What should I do when sex is painful?

Unfortunately, painful sex for women is normalised. A 2015 study found that around 30% of women experience pain during penetrative sex and that they very often hide it from partners, peers, and doctors.

Let’s make it clear: should sex be painful? No. Should we keep it quiet when sex is painful? Also, big NO.


When sex is painful: possible reasons and how to deal

It is not “normal” when sex is painful. Sex should not cause pain. With the exception of, maybe, the first time a woman has sex, where there can be light and short-term pain due to the rupture of the hymen, if sex hurts, then you should look for help.


What are the causes behind painful sex?

The technical term for when sex is painful is dyspareunia. This should not be confused with When sex is painful, you should take it as an indication that something is not right. Even if it is just a “little pain”.

There are many possible reasons behind situations when sex is painful, some very easy to fix, some others, a bit more complicated. Take a look:

  • Lack of lubrication: some women don’t lubricate enough, and this will most definitely cause some pain during sex. The best solution is a water-based lubricant.
  • Lack of arousal: some women are not properly aroused when sex is painful, which can cause the muscles to contract or the vagina to not lubricate enough. This can happen because you and your partner either skip or don’t pay enough attention to foreplay, or because you don’t really feel like having sex. Always make sure you want it to happen, you should never have sex if you don’t want or aren’t “in the mood”. Your pleasure is important.
  • Menopause: which can cause some dryness in the vagina.
  • Genital irritation: this can be caused by a reaction to condoms, latex, lubricants, intimate soaps, menstrual products, or spermicides.
  • Genital infections: such as candida (thrush) or bacterial vaginosis -what’s the difference? -, chlamydia, gonorrhoea, or genital herpes.
  • Vaginismus: a condition where the muscles of the vagina contract very tightly making penetration very painful or even impossible.
  • Endometriosis:this is a serious and painful condition affecting women. Learn more about it here.
  • Cervix, uterus, and ovaries conditions:some problems in the uterus, cervix, or ovaries, like cysts or fibroids, can cause some pain as well.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease:an infection most often caused by sexually transmitted bacteria spreading from your vagina to your uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries. The symptoms include pelvic pain, pain during intercourse, abnormal discharge and odour, and bleeding.
  • Anxiety, trauma, or other psychological reasons:oftentimes, a woman’s relation to sex and sexuality can be unhealthy because of mainly cultural, religious, and societal pressures. Feeling anxiety towards sex can play a huge role when sex is painful, the same with shame, fear, or self-image issues.

Do you know what does a healthy vagina smell like?


What can you do when sex is painful?

The first thing to do when sex is painful is to acknowledge it shouldn’t be. That being said, you need to try and understand what is going on. Is it physical or psychological? Does it stem from the relationship? Is there something making you uncomfortable? Does it hurt only with penetration, or does it happen also with tampons, fingers, etc?

It is important to not feel ashamed and to communicate openly with your partner, with your support system, and with medical professionals. It is more common than you think, and there are more solutions, treatments, and therapies than you could imagine. There is hope!

What you should absolutely NOT do when sex is painful is ignore it in hopes it goes away. Women have suffered in silence for way too long, and women sexuality has been heavily disregarded for centuries. But now this is changing and there are many useful resources and help available for women (and men!).

Also, taking care of your vagina is always a good start. See how non-organic menstrual products might be affecting your health. And be sure to take a look at Clementine’s offer of organic and environmentally friendly menstrual products – now with the addition of the Clementine menstrual cup!


Doctors or therapists?

As a good rule of thumb, we would say both. When sex is painful, there are both medical conditions and psychological reasons that could be causing or worsening the pain.

So, it is wise to look for help with a gynaecologist, with a pelvic therapist – a physiotherapist specialised in the pelvic area – and with a therapist, maybe a sexologist even.

If you worry bout your first gynaecologist visit, check this guide. A pelvic therapist will most likely give you some pelvic exercises to work your pelvic muscles.

Have you ever been in this position? Let us know what worked for you.


Take good care. Of your vagina. Of yourself. Of our planet.

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May 05, 2022—753_pdf



May 03, 2022

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