Cedars-Sinai Blog

What Women Need to Know About Pain During Sex

Woman with dark hair sitting on a bed, facing away from the camera.

Pain during sex is a common problem for women.

As many as 75% of women will experience pain during sex at some point, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. For many women, the pain is rare or happens only once, but for others it’s persistent.

"Some women will stop dating or stop being intimate with their partners because it hurts too much," says Dr. Jennifer Anger. "It’s important to talk to your doctor and get that pain diagnosed, because it is treatable."

Here’s what Dr. Anger wants women to know about painful sex:

"Women tend to blame themselves or blame their symptoms on something they did, when it’s not their fault they’re having these problems."

Sex isn’t supposed to hurt

Jennifer T. Anger, MD from Cedars-Sinai

Jennifer T. Anger, MD

Dryness is the most common cause

Many conditions may cause pain during sex

Dryness is the most frequent reason, but there are many other reasons sex might become painful. Some conditions that can be at the root of the problem:

  • Pelvic floor dysfunction: The pelvic floor muscles—the ones you tighten when you want to stop passing urine quickly—can become painfully tight. It can cause an achy pelvis and pain with any kind of insertion.
  • Vaginismus: The muscles at the opening of the vagina become tightly contracted, causing pain during sex.
  • Vulvodynia: Chronic pain at the opening of the vagina, including burning, stinging, soreness, itching, rawness, and pain during sex.
  • Infections: Bacterial, yeast, or sexually transmitted infections can cause pain during sex and usually have other symptoms, like discharge.
  • Ovarian cysts: These fluid-filled sacs on the ovaries often have no symptoms. When they rupture, they can cause pain and bleeding.
  • Fibroids: These non-cancerous growths on the uterus can cause heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pressure, pain, and painful intercourse.

Treatments are available

Don’t suffer in silence

If sex hurts, and especially if it hurts to the point you’re avoiding it or want to stop, it’s time to see a doctor. Dr. Anger recommends seeing a gynecologist about problems related to sex, as they’re more likely to be able to accurately diagnose the cause of the pain.

Dr. Anger notes that many women are reluctant to talk about any issues they're having in the pelvic region, whether it's a prolapseincontinence, or painful sex. Many don't open up to friends or loved ones about these issues, and as a result, these problems seem kind of mysterious to the average person.

"Women tend to blame themselves or blame their symptoms on something they did, when it's not their fault they’re having these problems," Dr. Anger says.