If you ever find sex to be a painful experience, it could be a sign of an underlying health condition. Frustratingly, it's often dismissed as a mental health issue rather than an actual physical problem. Whatever your pain is stemming from, one thing is for sure — it's best not to ignore it. Donna Begg at YourTango helps explain why painful sex may occur and what steps to take if it does.
When sex hurts, it's tempting to just "grin and bear it" or have a drink to get through. Don't.
A great number of publications can be found on male sexual health, explaining commonly experienced sexual dysfunctions among men and how these can be treated with medication, therapy, and other techniques.
Unfortunately, for women, there is quite a lack of information related to female sexual dysfunction.
The majority of publications will describe female sexual dysfunctions as a symptom related to relationship issues, emotional distress, and mental health problems — declaring that female sexual dysfunction revolves around the women's psychological health and not with her physical well-being.
Even healthcare providers often advise a woman complaining about experiencing issues during sexual intercourse, like painful sex, to have a drink and try to relax.
While mental issues are a possible contributor to sexual dysfunctions among women, it should be noted that there are physiological factors that may also become an attribute in problems such as sexual pain disorder, a low sex drive, and poor self-lubrication.
Unfortunately, the majority of doctors will dismiss the possibility of a physical factor contributing to a woman's sex-related issues and rather refer her to a therapist or advise her to implement better stress management techniques to help her mind calm down.
In this article, we want to stress the importance of looking at pain during sex as a possible alarm for an underlying health issue in women, instead of immediately dismissing the complaint as a mental health problem.
Painful Sex: A Signal For Underlying Health Conditions in Women
A report published by Cosmopolitan explains that a recent survey found as much as 10 percent of women experience pain during sexual intercourse. The survey also found that women in the age group of 16 to 24 were more likely to experience pain while participating in sex than women who fall in other age groups.
Additionally, the survey also concluded that, among those women who do experience this problem during sex, there were some common conditions also present, including:
- Vaginal dryness
- Sexual anxiety
- A lack of sexual pleasure
This is just one of many studies and surveys that have been conducted on sexual dysfunction among women. The majority of these reports find that there is a strong connection between painful sex and mental health issues.
This provides an appropriate overview of why so many healthcare providers would immediately dismiss painful sex as a mental problem instead of viewing it as a possible sign caused by an underlying health condition.
This is where the problem comes in. Yes, there is a connection between painful sex and mental health, but the connection is very complicated.
The fact that a woman may experience sexual anxiety might be a contributing factor to her painful sensations during sex, but, at the same time, she may be experiencing anxiety because she fears the fact that sex could be painful.
Medical News Today explains that there are quite a large number of physical causes that need to be considered. To better determine the possible cause, it is first important to determine whether the woman is suffering from pain during entry or at a deeper level in her vagina.
When a woman experiences painful sensations during entry when participating in sex, then common physical causes may include vaginal dryness, as well as an injury to her genital region.
Infections, including those caused by sexually transmitted infections, can also cause entry pain. Additionally, it is also important to consider the fact that inflammation, skin irritation, skin disorders, and birth abnormalities can also contribute to pain during entry.
Vaginismus, a condition where the pelvic floor muscles are contracted involuntarily, also causes this type of sexual pain disorder.
If the pain is experienced deeper in the vagina or at a specific location, then it may be due to a medical condition that the woman is suffering from — often without even knowing it.
Common medical conditions that cause deeper pain include cystitis, endometriosis, fibroids, interstitial cystitis and ovarian cysts. It has also bee found that pelvic inflammatory disease and irritable bowel syndrome can cause these symptoms
Additionally, uterine prolapse is also found in some women who complain about pain during sexual intercourse.
Mental health is known to play a crucial role in the sexual well-being of women, with depression, relationship issues, anxiety, and high-stress levels greatly contributing to poor performance in the bedroom.
Physical health can, however, also be to blame in many cases, but is often overlooked by doctors as a possible factor in certain conditions women tend to complain about, including sexual pain disorder.
Looking at both the physiological and psychological well-being of women experiencing pain during sex is vital for uncovering the underlying factors that are causing these symptoms, instead of simply advising the women to "relax" and work on her relationship.
Donna Begg is an expert editor, a mentor, analyst, and a researcher.
Check out more great stories from YourTango:
If It Hurts When You Have Sex, Here's Why You Can't Ignore It
7 Reasons For Vaginal Pain During Sex — and How to Fix Them
- 6 Ways to Have Mind-Blowing Sex, Even If Your Vagina Is Dry and Painful