It Shouldn’t Hurt When You Have Sex

It Shouldn’t Hurt When You Have Sex

Pain during sex affects three out of four women (75%) during their lifetime. But this challenging and highly distressing problem isn’t limited to women. Between 1%-5% of men also experience painful sex.

Surprised to learn painful intercourse affects so many people? Few people realize it’s a common problem because no one talks about it. Many don’t tell their partner or share with friends. And most don’t even mention it to their doctor unless the pain is severe.

Talking about painful intercourse is hard, but you may find it easier to take that step if you view it as a real health problem. Pain is always a message telling you something is wrong with your body. And you shouldn’t put off seeking help because the causes of painful sex are treatable.

David Leszkowitz, DO, and the caring team at White Lake Family Medicine specialize in men’s and women’s health care, which includes helping them with painful sex. Here’s what you need to know about its many possible causes.

Varied symptoms associated with painful sex

Painful sex, called dyspareunia in medical terms, refers to pain before, during, and after intercourse. That means you could suffer during sex but feel fine afterward, or you may have enjoyable sex and struggle with pain for hours after intercourse.

In addition to pain in their vagina and external genitalia, women may experience a range of symptoms, including:

Men often feel pain in their penis but can also have generalized pelvic pain.

Causes of painful sex in women

The top causes of dyspareunia in women include:


Vaginitis is an inflamed or infected vagina. Bacterial and yeast infections often cause vaginitis, but the problem could develop for many reasons. You could have vaginal irritation or an allergic reaction to spermicides, latex condoms, sexual lubricants, feminine products, and detergents.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

STIs such as chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis cause painful vaginal irritation and swelling.

Vaginal dryness

Women of all ages may experience vaginal dryness if estrogen levels drop but likely face this problem after menopause.

The loss of estrogen at menopause changes the vaginal lining, making it thin, fragile, and dry. This condition, called vaginal atrophy, affects nearly half of postmenopausal women and causes painful sex.


Vaginismus occurs when the muscles in or around your vagina tighten or spasm, making sex painful. This condition prevents some women from having sex.


Vulvodynia causes mild to severe pain, burning, itching, and stinging in your vulva (the structures that make up your external genitalia). The pain may come and go, be constant, or start when the vulva gets touched, whether during sex, or while walking or sitting.

Other gynecologic conditions

In addition to the conditions already listed, many gynecologic problems cause pain during sex. A few of the most common include endometriosis, ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), large uterine fibroids, and skin disorders affecting the genitalia.

Causes of painful sex in men

Peyronie’s disease (penile curvature) is the top cause of painful sex in men. Diagnosed in one in 100 men, experts believe as many as one in 10 struggle with this condition.

Peyronie’s disease occurs when scar tissue or plaque inside the penis causes it to curve during an erection. Beyond causing painful intercourse, Peyronie’s may make it hard (or impossible) to have sex.

Other causes of painful sex in men include: 

Contact dermatitis is a skin irritation that can affect a man’s penis after having contact with latex condoms, spermicides, and detergents.

Do not wait to seek help

No one should ever put up with painful sex. We can identify the cause and provide treatment, or in some cases, refer you to a gynecologist or other specialist if needed.

Call White Lake Family Medicine or use online booking today to get expert women’s and men’s health care.

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