There’s a medical reason why it hurts. By Dawn Chen
Painful sex can lead to breakdowns in relationships. Photo: Iurii Sokolov / www.123rf.com
While most women probably look forward to an intimate night their partners, there are a handful who frequently dread it. For approximately one in 10 women, sex is actually consistently painful. This is according to findings published in the British Journal Of Obstetrics And Gynaecology. In the study, nearly 7,000 sexually active women (aged 16-74 years old) were surveyed. While researchers recognise that it is a prevalent problem, cases of painful sex are often under-reported as most women do not seek help for the condition.
There are several causes of painful sex, which is medically known as dyspareunia. Some common causes include skin conditions, urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted infections, vaginismus (involuntary tightening of muscles around the vagina) and endometriosis (which causes pelvic pain). Beyond physical problems, intercourse can also be painful due to a lack of desire and arousal, or strain within the relationship.
Often, women who reported painful sex also found it harder to enjoy intimacy with their partners. They were:
- Four times more likely to lack enjoyment in sex
- Two times more likely to have difficulty reaching climax
- Three times more likely to experience no excitement or arousal during sex
- Five times more likely to feel anxious during sex
- Four times more likely to avoid sex because of sexual difficulties
- Three times more likely to feel distressed or worried about sex life
In the study, the proportion of women reporting painful sex was highest in young women (16-24 years) and those in later mid-life (55-64 years). Pain was also commonly associated with vaginal dryness.
Unsurprisingly, sexual problems also lead to unhappiness between couples, where findings from a previous study showed that one in four men and women do not share the same level of interest in sex as their partner.
If you can identify with painful sex, don’t feel embarrassed or resigned – there are solutions to the problem. Speak to your gynaecologist to find out what the underlying condition is so that you don’t suffer in silence anymore!