(Painful Sexual Intercourse)
Dyspareunia is repeated or lasting pain with sexual activity.
Some causes are:
- Hormonal changes from giving birth or from menopause
- Infections, such as vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections
- Atrophic vaginitis—when vaginal tissues become thin, dry, and inflamed
- Endometriosis —when tissue that lines in the inside of the uterus grows outside of it
- Herpes or genital warts
- Pelvic inflammatory disease —severe infection of the female pelvic organs
- Past trauma, such as sexual abuse
- Mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety
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
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.
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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.
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
The risk of this problem may be lowered by managing chronic health problems, such as endometriosis.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
The Canadian Women's Health Network
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
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: 2/25/2021