina Nolan
“I was treated with care and provided with thorough knowledge about the procedure I was undertaking. My surgeon was very methodical (a perfectionist) and I felt I received A class treatment."Courtney O'Sullivan
"Outstanding experience from the first appointment to being discharged. Very professional, friendly and a fantastic outcome."Gemma Stevenson
"Reception staff very welcoming and efficient. Both nurses who I dealt with were fantastic, and the whole team (anaesthetist, surgeon etc) were friendly but professional, and really put my mind at ease. That I was able to stay later than I perhaps needed after my surgery to fit in with my husbands schedule was greatly appreciated."Emma Davies
The are a number of things that may cause painful sex.
Painful sex is a symptom of a number of underlying medical conditions. These include:
There is not always a physical reason for painful sex. Sometimes an emotional reason, past trauma or anxiety may be the reason why sex is painful.
Pain during or after sex can affect anyone or any age. However it is generally more common in women than it is in men. Women can experience this pain externally in the vulvar region towards the labia or at the opening to the vagina. Sometimes pain during sex can be felt deep within the pelvis, in the cervix, uterus or lower abdomen.
Just like women, men can find sex painful if there is not enough lubrication, but this can also be caused by certain penile disorders such as an overly-tight foreskin or tiny cuts or tears on the foreskin. Just like women, men can also find that the pain they experience during sex may be caused by psychological or physical factors. However sometimes psychological factors such as anxiety and depression can stop a man from having an erection, preventing sex all together.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and thrush can affect men and women and can make sex a painful experience for both. If one partner has been diagnosed with an STI or thrush, it is important that both are treated.
If the pain is getting worse and is accompanied by symptoms such as bleeding after sex, difficulty urinating, itching or burning around the vulva, frequent urinary tract infections, vaginal tightness or frequent vaginal infections, then it is time to visit the doctor. If the pain is so bad that you are afraid to have sex, or if it is affecting your relationship with your partner, then you should seek medical advice. If you are menopausal and vaginal lubricants are no longer helping, the doctor will be able to prescribe hormones.
Treatment depends on the diagnosis, but options may include:
Longer foreplay can stimulate your natural lubrication and ensure that your body is fully ready for sex, lessening the likelihood of painful intercourse. If you need a little help, a good-quality water-based lubricant can vastly improve comfort during sex. There are plenty of brands available on the market and it is important to find one that suits you. Vaseline, vitamin E, olive and coconut oils and mineral oils should not be used in order to avoid irritation and infection.
If you do experience pain during sex, then it may be a good idea to change positions, for example, a woman on top can better control the depth of penetration. It is important that you are able to communicate with your partner so they know what feels good for you and what to avoid. Don’t be afraid to speak out if you need things to slow down - if sex is painful, you don’t have to put up with it.
Ultimately sex should be a fun and pleasurable experience, not a painful one. If you are experiencing pain during sex or pain after sex, it is important that you see a specialist to obtain a diagnosis and treatment to help make sex something to look forward to again.
We have invited a selection of the country's very best consultants to join us at the Cadogan Clinic so that you can be sure that whatever the nature of your treatment, you will be seeing one of the top practitioners in the country.
The Patient Journey. A breakdown of what you can expect on your journey with us
We are deeply invested in ensuring that every step of your surgical journey with us is as informative and reassuring to you as it can be. This article outlines what you can expect at each stage of the journeyThe Patient Journey
Complications are rare although, as with all surgery, possible. Your surgeon will discuss each of these risks comprehensively at your consultation. Read our FAQ section for more information.
We believe in the delivery of excellent outcomes and results, and exceptional levels of service. Our outcomes are natural and long-lasting, and we remain the premier choice for cosmetic surgery treatments in the UK.
Heavy Menstrual Bleeding
HPV and STDs
Irregular Menstrual Bleeding
Low Libido / Sexual Difficulties
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