Health Library Home>Disease, Condition, & Injury Fact Sheets>Article


(Painful Sexual Intercourse)


Dyspareunia is repeated or lasting pain with sexual activity.


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


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.


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: Accessed February 2, 2021.

Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG  Last Updated: 02/25/2021