Why Does Sex Hurt Sometimes?

When I first had sex, I assumed it would be like it is in the movies where women always hang from the chandeliers, blissfully orgasmic and filled with pleasure. Certainly, sex can be just like that. But often itís not. Not only do some women have trouble achieving orgasm, especially from intercourse alone, but many also experience searing pain.

My first sexual encounter hurt like the dickens and didnít let up for a decade. Sex hurt so much that every time my husbandís penis came close, my body clammed up, as if to say, ďNo way in hell is that thing coming anywhere near me.Ē Fortunately, things got better and Iím now enjoying a rocking sex life with my honey, but I know Iím not alone in having suffered from painful sex.

As both an OB/GYN and survivor of†vulvar vestibulitis (inflammation of the glands that line the entrance to the vagina), I thought Iíd put together a few FAQís to help you out, in case you or anyone you know suffers from painful sex.

FAQ’s About Painful Sex

What are some less serious, common causes of vaginal pain during intercourse?

If youíre trying to have intercourse when youíre not aroused, lack of lubrication can cause friction and lead to pain. Even if you are aroused, decreased lubrication caused by hormonal deficiencies (such as†atrophic vaginitis, which can occur when estrogen levels are low after menopause or while breastfeeding) can lead to pain.

Other common causes of pain during intercourse include gynecologic conditions such asvulvar vestibulitis (inflammation of the vestibular glands at the vaginal opening),vaginismus (involuntary contractions of the vaginal muscles that may make intercourse painful — or even impossible), and†vulvodynia (non-specific vulvar pain, which is often experienced as an intense burning feeling).

How do you know if pain during sex signals something seriously wrong?

If youíve never had pain before, and all of a sudden sex hurts, itís a good idea to get checked out by a doctor. New onset of pain can signal a sexually transmitted disease (like gonorrhea or chlamydia), endometriosis, an ovarian cyst, a bladder condition like interstitial cystitis, scar tissue, or in very rare cases — a cancer.

Other medical conditions that can cause pain include vaginal dryness resulting from menopause or breastfeeding (atrophic vaginitis) or vulvar pain disorders such as vulvar vestibulitis, vulvodynia, and vaginismus. While these are not health-threatening, I speak from personal experience when I say that theyíre definitely happiness-threatening and should be investigated.

What can women do to prevent/lessen the pain if sex hurts?

Inadequate lubrication can be remedied with sexual lubricants, such as Astroglide or KY Jelly. (My personal fave is the all-natural option — coconut oil. But donít blame me if youíre jonesing for a post-coital macaroon! Keep in mind that coconut oil can break down condoms so only use it if youíre in a committed monogamous relationship.)

If you lack lubrication because of hormonal reasons, when used properly, vaginal estrogen is life-saving and safe — but youíll need a prescription, so talk to your gynecologist. My personal fave is the bioidentical vaginal estrogen called†estriol which is very safe and preferentially improves vaginal health without some of the downsides of the more commonestradiol.

If you suspect that you might be suffering from other conditions, such as vulvar vestibulitis, vaginismus, or vulvodynia, see your doctor. These conditions can be treated with things like Xylocaine jelly, antihistamines, vaginal dilators, pelvic physical therapy, and other options. Just remember, nobody should have to suffer during sex. Itís supposed to be fun!

What can their significant others do to lessen the pain?

Make sure sheís adequately aroused before intercourse is attempted. Go down on her first! Then let the woman be in charge of penetration. Go slow. Let her try being on top so she can control the pace and depth of thrusting.

What are some non-medical steps that can be taken to prevent/soothe the pain?

1.†††† Use synthetic or natural lubricants to reduce friction
2.†††† Take sitz baths to relieve discomfort after sex
3.†††† Try different sexual positions to find the positions that are the most comfortable
4.†††† Focus on other non-intercourse types of sexual activities — like oral sex — which donít cause pain, at least until you can see a doctor and figure out why intercourse is hurting

What level of pain should prompt a visit to the gynecologist?

In my opinion, any recurring pain during sex should be investigated by a gynecologist. That doesnít necessarily mean anything is wrong, but itís clearly not as right as it should be. Sex is not supposed to hurt, and thereís almost always a way to improve things. So donít be afraid to ask for help!

Have you ever had pain with intercourse? Do you have pain now? What helps you?

Rooting for happy, healthy, pain-free sex,


Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of†OwningPink.com,†Pink Medicine Woman coach, motivational speaker, and author of†Whatís Up Down There? Questions Youíd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.

Learn more about†Lissa Rankin here.



Nicole Heindryckx
Nicole H13 days ago

Fully agree with a lot of you that the first time is NOT at all like in the movies. Pleasure, fun and a heavenly feeling. Forget about it. Even if your partner is very patient with you, and is gentle and going very easy, bit by bit, for a young girl or woman, it is a sour experience. What you have to do then, is talk with your partner. Say what you feel nice, what you don't like, and what is painful. And then you can go further and trying out different positions, even a special gel or creme to make the entrance less dry and irritating. And if all that does not help, go and see a specialized doctor instead of having sex for decades with pain during and after the penetration. We should not be ashamed if things do not work out 100 % well, and nowadays there are lot of products you can use, and a good talk with a specialist togetther with your partner can change your life.

Nicole Heindryckx
Nicole H13 days ago

Very good and interesting article. Indeed, many women suffer pain each time they have sex, and whilst we go to a gynecologist quicker than 20/30 years ago, there still are women who think that pain is part of the "game" and they just have to accept it. I hope a lot of young people will also read this article, because one do not learn to have good and agreeable sex by watching stupid sex movies. So, I really hope many women will now make an appointment with their doctor, and try to find out what is the cause of the pain. No marriage will last for ever when the husband has a "normal, regular" sex appetite, and his spouse is frightened to death each time he comes near her.

Carl R
Carl R19 days ago


Peggy B
Peggy B23 days ago

Good article for some.

Aldana W
Aldana W24 days ago


Olga Nycz-Shirley

Good informative article. Thanks.

Sherry K
Sherry Kohnabout a month ago

Many thanks to you !

Elaine W
Elaine Wabout a month ago


Veronica D.
Veronica Dabout a month ago


Veronica D.
Veronica Dabout a month ago