Gynecology

Treating painful sex

Painful sex is a painful secret for many women and their partners who struggle with intercourse or intimacy. According to the Journal of Sexual Medicine, about one-third of women report having pain during sex, which can include discomfort in the vaginal or pelvic muscles, external genitals, bladders or tailbone, however, only about 25 percent will actually talk to their doctor about this issue. Painful sex later in life can result from a loss of estrogen during menopause, leading to dryness and atrophy that can make sex (as well as pelvic exams, urination, cycling and other activities) somewhat uncomfortable or downright miserable. When painful sex is linked to a decrease in estrogen, prescription creams and over-the-counter lubricants can make intercourse more comfortable and enjoyable. Longer foreplay is also recommended.

Conditions such as interstitial cystitis (chronic inflammation of the bladder), endometriosis (when the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus), urethral syndrome (frequent and painful urination) and vaginal spasms can all lead to pain during intercourse. Treating the causes through prescription medication, acupuncture and physical therapy can improve your pelvic health and make sex more pleasurable. Yoga, Pilates and other exercise that increase flexibility while strengthening the pelvic floor can also help. Patience is key, since it can take several weeks or months to both identify and address the causes of discomfort during sex, but simply giving up shouldn’t be an option. Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing painful sex to learn more about the best treatment options for you.

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