Experiencing some pain or discomfort during sex is fairly common. However, there are treatments available and you can seek help. If you find that sex is often painful, you should visit your doctor to check there are no underlying causes.
Painful sex falls in to two categories: deep pain and superficial pain.
Deep pain is when you feel pain deep inside you, such as when your partner thrusts, or when the penis or sex aid or toy is fully inside you.
Common causes of deep pain include:
- endometriosis – a condition where cells that line the uterus (womb) grow in other parts of the body
- pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) – a condition where the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries may become inflamed
- fibroids – growths in the womb
- ectopic pregnancy – where the foetus grows outside of the womb
- recent childbirth
- sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea
- constipation or irritable bowel syndrome
- having a partner with a large penis
- having a dry vagina.
Superficial pain is when you feel pain before the penis or sex toy has fully entered in to your vagina. For example, at the entrance of your vagina rather than deep inside.
Common causes of superficial pain include:
- a skin condition like eczema
- injury to part of your vagina
- a foreign body being inside the vagina
- having a dry vagina often during menopause or after childbirth
- STI’s such as genital herpes.
Vaginismus is a condition that causes the muscles around the vagina to tighten by themselves. It usually occurs when the genital area is touched. This can be before or during sexual intercourse, when attempting to insert a tampon, or during a gynaecological examination, for example.
Do not have sex if it is painful. Go to see a doctor you can talk to openly. Often it can take a while for the problems that cause painful sex to go away. Still having sex while it’s painful may delay your recovery.
Not sure what to do next?
If you are still concerned about painful sex, check your symptoms with healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
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Last reviewed: October 2017