9 Things That Might Be Causing You Pain During Sex

Sex is something that, no matter what it may be to you–awkward, interesting, illegal–is not supposed to be especially painful. But, for a lot of people, it is. Pain during sex (which is also called “dyspareunia”), despite not being something that a lot of people tend to talk about, is relatively common. About 30 percent of women feel some sort of pain when they’re having sex, which, while clearly not in the majority, definitely adds up to enough affected people to be a cause of concern for many.

This, by the way, is not always a bad thing. Pain is never a great thing to feel, like, at any time, feeling some sort of pain or discomfort during sex can be caused by a number of reasons. Some of which are cause for minor concern and maintenance, and others…not so much. So, check out these things that could be causing you pain during sex:

You're Starting Too Soon

This might seem like a "duh" to some people, but you really need some time to get fully aroused before you jump straight into full-on intercourse. This helps increase the bloodflow to your genital area, which then helps your natural lubrication--which, if you're trying to put something in there, is pretty necessary. So, if your partner wants to put it in right away, make sure you tell them to slow down. It's not a weird thing to say at all (and, if they say it is, they might not be someone you want to be having sex with anyway) and it'll make the experience much better for both of you if you're both enjoying it.

Image source: iStock

You Haven't Had Sex Yet (Or Haven't Had Sex In A Long Time)

This is another potential "duh." But sex can hurt during your first time, particularly if you have a thicker hymen (the membrane that covers the vaginal opening). This isn't always the case, obviously, and your first time having sex isn't guaranteed to be super painful and bloody, but it's normal to feel a twinge or uncomfortable amount of pressure during your first time having sex. It's also normal to feel discomfort if you haven't had sex in a while--it takes time to get back into the groove of sex if it's been a few months (or years), but you'll get used to it if you spend time on foreplay.

Image source: iStock

You're Allergic To Your Sex Products

If you're feeling an itchy, burning sensation during sex, don't immediately panic--it could just be the condoms or lube you're using. A lot of people are straight-up allergic to latex, first of all, which most drugstore-variety condoms are made out of. Latex can also affect your vagina's pH, leading to discomfort during and after sex, even if you aren't allergic to it. If you find that to be the case, you can try out polyutherane condoms, which are just as effective as latex condoms for preventing pregnancy. Some sex products also have chemicals in them that can irritate the skin. If you have sensitive skin, try and opt for all-natural lube and condoms (I like this brand)--it might cost you a little bit more, but it's definitely worth it if it means you won't break out in hives every time you have sex.

Vaginal Infection 

A burning, itching sensation that comes on during sex and lasts long after could be a sign of some sort of infection, too. You'll need to see a doctor for an official diagnosis, obviously, but if you feel pain during sex that's so bad you have to stop right away, this could be a sign of anything from a yeast infection to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease to an STI. Either way, this kind of pain is a good reason to go and see a doctor.

Image source: iStock

Mismatched-Sized Organs 

Not to be indelicate here, but if your partner is more well-endowed than you're used to (or using larger sex toys than you usually use), you'll most likely feel some discomfort. This isn't the end of the world, though! If the sex toy's the issue, all you need to do is opt for a smaller version. And if it's your partner's body, you can try out some simpler positions that allow either shallower penetration (like missionary) or more control on your end (like you being on top). You also need to make sure you slow down--this gives your vagina more time to adjust to whatever is in it and make the whole experience more pleasurable for you.

Image source: iStock

You're Drunk

There are a lot of good reasons not to have sex when you're intoxicated (your judgment is impaired and it's harder to give consent), but, if you need a reason that you'll feel on a skin-deep level, know that sex might not be quite as comfortable as it could be if you've been drinking. Alcohol dehydrates your body, which means that it's harder for your vagina to produce lubrication. It can also make sex last longer, since your body might feel desensitized and both parties require more stimulation to achieve an orgasm. This sounds great, obviously, but that much friction can get painful after a while.

Image source: iStock


 Vaginismus is a complex--though relatively common--condition that can be a major cause of pain during sex. Basically, what it entails is involuntary spasms of the vaginal wall that can make the act of having sex feel like a tearing sensation or hitting an immovable barrier. It's generally linked to anxiety about having sex, and can be a direct consequence of sexual trauma or assault. If you feel like this is something that's been happening to you, it's nothing to be ashamed of, and it also doesn't mean that you'll never able to enjoy sex. Treating vaginismus is complex, but it can be done through a combination of medication and physical therapy.

Image source: iStock


If you feel intense throbbing and cramping during sex, this could be a sign of endometriosis, a relatively common condition in which the tissues that line the uterus grow in other areas around the body. In addition to pain during sex, it can also lead to heavy, painful periods. Like Vaginismus, this is complex condition, but it can be treated through hormone therapy, pain relievers, and sometimes surgery.

Image source: iStock

You Got A Bad Bikini Wax

Got a bikini wax right before hanging out with bae? This is great, except for, well, when you get a bad bikini wax. This can lead to ingrown hairs and pimples around the vagina, which can make the friction that happens naturally during sex fairly unpleasant. If this happens to you, the best thing to do is invest in a good, soothing bikini area lotion and wait for your skin to heal.

Image source: iStock

Do you ever feel pain during sex? Do you have any tips for dealing with it? Let us know in the comments!

You can reach the author, Sara Hendricks, on Twitter and Instagram.

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