If sex doesn’t always feel so pleasurable, you’re not alone. But just because it’s common doesn’t mean it is okay. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is not right. It’s a signal to take a step back and figure out what’s happening.

Nearly 75 percent of all women will experience pain during intercourse. This includes vaginal penetration— whether by fingers, toys or genitalia.

Sexually transmitted diseases such as genital warts, herpes sores, or other STDs, trichomoniasis, and yeast infections can make sex uncomfortable. Most genital infections are easily controlled or curable. The solution to this problem is open communication, as well as more awareness of factors which surround this problem or issue. Consult a doctor and get tested, if necessary, but don’t ignore the symptoms.

Another reason to feel pain during sex is endometriosis. It can lead to pain during intercourse and vaginal penetration, and can be intolerable.

Some of the most common causes of vaginal pain are:

  • Insufficient lubrication of the vagina. It is believed that mental arousal occurs before actual blood flow to the genitals, leading to natural lubrication. It takes an average of five to seven minutes for the body to be ready and lubricated for sex.

  • Dryness in the vagina is another reason. Hot baths/showers, allergy medications, antidepressants, douches can all interfere with the vagina’s lubrication levels.

  • Hormonal fluctuation (most often associated with the menopause) can also be a major cause here. Women on low-dosage estrogen birth control may also find that their hormonal imbalance causes dryness. Hormones keep the genital mucus membranes active, produce moisture, and create a pattern of adjustment of those levels that can create dryness and pain (known as vaginal atrophy).

  • Vaginismus is another cause of painful sex. Vaginismus is a psychological problem with actual physical symptoms of pain, vaginal tightness, burning, or discomfort experienced by a woman when she engages in intercourse. It causes contractions in the muscles of the vagina and is completely involuntary. It could be associated with fear/anxiety, painful/negative experiences in sex, and some other factors. Treatment includes therapy and muscle treatment.

  • Vulva pain, might be caused by vulvodynia, is a skin condition that makes the vulval skin feel burning or raw, or by a skin infection.

  • Fibroids on the uterus, or pelvic inflammatory disease may cause pain deep within your pelvis.

  • “Collision dyspareunia” or pain on collision with the cervix during seriously deep penetration may also cause pain.

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome is known to cause severe problems in the menstrual cycles. Even during sex, immediate pain in case of accidental collision with the intestine may be felt.

  • Perineum tears can also be a cause of pain.

  • Ectopic pregnancy (fetus has developed in a fallopian tube instead of the uterus) could be another reason.

  • A lack of relaxation, which is to say high levels of stress and anxiety may also cause some form of discomfort.

WHL TIP: If pain persists, please refrain from self-diagnosis and self-medication. Painful sex should not be ignored as it can be a symptom to a host of medical conditions, in varying degrees of severity. Please visit a gynaecologist without delay.