What Is Dyspareunia & How Is It Treated?

When you start experiencing pains during sexual contact, this becomes unpleasant. And if you don`t go to a doctor to solve the problem, in time it can get worse and you won`t only still experience pains, but you may also start being afraid of the physical approach of your partner or sex.

What Is Dyspareunia

Find out what are the symptoms and causes of dyspareunia, as well as what is the treatment of this condition.

What Is Dyspareunia?

Dyspareunia, more generally known as painful intercourse, manifests through the appearance of permanent or intermittent pain during sexual contact. Pain can often either be superficial, affecting the vulva as well as the vaginal opening, or deep in the pelvis. This medical condition can be experienced both during and after intercourse.

This medical issue can have a psychological or organic origin. In men, the diagnosis of dyspareunia is rare, and dyspareunia generally has physical causes.

There a few types of dyspareunia that can be distinguished:

  • Superficial dyspareunia: it occurs when penetration starts.
  • Deep dyspareunia: it translates through pain when penetration ends.
  • Primary dyspareunia: It happens even from the first sexual contact.
  • Secondary dyspareunia: It happens after some time during which the woman didn`t felt any pain while having sex and is usually the result of a psychological trauma.

Superficial dyspareunia is characterized by initial pain that appears at the onset of the penetration. Signs involve stinging, pain in the vulva or feelings of burn. The causes involve irritation, radiotherapy, insufficient lubrication, trauma or vaginal infections.

Deep pain occurs more frequently and can often be caused by PID, irritable bowel syndrome, ovarian cysts, pelvic tumors or urinary tract infections.

Around 15% of women experience painful sexual intercourse at a certain point in their lives; however, 1% or 2% of women really experience this medical condition. The incidence is a lot higher when it comes to women who have been the victims of rape or sexual abuse.

Regarding men, this condition is rare and in most cases involves physical causes.

Related: Are Laxatives Safe During Pregnancy?


The signs that define this condition is pain during sexual contact, which might happen either at the opening of the vagina or deep into the pelvis.

This pain might be localized and felt rather differently, or there might be a wider discomfort feeling.

Other signs may include senses of throbbing, aching, ripping or burning. The condition might also result in disinterest or dissatisfaction in sexual intercourse.


  • Pelvic inflammatory disease.
  • Endometriosis.
  • Genital or pelvic tumors.
  • Ovarian cysts.
  • Bartholin cysts.
  • Vaginal infections/irritations – fungal or bacterial infections, certain STDs, etc.
  • Vulvar cancer.
  • Urethritis.
  • Urinary tract infections.
  • Interstitial cystitis.
  • Vaginal dryness.
  • Insufficient vaginal lubrication.
  • Trauma after birth (postpartum).
  • Radiation Therapy.
  • Skin disorders.
  • Side effects of specific drugs.
  • Pelvic/genital lesions.
  • Allergies to clothing, condoms or contraceptive foams.
  • Painful pelvic examination.
  • Age-related signs associated with menopause and/or aging.
  • Trauma due to sexual assault.
  • Genital mutilation of women.

Relation between Dyspareunia and Vaginismus

There`re lots of causes of dyspareunia, and vaginismus represents one of them. Vaginismus represents a medical condition characterized by a tightness of the vaagina because of the pubococcygeus muscles. During penetration, vaginal tightness might lead to pain, sense of burning, discomfort, inability to penetrate or tightness.

Vaginismus is also related to all the other types of dyspareunia, meaning that any other form of dyspareunia might lead to vaginismus. In such situations, vaginismus becomes a rather complicating pain condition additionally to the initial pain issues and normally stays even after the initial issue is managed or resolved. Actually, a woman might confuse the ongoing issues of this condition with the initial pain issue, thinking that the initial problem has remained unsolved.

With any sort of sexual pain which is ongoing and may seem to have no cause, vaginismus would need to be seen as a feasible contributor or probably the main cause. – Click here!


An evaluation of dyspareunia generally consists of:

  • Medical history: The doctor might ask when the pain started, where it`s located, what sensations you have, and whether or not it happens on every sexual position and with every sexual partner. He might also ask about the medical and surgical history, as well as any previous birth experiences.

Don`t be shy when you have to answer these questions and answer honestly. Your answer will offer clues to what may have caused your pain.

  • Pelvic examination: During your pelvic examination, the doctor may check for any signs involving anatomical issues, skin irritation and infection. He might also attempt to find the location of the pain by gently applying pressure to your pelvic muscles or genitals.

A visual examination of the vagina with a speculum in order to separate your vaginal walls might also be done. Some women experiencing painful sexual contacts are often uncomfortable while performing a pelvic examination, regardless of the gentleness of the doctor. If you feel pain during this examination, you are allowed to stop it at any time. – More info!

  • Other types of tests: If the doctor might suspect specific causes of painful sexual contact, he may recommend an ultrasound as well.

Can Dyspareunia Be Prevented?

Depending on the cause of the condition, it might be prevented with treatment. For instance, if the problem is triggered by a lack of foreplay or vaginal dryness, you could very well prevent it by using sexual lubricant.


  • The doctor prescribes drugs to treat infections.
  • If your discomfort may be caused by spermicide, change the brand of the product or take into account another birth control method.
  • Pain during sexual contact because of an episiotomy usually subsides in time.
  • If you may be allergic to latex, talk to the doctor about other birth control methods as well as how to prevent diseases.
  • It may be recommended to perform a psychological evaluation if no underlying physical abnormalities can be found.
  • A lubricant based on water might aid ease friction or discomfort. Still, you should try and avoid lubricants based on oils, like petroleum jelly, as they dissolve the latex and might in fact cause infections.

What to Ask the Doctor?

  • Can tampon overuse cause this type of pain?
  • Can this pain be related to cervical or ovarian cancer?
  • Does birth cause this pain?
  • Could hormone replacement therapy aid vaginal dryness?
Image courtesy of netdoctor.co.uk

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