How To Treat Painful Sex in Women & Dryness During Sex (Dyspareunia)

Painful Sex in Women may feel pain in the vagina or deeper in the pelvis during or after intercourse. Pain in the vagina can be caused by an infection – thrush or a sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, or genital herpes. menopause – changing hormone levels can dry out your vagina.

What is dyspareunia?

Dyspareunia is the medical term for any type of recurrent genital or pelvic pain during sexual intercourse. It’s usually caused by friction and dryness during sex, but it can have many different causes. This term covers many different types of pain (external or internal, sharp or dull, etc.) and includes pain that occurs before, during, or after sexual intercourse. Dyspareunia isn’t necessarily related to the cause of your pain, but it’s a useful term to use when reporting your symptoms to your doctor or investigating possible treatments.

Painful Sex or Dyspareunia Symptoms

Dyspareunia is an umbrella term that can describe any type of painful sexual intercourse. It is important to remember that if you are experiencing any pain during sex, you should discuss this with a doctor. Pain can be a warning sign of a serious health problem. Plus, you deserve pain-free sex! Vaginal pain during sex is never normal and definitely not something you should put up with (don’t believe anyone who says otherwise). If you’re struggling with dyspareunia, here are a few ways the pain can manifest:

  • In the vagina, urethra, or bladder
  • During penetration or during or after sexual intercourse
  • deep in the pelvis during intercourse
  • Painless after intercourse
  • Only with certain partners or conditions
  • With the use of tampons
  • With burning, itching, or pain
  • With a stabbing sensation similar to menstrual cramps

Tell your doctor about the specific type of pain you’re experiencing so they can help you identify the root cause.

What Causes Dyspareunia?

There are a number of different factors that can contribute to the recurrent feeling of pain during sex. We know that dyspareunia affects people with a vagina more often than people with a penis, and this is likely due to a combination of biological and social factors.

Common physical causes include:

  • Vaginal dryness during sex from hormonal changes (such as menopause, childbirth, and breastfeeding), new medications, or a lack of stimulation before or during intercourse.
  • Ulcers and fissures affect the skin and/or genitals (aggravated by vaginal dryness during intercourse) or infections such as yeast infections, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and bacterial vaginosis (BV).
  • Pelvic conditions that cause internal pain, such as endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), uterine fibroids, or cystitis.
  • Vaginismus is a condition in which the muscles of the vagina tighten on their own, making any insertion very painful and difficult.

Painful sex can also be caused by psychological and emotional factors that affect your sex drive or ability to be aroused.

Common psychological factors include:

  • Chronic stress leads to over-tense pelvic floor muscles.
  • Relationship problems that cause tension between you and your sexual partner.
  • Feelings of fear or shame about sex that may be linked to a history of trauma or abuse, or a cultural upbringing that enforces many sexual taboos.
  • Body image insecurity or dysphoria that makes you feel uncomfortable in your own body (this includes gender dysphoria, feeling that your body and/or genitals don’t match your gender identity).

The Best Treatment for Painful Sex or Dyspareunia

Treatment for dyspareunia often depends on treating the underlying cause of your pain. You can sign up for wispcare to talk about your symptoms with a doctor who can guide you through treatment options. If your doctor determines you have a vaginal infection, prescription antibiotics or antifungals will be the first step towards getting back to your health. Pain caused by psychological factors may be best addressed with speech therapy or a combination that targets the pelvic floor muscles, or with speech therapy and physical therapy.

If you’re experiencing vaginal dryness, lube can be a great tool in your treatment regimen! It reduces friction during any kind of sexual penetration, but there are many different types of lube out there. You’ll want to be sure to choose one with body-safe ingredients that won’t irritate your skin or lead to a vaginal infection. If you are recovering from an infection, lube can help facilitate a healthy and pleasurable rebound! Wisp has developed a silicone-based Harmonizing Lube that’s doctor-formulated to be hypoallergenic and gentle on sensitive skin — no need to wonder what to use for dryness during intercourse 😉 Use it for extra slip and comfort to make sex easier, more pleasurable, and more fun.


What’s the difference between dyspareunia and vaginal dryness?

Dyspareunia is an umbrella term for any type of recurring pain that happens during sex, including uncomfortable friction from vaginal dryness. Vaginal dryness can be addressed in the short term by using a sexual lubricant like wisp’s silicone-based Harmonizing Lube. You can also discuss your symptoms with your doctor to address the possible root causes of your dryness. Hormonal changes from menopause, childbirth, or breastfeeding, chronic stress, or new medications can all lead to a lack of arousal and dryness during sex.

Do STDs cause painful sex?

Certain STIs or STDs can cause sex to become painful, especially if they cause inflammation or damage the skin around your genitals. For instance, herpes sores can sting and be quite sensitive. Undiagnosed or untreated STIs can also progress and lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which causes inflammation and pain around the cervix and uterus. Painful sex can be a sign of PID even if you had no prior symptoms of an STI so it’s always a good idea to ask your doctor about it.

Why should I use lube?

There are lots of reasons why lube always helps—and never hurts—to have on hand. Lube help prevent injury and discomfort during sex, it reduces STI risk by reducing irritation, and it keeps things comfortable if you’re experiencing vaginal dryness from age or medical concern.

Why is Harmonizing Lube silicone-based?

Silicone-based lube is the gold standard when it comes to staying power and slickness. These qualities make it ideal for anal sex and shower sex, and silicone-based lubes are still safe for use with condoms. Although silicone is perfectly safe to use with your body, it doesn’t absorb so it can be a pain to clean up. You also shouldn’t use it with silicone sex toys — silicone dissolves silicone so silicone-based lubes will ruin your toys!

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