Dyspareunia—Female

(Painful Sexual Intercourse)

How to Say It: dis-par-oon-ya

Definition

Dyspareunia is repeated or lasting pain with sexual activity.

Causes

Some causes are:

Risk Factors

The risk of this problem is higher in women after menopause. The risk is also higher in women who have any of the causes listed above.

Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Taking medicines that result in vaginal dryness
  • Prior vaginal surgery

Symptoms

A person who has pain during sex may feel:

  • Pain during any or all phases of sexual contact
  • Stabbing or aching pain
  • Itching and burning

Pain may also be felt when placing a tampon.

Female Reproductive System

Nucleus fact sheet image
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked about your sexual history. A pelvic exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.

Other tests may be done to look for a cause.

Treatment

The cause will need to be treated. Some choices are:

  • Lubricants or estrogen to ease pain and dryness
  • Stopping or changing medicines that are causing problems
  • Mental health therapy

Prevention

The risk of this problem may be lowered by managing chronic health problems, such as endometriosis.

RESOURCES:

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
http://www.acog.org
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://familydoctor.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The Canadian Women's Health Network
http://www.cwhn.ca
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
http://www.sogc.org

References:

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Practice Bulletin 119 on female sexual dysfunction can be found in Obstet Gynecol 2011 Apr;117(4):996-1007.
Female sexual dysfunction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/female-sexual-dysfunction. Accessed February 2, 2021.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG
Last Updated: 02/25/2021

EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at healthlibrarysupport@ebsco.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.