What Can Cause Pain During Sex?

Reviewed on 6/9/2021
causes of pain during sex
Dyspareunia (painful intercourse) in women can be caused by physical or emotional problems

Sex can be passionate, enjoyable, and a great way to connect with your partner. But when sex is painful, you may find yourself avoiding it by whatever means possible.

While it can happen for both men and women, pain during sex is more common among women. Many women have found intercourse to be painful at some point in their lives, and insufficient vaginal lubrication is often the cause. Pain may be resolved if the woman is more relaxed, foreplay is increased, or a lubricant is used.

What are the physical causes of pain during sex?

In some cases, a woman may experience pain during sex due to the following medical reasons:


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What are the emotional causes of painful intercourse?

Painful intercourse may also be caused by problems with sexual response:

  • Negative feelings about sex, such as fear, guilt, shame, embarrassment, or awkwardness, may make it difficult to relax the vaginal muscles.
  • Intimacy issues between sexual partners may interfere with sexual response.
  • Many medications, including birth control methods, can lessen sex drive.
  • Medical conditions, such as arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and thyroid problems, can indirectly affect sexual response.

Painful sex may also be caused by emotions:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Concerns about physical appearance
  • Fear of intimacy or relationship problems
  • Stress
  • History of sexual abuse

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WebMD. Painful Sex in Women (Dyspareunia). https://www.webmd.com/sexual-conditions/guide/female-pain-during-sex

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. When Sex Is Painful. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/when-sex-is-painful

Mayo Clinic. Painful intercourse (Dyspareunia). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/painful-intercourse/symptoms-causes/syc-20375967

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