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Painful intercourse: Causes and prevention

Intercourse might feel painful to you if you feel deep or sharp pains or burning during sex. You could feel pain in your pelvis, or in your vagina or its surrounding areas.

What causes painful sex?

The cause of your pain does depend on when you experience it. You might not have enough lubrication during sex, which can happen if you’re taking certain medications, if you’re going through menopause, or if you’re not aroused enough when you and your partner start having intercourse. It could also be a result of conditions that affect the muscles of your vagina, as well as past surgeries, inflammations, or infections that might cause painful intercourse. Your mental health plays a role, too; if you’re dealing with things like stress, anxiety, or depression, you might not be able to get aroused and this can make sex hurt.


If you think lubrication might be the issue, definitely go out and buy a lubricant because this can make a huge difference for you and your partner. Try to incorporate more foreplay into sex, and if only certain positions hurt, you should these.

Of course, while pain during intercourse isn’t a serious medical emergency, if you’re experiencing recurrent pain during intercourse, you should definitely talk to your provider to determine what could be at play.

  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Painful intercourse (dyspareunia)” MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Jan 2015. Web.
  • “When Sex is Painful.” ACOG. FAQ020, May 2011 from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, May 2011. Web.
  • OBOS Sexuality & Relationships Contributors. “Pain During Intercourse or Penetration.” OurBodiesOurselves. Our Bodies Ourselves, Feb 2015. Web.
  • “When sex gives more pain than pleasure.” Harvard. Harvard University, May 2012. Web.

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