Women's Sexual Health Clinic

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Painful Sex in Women

Pain during intercourse affects many women at various times in their lives. Painful sex can cause negative emotional effects for either partner and often leads to problems in a couple’s sexual relationship; therefore, it should be addressed as soon as it’s experienced.

The medical term for painful sex is dyspareunia and is characterized as recurrent or persistent genital pain that happens just before, during the course of or following the act of intercourse.

What Causes Painful Sex in Women?

Many times, painful sex is caused by insufficient vaginal lubrication. Common causes of vaginal dryness include medications (typically those that hinder sexual arousal including antidepressants, sedatives, certain birth control pills, antihistamines and blood pressure medications) and low estrogen levels related to menopause (natural, surgical or induced), childbirth and breastfeeding.

There are many other possible causes of painful sex including:

  • Vaginal infections are common, especially yeast infections
  • Endometriosis, caused when the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus, attaching to and irritating organs in the abdomen
  • Scar tissue, or adhesions, from previous surgeries or infections
  • Problems with the cervix, including infections
  • Problems with the uterus, such as fibroids (benign growths in the wall of the uterus)
  • Problems with the ovaries, such as cysts (fluid-filled sacs)
  • Adenomyosis caused when endometrial tissue grows into the walls of the uterus
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Irritation, trauma or surgery, including an episiotomy or tear during childbirth
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Intercourse too soon following childbirth or surgery
  • Vaginismus (painful vaginal muscle spasms)
  • Infections, inflammation or skin disorders of the pelvis, vagina or vulva
  • Stress, causing a tightening of pelvic floor muscles which can lead to pain
  • Psychological issues, such as anxiety, depression or fear of intimacy
  • Congenital abnormality
  • Medical treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation
  • History of sexual abuse

When to Speak to a Doctor

If you have persistent or recurrent pain during sex, the Henry Ford Health System Women’s Sexual Health Clinic, located in metro Detroit, is ready to help. After a careful examination, one of our specialists will discuss the cause(s) of your pain and work with you to find the treatment option to best address the issue.

Our treatment options vary — from medications to help endometriosis to laparoscopic procedures to remove scar tissue or cysts to surgery to repair damage or correct a congenital abnormality. An open discussion with one of our female specialists is the first step to eliminating pain during sexual intercourse. Treating painful intercourse can improve your sex life, increase your emotional intimacy and improve your self-image.

For a confidential appointment at the Henry Ford Health System Women’s Sexual Health Clinic located near Detroit, we offer two convenient ways to contact us:

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If you are having an emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. Please do not utilize this scheduling feature for urgent medical situations.

For your safety please select a MyChart Video Visit on Demand or call our MyCare Advice Line at 844-262-1949 before scheduling if: You currently have a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, you are experiencing a new loss of taste and/or sense of smell, in the past 21 days, you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, in the past 14 days, you have had contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19. Or, you have experienced two or more of the following symptoms in the last 3 days: fever, chills, drenching sweats, new cough, shortness of breath, body aches, headache, sore throat, runny nose or nasal congestion, or nausea/vomiting/diarrhea.

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