Millions of women experience painful sex for a variety of reasons. Pain during sex may be due to many different causes.
The medical term for painful sex is dyspareunia which is defined, according to the Mayo Clinic, as persistent or recurrent genital pain that occurs just before, during or after intercourse. The pain can range from mild to excruciating.
Sufferers describe it as burning, stinging, sharpness, or extreme tenderness said Harvard Medical School.
One of the top causes of painful sex is vaginal atrophy. This is the thinning, drying and inflammation of the vaginal walls from a loss of estrogen.
Certain medications are known to inhibit arousal, which can decrease vaginal lubrication and make sex painful. These include antidepressants, high blood pressure medications, sedatives, antihistamines and certain birth control pills.
Other causes are injury, trauma or irritation which could come from an accident, pelvic surgery, female circumcision, episiotomy or a congenital abnormality.
Vulvodynia is characterized by hypersensitivity to touch, usually in the vaginal entrance. This can be the result of having frequent vaginal infections, particularly yeast infections.
Certain illnesses and conditions such as certain types of cancer, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine prolapse, retroverted uterus, uterine fibroids, cystitis, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids and ovarian cysts can result in painful sex.
Surgical scarring that involve the pelvic area, including hysterectomy, can sometimes cause painful sex. In addition, medical treatments for cancer, such as radiation and chemotherapy, can create changes that make sex painful.
Emotional or psychological issues may be causes. Stress, anxiety, depression, guilt, a history of sexual abuse, or relationship troubles can also be at the root of sexual pain. Some women experience vaginismus, an involuntary clenching of vaginal muscles to prevent penetration.
Treatment of dyspareunia can take many different forms.
Whether vaginal discomfort is mild or severe, regular use of an over-the-counter lubricant or a vaginal moisturizer can help make sex more pleasurable.