What is dyspareunia?

Dyspareunia is the medical term for ‘painful intercourse’.
‘Dys’ means bad or difficult
Pareunia: ‘Par’ + ‘unia’ = pairing or sexual union, so, sexual intercourse.
It is a general term used to describe all types of sexual pain.
Sexual pain can occur during or after the sexual intercourse.
It can exist anywhere in the genital area – the clitoris, labia, vagina, or the lower abdomen.
If you experience painful intercourse, you may feel:
– Pain only at sexual penetration (entry)
– Pain with every penetration, even while putting in a tampon
– New pain after previously pain-free intercourse
– Deep pain during thrusting
– Burning pain or aching pain
– Throbbing pain, lasting hours after intercourse
Physical causes of painful intercourse differ, depending on whether the pain occurs at entry or with deep thrusting. Emotional factors can be associated with many types of painful intercourse.

Entry pain:
Pain during penetration may be due to:
– Insufficient lubrication. Mainly as a result of not enough foreplay, after menopause or childbirth or during breast-feeding.
– Certain medications are known to inhibit desire or arousal, which can decrease lubrication and make sex painful. These include antidepressants, high blood pressure medications, sedatives, antihistamines and certain birth control pills.
– Any injury or irritation from an accident, pelvic surgery, female circumcision or a cut made during childbirth to enlarge the birth canal (episiotomy).
– An infection in your genital area or urinary tract can cause painful intercourse. Eczema or Bartholin gland cyst or abscess can give you pain with sexual intercourse.
– Discrepancy between the size of the penis and that of the vagina. A very large penis might cause pain to the partner’s vagina.
– Vaginismus. Involuntary spasms of the muscles of the vaginal wall (vaginismus) can make attempts at penetration very painful.
– Congenital abnormality. A problem present at birth, such as the absence of a fully-formed vagina (vaginal agenesis) or development of a membrane that blocks the vaginal opening (imperforate hymen), could be the underlying cause of dyspareunia.

Deep pain:
Deep pain usually occurs with deep penetration and may be more pronounced with certain positions. Causes include:
– Certain illnesses and conditions: endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine prolapse, retroverted uterus, uterine fibroids, cystitis, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids and ovarian cysts.
– Surgeries or medical treatments. Scarring from pelvic surgery, including hysterectomy, can sometimes cause painful intercourse. Medical treatments for cancer, such as radiation and chemotherapy, can cause changes that make sex painful.
There are also Emotional factors involved:
Emotions are deeply intertwined with sexual activity and may play a role in any type of sexual pain. Emotional factors include:
– Psychological problems. Anxiety, depression, concerns about your physical appearance, fear of intimacy or relationship problems can result in discomfort or pain.
– Stress. Your pelvic floor muscles tend to tighten in response to stress in your life. This can contribute to pain during intercourse.
– History of sexual abuse. Most women with dyspareunia don’t have a history of sexual abuse, but if you have been abused, it may play a role.

It is important to bear in mind that vaginismus can co-exist with any condition that causes dyspareunia. Vaginismus may also continue to be present even after the original cause has been resolved or managed.

Normal sexual intercourse should not cause you any pain. If it does, it can harm your sex life, your emotional intimacy and your self-image. It might also be a sign of life- threatening medical condition. That’s why it’s important to seek medical help if you experience dyspareunia.

I wish you the best of health.