Dyspareunia is a condition characterized by painful sexual intercourse, caused by either physical or psychological factors. While Dyspareunia is reported mostly by women, it has also occurred in men. It can be a very stressful, frustrating occurrence, preventing you from enjoying something that should be mostly pleasurable. The truth is sex isn’t always as comfortable or pleasurable as it should be, and that’s normal. But if painful intercourse is a consistent, recurring event for you, then there is a likely chance that you are suffering from Dyspareunia.

Common Symptoms of Dyspareunia:

  • Lack of sexual desire, or low levels of desire
  • Inability to become or maintain arousal for sexual activity, even though you want to have sex
  • Painful intercourse
  • Inability to have an orgasm
  • Feelings of frustration, dissatisfaction and disappointment

Causes of Dyspareunia

Dyspareunia can be caused by physical, biological or psychological factors. Physical factors include injuries to the pelvic area including surgical scarring, arthritis, fatigue, headaches, and medications that can lower your sex-drive. Insufficient arousal, or a lack of lubrication in the vagina, can cause a great deal of discomfort for both partners. Problems with uterus fibroids or other physical problems of the female sexual organs can cause pain. Hormonal issues such as dealing with menopause can cause differences in the vaginal tissues and lubrication, making them more sensitive and susceptible to pain. Psychological factors such as anxiety and depression can cause sexual dysfunction like Dyspareunia. Emotional stress, perhaps stemming from past experiences of abuse can cause Dyspareunia. Dissatisfaction in a relationship can decrease sexual responsiveness, and therefore lead to painful intercourse as well.

Treatment for Dyspareunia

Sometimes Dyspareunia can be treated by making some simple lifestyle changes. Open communication between you and your partner about what might be causing your pain or discomfort can make a world of difference. Quitting bad habits like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption will only benefit your sexual experience. A healthy diet and regular exercise are also often overlooked, but key factors in an optimal sex life. Depending on the cause of your Dyspareunia, speaking with a therapist can be of great help, especially if you suspect your discomfort originates in previous traumatic experiences. Perhaps there is medical treatment for your case of Dyspareunia. Hormone therapy, treatment of depression or anxiety, adjusting current medications or pelvic conditions is a good idea. It’s important to seek help from your doctor in any case.

What Should You Do?

When you are experiencing dyspareunia on a regular basis, it’s important to get a regular pelvic exam. Your doctor can tell you if there are any conditions that need to be treated. It’s also important to seek therapy to get to the core of the problem if it is psychological. Open communication with your partner will only serve to enhance your sexual experience. If you can communicate what feels best for you, your partner will surely be happy to do it. A combination of medical or therapeutic treatment along with honest and willing effort from both you and your partner is generally the best bet for reducing the occurrence of dyspareunia.

View Resources

  • Wikipedia – Wikipedia page about dyspareunia, including symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment.
  • Mayo Clinic – Treatment and drug options for female sexual dysfunctions such as dyspareunia.
  • FamilyDoctor.org – Symptoms, causes and treatment for dyspareunia. Answers questions about exams and testing.
  • Medline Plus – Webpage about painful intercourse. Discusses causes, home treatment, and what to expect at an exam.
  • Discovery Health – Article with information about dyspareunia.

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