8 Causes Of Painful Intercourse

Has the fun and excitement of intimacy been stripped from you due to discomfort and shame? If you are experiencing painful sex, don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to ACOG, pain during intercourse is very common—nearly 3 out of 4 women have pain during intercourse at some time during their lives. Occasional minor soreness is nothing to be concerned about, but chronic painful intercourse is worth discussing with your doctor. 

What Can Cause Painful Intercourse?

Some health issues can cause painful intercourse, like endometriosis, vaginal infections, and sexually transmitted diseases. Others — like vaginal dryness and irritation — can make sex uncomfortable. Understanding what might be causing your pain can help you get the treatment you need to improve your sex life. At Kernodle OB/GYN, we prioritize sexual education and health. Here are 8 causes of painful intercourse.

#1: Lack Of Lubrication

One of the most common causes of painful intercourse is lack of lubrication. This may result from a lack of foreplay, or some women’s vaginas are naturally “under-producers.” To get things started, lube is a great option. Make sure you browse carefully and choose one that won’t disrupt your vagina’s natural pH balance.     

#2: Injury Or Irritation

Injury or irritation to the vagina or vulva can cause painful intercourse. These injuries may include a cut from shaving, a tear from childbirth, or vaginitis, an inflammation of the vagina that can cause discharge, itching, and pain. 

#3: Vaginismus

Vaginismus is the squeezing or spasming of your vagina when something enters it, such as a penis, tampon, or even when a woman is touched near the vaginal area. These contractions are involuntary, meaning women can not control them. According to WebMD, Vaginismus is often described as a burning sensation, or like the penis is “hitting a wall.” Treatment includes progressive desensitization, including kegel exercises.    

#4: Vaginal Atrophy

Most common in women during menopause, vaginal atrophy is the thinning, drying, and inflammation of the vaginal walls. This often is due to your body producing less estrogen, but it can also happen during breastfeeding or while taking certain medications. For many women, this condition causes painful intercourse and other accompanying symptoms, including burning and frequent urination.

#5: Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a disorder in which tissue similar to the lining of your uterus grows outside your uterine cavity. It can grow in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, vagina, peritoneum, or intestine. If the endometriosis is behind the vagina in your uterus, it often causes pain during sex. Try using plenty of lubrication and practicing slow and gentle penetration to mitigate this pain. 

#6: Psychological Factors

Painful intercourse isn’t always caused by physical health problems. Emotional factors 

can lead to higher levels of cortisol, impacting your sex drive. Anxiety, depression, fear of intimacy, and low self-confidence about your physical appearance can lead to discomfort, shame or pain during sex. 

#7: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an intestinal disorder that can cause constipation, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and bloating. An additional unpleasant symptom of IBS is painful intercourse due to these GI symptoms. According to aboutibs.org, approximately 32% of women with IBS report concerns related to sexual functioning.

#8: Pregnancy

Your belly growing is not the only thing that changes during pregnancy. A few reasons sex may be painful during pregnancy, often during the first trimester, include:

  • Hormonal changes causing your vagina to be dry
  • Added pressure on your bladder
  • An infection
  • Your breasts/ nipples are tender and sore


If you are experiencing painful intercourse during pregnancy, you should always speak with your doctor or OB/GYN.

Looking to find out more regarding painful intercourse? We provide full-scope individualized women’s health care, including gynecological care, midwifery services, and low- and high-risk maternity care for women and their families. Contact Kernodle OB/GYN for more information. You can reach us online or at (336) 538- 2367.

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