Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Sexual conditions health centre

Select a topic to explore more.
Select An Article

Painful sex in women

Pain during sex is relatively common for women. Around 1 in 13 UK women find sex painful, according to a 2017 study in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

The condition is called dyspareunia, and may be due to health conditions, infection, or psychological problems.

Researchers surveyed 6,669 sexually active women who were aged between 16 and 74. Of these, 7.5% said they had experienced painful sex. For 1.9%, the pain was frequent, lasted at least 6 months, and left them feeling distressed.

Women who were aged 55 to 64, and those in the youngest group aged 16 to 24, were most likely to find sex painful.

In addition, of another group of 1,708 women who had not been sexually active during the previous year, 211 said they avoided intercourse, with 35 reporting that this was due to painful sex or a fear of feeling pain.


Sex during intercourse can also have an impact on relationships. Seek medical advice if you have concerns.

What causes painful sex in women?

In many cases, a woman can experience painful sex if there is not sufficient vaginal lubrication. When this occurs, the pain can be resolved if the female becomes more relaxed, if the amount of foreplay is increased, or if the couple uses a sexual lubricant.

In some cases, a woman can experience painful intercourse if one of the following conditions is present:

  • Vaginismus. This is a common condition in which there is a spasm in the vaginal muscles, mainly caused by the fear of being hurt.
  • Vaginal infections. These conditions are common and include yeast infections.
  • Problems with the cervix (opening to the uterus). In this case, the penis can reach the cervix at maximum penetration, so problems with the cervix (such as infections) can cause pain during deep penetration.
  • Problems with the uterus. These problems may include fibroids that can cause deep intercourse pain.
  • Endometriosis. A condition in which the endometrium (tissue lining the uterus) grows outside the uterus.
  • Problems with the ovaries. Such problems might include cysts on the ovaries.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). The tissues deep inside become inflamed and the pressure of intercourse causes deep pain.
  • Ectopic pregnancy. A pregnancy in which a fertilised egg develops outside the uterus.
  • Menopause. The vaginal lining can lose its normal moisture and become dry.
  • Intercourse too soon after surgery or childbirth
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs). These may include genital warts, herpes sores or other STIs.
  • Injury to the vulva or vagina. These injuries may include a tear from childbirth or from a cut (episiotomy) in the perineum (area of skin between the vagina and the anus) that is made during labour.
  • Vulvodynia. Women with vulvodynia suffer chronic vulval pain. Generalised vulvodynia is pain in different areas of the vulva that occurs at different times. Vestibulodynia or vulval vestibulitis is pain in the vestibule which is the entrance to the vagina.

 

Next Article:

WebMD Medical Reference

Stay informed

Sign up for BootsWebMD's free newsletters.
Sign Up Now!

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

woman_holding_head_in_pain
How to help headache pain
rash on skin
Top eczema triggers to avoid
79x79_causes_of_fatigue_and_how_to_fight_it.jpg
Causes of fatigue & how to fight it
period_questions_answered
Tips to support digestive health
woman looking at pregnancy test
Is your body ready for pregnancy?
woman sleeping
Sleep better tonight
girl_sneezing_into_tissue
Treating your child's cold or fever
bucket with cleaning supplies in it
Cleaning and organising tips
adult man contemplating
When illness makes it hard to eat
woman holding stomach
Understand this common condition
cold sore
What you need to know