Dyspareunia: all about pain during sexual intercourse
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Dyspareunia: all about pain during sexual intercourse

Dyspareunia is the medical term used to refer to pain experienced during sexual intercourse. It is more often used to refer to pain perceived by women. Dyspareunia can have different causes, both physical and psychic.

How to relieve pain related to sexual intercourse? When to worry? Here’s everything you should know about this symptom.

How to define dyspareunia?

What is dyspareunia?

We speak of dyspareunia in case of pain during sexual intercourse. These can appear before, during, or after sex. They can be felt in both men and women. Nevertheless, dyspareunia is a medical term that is generally used to refer to pain perceived by women.

What are the different types of pain?

In women, it is common to distinguish two types of dyspareunia:

  • superficial dyspareunia, or intromission dyspareunia, when pain occurs near or at the opening of the vagina;
  • deep dyspareunia, in the case of pelvic pain, that is to say, the pain felt in the pelvic area, including the lower abdomen and genital area.

These pains can occur during foreplay, during intercourse, or after intercourse. Finally, dyspareunia can be occasional or become chronic.

In case of pain during sexual intercourse in women, the term vaginismus is sometimes used. Some specialists consider vaginismus to be a special type of dyspareunia. It results in an involuntary contraction of the musculature of the perineum, which prevents any intromission.

What are the symptoms of dyspareunia?

Dyspareunia is characterized by the appearance of pain during sexual intercourse. These can be:

  • localized or diffuse, manifesting, for example, in women in different regions of the intimate area such as the labia, vagina, clitoris, or vulva;
  • superficial or deep (pain in the lower abdomen and throughout the genital area)

During dyspareunia, pain can be manifested by:

  • burning, stinging, or cutting sensations;
  • tingling
  • itching
  • pain in the lower abdomen
  • spasmodic contractures (when attempting penetration).

Dyspareunia is also sometimes accompanied by dryness of the vaginal wall.

What causes dyspareunia?

Pain during sexual intercourse can have many causes, both physical and psychic.

Causes of physical origin

Dyspareunia is said to be of physical or organic origin, when the pain is, for example, due to:

  • gynecological infections, including vaginal yeast infections, such as vaginal candidiasis, or certain STIs, such as gonorrhea;
  • inflammations including those affecting the vulva (vestibulitis), bladder (cystitis), urethra (urethritis), uterine tubes (salpingitis), or vagina (vaginitis);
  • an allergic reaction
  • varicose veins in the pelvic area;
  • endometriosis, which is characterized by the formation of uterine lining outside the uterus;
  • pelvic floor abnormalities, which are disorders of the muscles, ligaments, and tissues of the pelvic area;
  • pelvic tumor
  • certain medical examinations, such as radiation therapy to the pelvis, abdomen, or thigh roots;
  • certain gynecological operations, including hysterectomy, removal of the uterus;
  • injuries during childbirth;
  • hormonal imbalance, especially during menopause.

Causes of psychic origin

Dyspareunia can also be of psychic origin when the pain is, for example, caused by:

  • nervous tension, especially in case of stress or anxiety;
  • a lack of arousal that leads to vaginal dryness
  • a feeling of fear, especially when afraid of pain or fear of an unwanted pregnancy;
  • previous trauma, which may follow a bad first sexual experience or sexual trauma.

Painful relationships: what are the consequences?

Pain during sex can be accompanied by other symptoms and significantly affect the person’s sex life:

  • loss or decrease in libido;
  • an absence of pleasure or orgasm
  • abstinence.

These pains can also create a loss of self-esteem, anxiety, or depression.

How to treat and prevent pain related to sexual intercourse?

Diagnosis of the cause

Medical advice is recommended in case of persistent, repeated, or high-intensity dyspareunia. A series of questions about the pain felt during sexual intercourse makes it possible to make the first diagnosis. This can be confirmed or further investigated by additional medical examinations.

Pain treatment

Treatment for dyspareunia depends on its origin. Depending on the case, the treatment of pain may, for example, be based on:

  • psychotherapy, especially in the case of traumatic experiences;
  • drug treatment, especially in gynecological infections;
  • hormone replacement, especially during menopause;
  • homeopathic treatments, especially in cases of anxiety;
  • surgery, especially in the case of endometriosis.

Treatment for endometriosis involves blocking the production of female hormones (drug therapy) and surgery to remove the lesions.

Prevention of dyspareunia

It may be advisable to use a lubricating gel during intercourse to facilitate penetration and avoid apprehension of pain.

Image Credit: Image by jcomp on Freepik

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