Lots of people experience pain at some time in their sexual lives. For women, lack of lubrication, difficulties with penetration and gynecological issues can all contribute to sex feeling anything from just uncomfortable through to seriously painful.
Pain anywhere should always be checked out by your GP as well as any unexpected bleeding or discharge. No one should put up with painful sex and there’s a lot that can be done to help. Problems with lubrication are often easily remedied and making sure that you understand each other’s sexual needs can help with arousal and penetration.
Problems with penetration
For some women, penetration alone or with a partner can be a really difficult and sometimes impossible experience. This is often called ‘vaginismus’ and occurs when the muscles around the entrance to the vagina involuntarily contract. This is different to when a woman may not be fully aroused prior to penetration and as a result finds it sore or otherwise painful. Occasionally, it’s a problem right from the start and for others it’s one that develops, even though there may have been earlier positive sexual experiences. Childbirth, trauma, invasive gynecological procedures can all contribute to pain and/or difficulties with penetration as well as feeling anxious, tired or unsure about a partner or a relationship.
Similarly for men, difficulties with being penetrated can be the result of anything from feeling generally stressed right through to trauma, surgery and illness. For men and women, such problems may respond well to relaxation, using lube and taking time alone or with a partner to find out what feels OK and comfortable. But if you feel need more help, it might be an idea to speak with a sex therapist about tasks and techniques that can help you to manage pain or discomfort or difficulties with penetration. In many cases, sex therapy may significantly reduce the problems or eradicate them all together.
Painful erections or painful testicles during masturbation or sex with a partner should always be checked out by your GP. Always seek help if you notice any changes in your testicles or experience any discharge or bleeding from your penis.
Once you’ve been able to rule out any organic problems, talking through with a partner and trying out different ways of satisfying yourself and them (which may not be about penetration at all) can help reduce anxiety and help things to feel more relaxed.