of sexual arousal
is by far the most common cause of painful intercourse. When a women's
body is ready for sex, the vagina expands both lengthways and widthways.
this is happening, your vagina becomes moist and lubricated to
avoid any friction. The vagina wasn't designed to be penetrated
in its unaroused state.
you're sure you're fully aroused but still experiencing pain,
check with your GP that you aren't suffering from an underlying
The pain cycle
The problem with pain is that it blocks sexual arousal. And,
of course, lack of arousal causes further pain.
women find that they're caught up in a pain cycle - having experienced
painful intercourse before, they fear more pain. The fear of pain
blocks arousal, the lack of arousal causes more pain and so the
* Relax. This is the most important thing you can do. Have a bath,
use deep-breathing techniques or buy a relaxation tape from your
local health shop.
* Work on relationship issues. You need to be sure that your head
and heart are in the mood for sex as well as your body. If you're
unhappy about something with your partner then sort it out first.
* Exercise your pelvic floor. This will increase the blood flow
to your genital area and make you more conscious of any sensations
of physical arousal.
* Try using fantasy. Get yourself in the mood by slipping into
a favourite fantasy.
* Enjoy being sensual before you're sexual. Take your time and
let your body really focus on the pleasurable sensations of touch.
* Lubricate. It's hard to stimulate a dry clitoris. Use lubrication
to speed up the process; keep a tube by the bed.
* Stimulate your sympathetic nervous system. Exercise, watch a
scary movie, go on a roller coaster - in fact, do anything that
will speed up your heart rate. Research suggests that your body
will be more sexually responsive 15 to 30 minutes later.
Check with your GP
Don't worry if none of the self-help techniques work for you.
It's likely that whatever is causing the pain is treatable once
appropriate help has been found. You might want to ask your GP
for advice or see a psychosexual therapist.
you've been suffering from painful intercourse for a while, it's
essential to check that you're not suffering from an underlying
condition. Your GP will probably ask you some of the following:
* Is the pain just around the outside of your vagina or is it
* Is the pain to one side or both?
* Do you have any back pain?
* How would you describe the pain? Is it a deep ache, or sore
and burning, or sharp and stabbing?
* Do you only feel the pain during intercourse or does the pain
* Does it vary at different times of the month or in different
If the pain is in your lower abdomen or to one side, you should
see your GP to rule out any gynaecological disorder eg endometriosis,
prolapse, ovarian cysts, fibroids and pelvic
possible cause is uterine retroversion, a natural condition where
the womb tilts towards the back of the pelvis. In all these conditions,
you may find that a different position, where thrusting is not
so deep, is more comfortable.
you experience ongoing vulval discomfort then you should check
with your GP to see whether you're experiencing vulvodynia or
vulval vestibulitus. You can get more information on these conditions
from the Vulval Pain Society
* Childbirth. It's quite common for women to suffer some discomfort
after childbirth, particularly if there was an episiotomy - a
cut to make delivery easier.
* The menopause. Intercourse may be more painful during the menopause
as lower oestrogen levels cause a thinning of the vaginal wall.
Ask your GP or local menopause clinic about oestrogen cream, which
usually resolves the problem quite quickly.
* Urinary infections. Cystitis or vaginal irritations such as
thrush, vaginitis, and genital warts are also likely to cause
soreness. Once the underlying condition has been diagnosed, a
course of treatment should solve the problem.
* Sensitivity to condoms. You may be irritated by certain makes
of condoms, contraceptive creams or lubricants. Experiment with