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Why does sex hurt?

Happy Couple

ComeClose: The solution to painful sex

Is it normal for sex to hurt?

If you are healthy and fully aroused, then sex should not hurt. However, there are many causes of painful sex and as many as 40% of women, from all walks of life, experience painful sex at some time during their lives.

What are the possible reasons?

Some of the causes of painful sex, such as genital infection, require urgent medical attention. Others, such as when your partner's penis is too long for you, simply require a modified technique and the use of a special protector ring. Sexual arousal is essential for pleasurable sex. For arousal to occur, you need to feel sexual desire (Just feeling relaxed or cosy is not enough). In some circumstances it is possible to feel desire without arousal.

Collision Dyspareunia

During penetrative sex, at its deepest thrust, the man's penis strikes the cervix. Normally, this is not uncomfortable. But in certain circumstances it causes pain. This is known as Collision Dyspareunia. If you have experienced painful sex, even once, then this can lead to the expectation of pain. In most people, the expectation of pain will prevent both desire and the normal process of physical arousal. Physical arousal is the process that prepares the woman's body to accommodate the man's penis and provide her with pleasure.

Lack of arousal:

  • limits lubrication of the vaginal walls
  • causes the vaginal muscles to tense up
  • prevents the lengthening of the vagina
  • prevents the 'tenting' of the cervix
  • limits increased blood flow to the genitals

Under these conditions, the experience of sexual penetration will be uncomfortable or painful — it's a self-fulfilling prophesy. This is called the cycle of pain. So, if you are experiencing painful sex, then you could be having problems with arousal.

Other causes

Certain medical conditions, like endometriosis, or scarring following pelvic inflammatory disease, can cause pain during intercourse and then the cycle of pain takes hold. Find out more and check your symptoms on the free fact sheet to help you identify the cause of your pain. But please remember, this is not a substitute for professional advice.


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