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Why Does It Hurt When You Get Turned On? Pelvic Pain During Arousal and Intercourse Explained

Sex should be a pleasurable activity, but sometimes it’s not. If you’ve ever had pain in your vagina during intercourse, you’re not alone. Many women have experienced pelvic pain during arousal. We’ve outlined various reasons you might have pain during sexual arousal and what you can do about it.

Abdominal cramps with arousal female

Dyspareunia is the term for pain just before, during, or after sex. Pain during sexual arousal can be felt in many different places. You may feel pain externally, in your labia or vaginal opening. You may also feel pain deep inside, all the way near your cervix. Some women report stomach pain when they’re sexually excited.

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If you have pain in your vagina during sex, keep track of where the pain is. The location of your pain might indicate what’s causing it. Some common issues behind painful sex are emotional. Emotional factors include:

  • Stress — When women experience stress in their daily lives, the body responds by tightening the pelvic floor muscles, which can make sexual arousal and intercourse painful. 
  • Psychological factors — Self-esteem, anxiety, and depression can all play a role in sexual arousal. Fear of an emotional relationship with another person can cause you to experience pain during arousal and sex. 
  • History of abuse — Some women who have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional abuse experience vaginal pain during sex. 

If you can pinpoint one of these emotional factors, such as a stressful and hectic daily schedule, look for ways to relax your stressful day. Doing exercises to relax your pelvic floor muscles before sex can make a big difference. If you believe your pain is a result of psychological factors or a history of abuse, you can talk to your doctor about how to process your emotions. 

If you are not aware of any emotional issues surrounding your pain during sex, you may have an illness that’s causing pain. 

A woman experiencing pain during sex

If you know you don’t have any emotional reasons for the pain you feel during arousal or sex, then it might be caused by another issue. 

Sometimes our bodies express pain because something is wrong. Pain is often an indicator that something in the body is not working properly. 

Certain illnesses can cause you to feel pain during or after sex. These illnesses can include:

  • Irritation/allergy — Painful sex can be caused by an allergy to latex condoms or lube. Be careful when choosing the sex products you buy.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) — PID is an illness caused in many cases by a sexually transmitted infection (STI). If left untreated, it can cause severe pain during intercourse and affect your fertility.

If you think you may have an allergy to certain products, read the labels carefully and try to use hypoallergenic options. If you think you may have PID, talk to your doctor right away and get tested.

Infections can make the tissues in the vagina swollen and dry. That can cause painful intercourse and arousal. Some infections that can affect intercourse are:

Many of these infections can be found through STI tests. If you have vaginal pain during intercourse and think you might have an STI, get tested. Some of these infections are easy to treat with a simple round of antibiotics.

Some physical issues that can affect sexual arousal and intercourse are:

  • Menopause — Hormone levels during menopause can make the vagina very dry, causing painful sex. 
  • Endometriosis — This condition can make sex and periods very painful. 
  • Fibroids — Fibroids can cause deep pain in the pelvis.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) — The swollen tissues from IBS can push against your sex organs, causing pain during arousal and sex.
  • Constipation — Similarly to IBS, swollen and painful bowels can also cause pain in your pelvic area.

If physical issues are causing pelvic pain during arousal, you may find relief when you treat the root of the issue. It can be as simple as using more lubricant and ensuring you’re sexually stimulated before beginning sex. Other times you may need to treat other issues like IBS or constipation in order to relieve your pain.

Certain psychological problems can interfere with how your body reacts to sexual stimulation. Some factors that can influence pain during sex are:

  • Lack of sexual arousal — Sex can be painful if you are not properly aroused during intercourse. This can be because of subconscious anxiety or rushing into sex too quickly.
  • Vaginismus — This is a condition where the muscles of the vagina tighten to the point of closing, so penetration and intercourse are impossible. This can be very painful.

Either through a history of abuse or anxiety, many women experience pain from arousal and sex due to fears or subconscious feelings. Things like a fear of intimacy or of pain itself can cause your body to respond and create more pain. 

Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about any pain you’re experiencing during sex. They know a lot about sex and how the body should feel, so if you have any concerns, they can help. 

Now that you’ve seen the various reasons why you may experience vaginal pain during sex, you may be wondering how to stop it. 

There are two main ways to treat pain in the vagina. 

  • Treat the underlying condition — If the reason for your pain is a condition like endometriosis, an infection, or an allergy, then your doctor may be able to treat that condition. Once the issue clears up, the pain usually fades away.
  • Psychotherapy — If you’re experiencing severe anxiety or depression, your doctor can talk to you about various therapies that may help you relax during sex. Some therapies include yoga and self-awareness. Others may include meditation and mental exercises. 

Your sexual health is directly tied to your physical health. If you don’t know where to start when talking to your doctor about pelvic pain during intercourse, begin by writing a journal of your pain. Describe when the pain happens during sex, where it’s the strongest, and what kind of pain it is. Your doctor can use this information to get a closer look at what’s happening and may be able to find the source of your pain more quickly.

Pain in your vagina during sex is not normal. Many women go through long periods of pain, thinking that it’s just how sex is, but it’s not supposed to harm you. 

You may feel embarrassed talking about sex, but sharing your painful sexual experiences with a trusted doctor can help find the cause of the issue. Track your pain in a journal, and let them know what’s happening. There may be an underlying condition such as PID or anxiety that is getting in the way of intimacy. Your doctor may help you discover what’s going on and help you reduce the pain so you can enjoy sex again.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/painful-intercourse/symptoms-causes/syc-20375967

https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/sexual-health/why-does-sex-hurt/

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