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What Causes Pain During Sex, and What Are Tips to Cope?

In this video, learn about common reasons your lady parts may be hurting during sex—and what you can do about it.

Written by Brittany Doohan | Reviewed by Sudha Parashar
Updated on January 17, 2022

There are few things more frustrating than when your lady parts don’t want to cooperate during sex. While it’s totally normal to not be in the mood for sex sometimes, other times when you *do* want to get it on, your vag starts to hurt, which can take the pleasure right out of the deed. Ugh, what’s the deal?!

First of all, pain during sex is super common: Three out of four women experience it, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Some women may feel vaginal dryness, “tightness,” or even severe pain during intercourse. Other women may feel soreness or burning in their vagina or vulva afterward.

Sex can become painful because of a gynecological issue, such as ovarian cysts or endometriosis. (Learn the textbook signs of endometriosis here.) Vaginal pain may also arise from lack of sexual desire or arousal. Sexual response can be affected by:

  • Certain medications, like some birth control methods, antidepressants, or pain medications. Here are tips to improve libido while taking antidepressants.

  • Menopause. During perimenopause and menopause, decreased estrogen levels may cause vaginal dryness.

  • State of mind. Emotions like fear, embarrassment, or guilt may make it hard to relax. Stress and fatigue may also impact your desire for sex.

  • Relationship problems. Problems with your partner or mismatched level of sexual desire can influence the sexual response.

  • Other medical conditions, such as arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and thyroid conditions, may affect arousal as well.

If sex is hurting, try:

  • Using a water-soluble or silicone-based lubricant.

  • Talking to your partner. Talk to them about the pain, as well as what activities feel good to you.

  • Non-sexual activities, such as massage.

  • Other sexual activities besides intercourse, such as oral sex.

  • Take pain-relieving steps before sex, such as emptying your bladder, taking a warm bath, or taking an over-the-counter pain reliever.

If the pain is significantly affecting your life, talk to a doctor. He or she will be able to determine the cause of your vaginal pain and the proper treatment.

References

When Sex Is Painful.  American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (Accessed on January 18, 2022 at https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/When-Sex-Is-Painful)

Pain with Penetration. The North American Menopause Society. (Accessed on January 18, 2022 at https://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/sexual-problems-at-midlife/pain-with-penetration)

View All References (1)

Approach to the woman with sexual pain. UpToDate. (Accessed on January 18, 2022 at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/approach-to-the-woman-with-sexual-pain)

GoodRx Health has strict sourcing policies and relies on primary sources such as medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, thorough, and unbiased by reading our editorial guidelines.

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