Painful Sex

As well as being essential for reproduction, sex is something most people enjoy and part of a healthy relationship.

However, like anything, it is not without its challenges and momentary pain or discomfort during sex is something almost everyone experiences.

However, new or consistently painful sex (dyspareunia) can be very upsetting and have a negative impact on your relationships or physical and mental health.

Fortunately, sexual health clinics and services like ours can help you identify the problem and find a solution.


Whether you’re biologically a man or woman, the cause of painful sex usually comes from one of four factors:

  • Illness
  • Infection
  • A physical problem
  • A psychological or emotional issue


For women, pain usually comes from either the vagina or the abdomen (stomach and hip area).

Many sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause painful symptoms which are aggravated during penetration. These are typically easy to identify and treat. Other common infections include thrush or cystitis which can often be resolved through over-the-counter medication.

Period pains and the menopause can also create discomfort. Vaginal dryness can result in painful penetration but is easily remedied with a water-based lubricant. In more extreme cases, a condition called vaginismus can cause the muscles around the vagina to shut tightly making sex painful.

Other abdominal illnesses such as pelvic inflammatory disease, endometritis, fibroids, chronic constipation or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can also produce pain in your stomach and lower back which make sex uncomfortable and painful.


For men, pain during sex typically comes from the penis.

Again, thrush or STIs can cause rashes, warts and other painful areas which are inflamed during masturbation, oral sex or penetration.

During sex, a man’s foreskin will typical role back over the head of penis. However, it is not uncommon for it to be tight which can create pain and even small tears. If this is the case, a simple circumcision (removal of the foreskin) may be a suitable remedy.

Swelling of the prostate gland (situated internally behind the penis) or the testicles can also cause pain and be caused by a number of factors which are typically easy to identify and resolve


Pain during sex can be something which is particularly evident with new sexual partners.

Humans vary, so penis or vagina size, sexual technique and sexual preferences can mean that sex is uncomfortable or less enjoyable between partners at first.

If this is the case, the best cause of action is typically to discuss the situation with your partner. If you or they are suffering any discomfort, try to find out when it is occurring and how to change your technique or position to reduce it.

Just discussing it will typically help you relax and make sex more enjoyable.


If there is no illness or physical cause, it could be that the pain you or your partner is experiencing is psychological.

Being tense or anxious can often lead to sex being uncomfortable. Previous trauma or bad experiences can weight heavy on yours or your partner’s mind.

Again, the best way to reduce the pain is to discuss any negative feelings or concerns with your partner. Take it slow and look for other ways to pleasure each other or build up slowly to penetration.

Remember, it’s always important to have consent from your partner. If they are in pain, they may not be comfortable with what you are doing.


If you have recuring pain during sex, it’s important to identify where it is occurring and the likely causes.

If it is new or accompanied by any redness or discharge an STI test is a good way to identify any issue. If you feel it may be due to a more general or serious illness, speak to your doctor who will be able to put your mind at rest or arrange treatment.

Talking to your sexual partner is often the best therapy for pain arising from any emotional or psychological cause. Be patient and trying building up slowly so you both get the most from sex.

If the issue persists – or you think there may be an underlying health issue – speak to Suffolk Sexual Health Service and we will arrange a discreet and understanding consultation.

Share the Post:

Call our helpline on 0300 303 9982

Sexual Wellbeing & Advice