Dear Dr. Jenn - Sex is a Pain!

DImage from: Dr. Jenn,

Is it normal to have pain when I have sex with my boyfriend? It’s not all the time, but about half the time I have to stop him once he’s inside because it hurts too much. What should we do?

Thank you!

- Sex is a Pain


Dear Sex is a Pain,

I’m so sorry to hear you’re experiencing pain! But very happy that you brought it up, since you are not alone. A 2010 Indiana University study found that one third of women reported genital pain during their last sexual encounter. First, a few clarifying questions: Where is the pain located? Is it inside or outside your vagina? What does the pain feel like, for example, is it burning or sore? Has this happened with past partners? Can you pinpoint any differences between the times you have pain and the times you do not?

If the pain is deep inside and only occasional, it might be connected to changes in your menstrual cycle, which can shift your cervix and uterus. I suggest that you alter sexual positions when there’s pain, to find one that doesn’t allow for deep penetration. On the other hand, if the pain is right around the entrance to your vagina, there are likely other factors coming into play, such as lubrication and time. Since the pain is not always present, I’m guessing that the difference could be that you haven’t had enough time to get all juicy and lubricated. All bodies are different, and some people need more foreplay prior to intercourse to allow their genitals to engorge with blood and for the body to kick in with natural vaginal lubrication. More finger and tongue action around the vulva and vaginal opening should better prepare you for penetration. Also, adding a personal lubricant can help reduce unwanted friction (I recommend brands like Sliquid, Hathor Aphrodisia, or Pink). If you believe you have a physical problem that is not addressed here or is more serious (e.g., vulvodynia), we are lucky in San Diego to have the Sexual Medicine Clinic at Alvarado Hospital, so you can visit them to determine the source of your pain.

It’s very important that you openly discuss this with your boyfriend and that BOTH of you are doing what you can to stop the pain. Sometimes women grin and bear it, but in the long run this creates a negative feedback loop around sex. Sex should be fun and pleasurable for both partners and I hope this helps you achieve that. I wish you happy and healthy sex!


Dr. Jenn

*This article was originally posted to the Sex & Love Blog Series at Pacific San Diego Magazine.

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sex Therapist, Marriage Counselor, Sexologist, College Sexual Health Speaker