Sex should be pleasurable, so if you’re enduring painful intercourse (dyspareunia) it’s a sign something isn’t right. There are many reasons a woman might experience pain during sex, from psychological issues to physical problems.
Because there are so many possible causes of dyspareunia, it’s especially important to discuss your symptoms with a board-certified gynecologist. Your doctor can accurately diagnose and treat the underlying condition or refer you to the right specialist.
At Yakov Levy MD PC, with offices in Midtown East, Manhattan, and Forest Hills, Queens, New York, Dr. Levy and the team take your gynecological concerns seriously. We are dedicated to improving all aspects of your life — including your sex life! Here, we discuss what’s behind painful sex and what you can do about it.
Why is sex painful?
Most women — at least 75% — experience pain during intercourse at one time or another over the course of their lives. Vaginal dryness is the most common cause. But when painful sex becomes a long-term problem or it’s severe, you should assume something more is going on.
There isn’t just one factor that causes painful sex. Pain during intercourse can result from gynecologic problems, disease, infection, structural problems, issues with sexual response, low libido or arousal, or psychological concerns. Causes include but are not limited to:
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- Genital herpes
- Ovarian cysts
- Lichen sclerosus
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
Dr. Levy diagnoses the cause of painful sex after reviewing your medical history, conducting a physical exam, ordering imaging studies or blood work if necessary, and discussing your symptoms with you to better understand your pain.
For many women, sex becomes painful after hormonal changes, such as during menopause or after having a baby. Here’s a closer look at the link between estrogen and painful sex.
Estrogen and painful sex
The hormone estrogen helps keep your vaginal skin moist, thick, and elastic, which helps prevent sex from becoming painful. When the amount of estrogen produced in your ovaries changes, it can affect your vagina and sexual experience.
This is especially true for women going through or in menopause. During menopause, your estrogen production declines dramatically. Low estrogen levels can lead to vaginal dryness, thinning of the vaginal tissues, and reduced elasticity and tone.
The fragility, dryness, and laxity (loss of tightness) of your vaginal tissue and the loss of muscle tone that comes with menopause can make sexual intercourse painful. Women who are pregnant or nursing can also experience changes in their vagina due to related hormone changes.
Are there treatments for painful sex?
Yes! But the right treatment for painful sex depends on the root cause. Dr. Levy determines what’s behind the painful intercourse you’re experiencing so he can create a personalized approach. Some possible treatments include:
- Using water-based lubricants to address dryness
- Antibiotics to treat infections and STDs
- Antifungal medications for yeast infections
- Topical corticosteroids to address inflammation
- Hormone-based medications for low estrogen levels
- Vaginal revitalization treatments to improve vaginal tissue and muscle health
Dr. Levy may also recommend taking steps to prevent painful sex before engaging in intercourse, such as taking a warm bath to help you relax or seeing a specialist or therapist for ongoing emotional or psychological issues.
Contact the Yakov Levy MD PC office nearest you for help with painful sex, or schedule an appointment online now. We also offer telehealth consultations for your convenience.