Sex Should NOT Hurt!

Sex should not hurt. Here are some reasons why it might & tips for decreasing pain. If hurting doesn't improve quickly, talk to your doctor

Question

I am a 17-year-old girl, and I want to know why it hurts so much when my boyfriend and I have sex?

Dr. Greene's Answer

Sex hurts? How unsettling! And much more common than you might imagine. Doctors have a name for this; we call it dyspareunia (pronounced dis-pah-ROO-ne-ah). Most women have gone through a stage in which intercourse is painful; in up to a third of women, this has lasted a long time. 1 There are many reasons why having sex can hurt.

Before we look at some of the more common reasons, I’d like to say a word about communication. Sometimes sex is hard to talk about. I’ m very glad you asked your question here. Dyspareunia can be solved, one way or another, for people who are willing to ask about it.

One of the key things to learn during your current difficulties is that it’s important to talk with your partner about what is going on. Tell your boyfriend why you like him and what feels good when you are together. But also tell him when something hurts. Learning to work together is an important part of sex.

Sex Should NOT Hurt

What might be causing the pain depends on whether sex has always hurt or if this is a recent development; whether it hurts every time or only sometimes; and (perhaps most importantly) whether you feel the greatest pain when the penis first enters or once it is in deeply.

Friction

If you hurt as the penis first enters, the most common problem is not enough lubrication. Friction in this sensitive area can hurt! Your organs normally get wet and slippery as part of sexual arousal. Taking more time for sexual play before intercourse is often all that is needed to turn a painful experience into a pleasant one. Too fast is usually too dry.

A water-based lubricant (do not use lotion, baby oil, or Vaseline) you pick up at the drugstore can work wonders, but don’t ignore the reason for decreased lubrication, if you know what it is.

Fear

Fear, too, can decrease lubrication. Fear of infection, fear of pregnancy, and fear about the relationship are all common. Abuse or incest can leave you dry until the real hurt is healed.

Inflamation

Pain on insertion might also come from inflamed external genitals. The tissue might be inflamed from a yeast infection, warts, herpes, or some other infection. Sometimes the area is tender from a benign cyst called a Bartholin’s gland cyst. All of these conditions require medical treatment.

First Time

Intercourse can also remain painful as long as the hymen is partly intact. If you can insert a tampon comfortably, a mechanical obstruction is not likely.

Deep Penetration

Pain with deep penetration usually comes from the deeper organs being tender. This includes the ovaries, uterus, bladder, and even the intestines. At your age, the most common reasons for deep pain are ovarian cysts, a retroverted uterus (positioned so it gets bumped during intercourse), abdominal adhesions (in people who have had abdominal surgery), and an infection called pelvic inflammatory disease.

Many other, less common conditions (such as inflammatory bowel disease) can also make you hurt. In some positions (such as lying on the side), penetration is not as deep, and sex might be more comfortable.

Take Action

But if the hurting doesn’t improve quickly, you’ll also need to talk to your doctor about the pain. Be sure to tell them whether the pain has always been there or is new. Describe what hurts most and when. Work together to identify the cause. Don’ t stop asking about this until you understand why sex hurts and until you’ve gotten relief from the pain. Having sex shouldn’t have to hurt.
Footnote References:
1 Glatt, AE, Zinner SH, McCormack WM. The prevalence of dysparenia. Obstet Gynecol 1990;75:433.

Last medical review on: January 30, 2015
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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Recent Comments

Hi I’m a young woman of 29 year. I have a problem here I didn’t bleed during the first time when I having a sex so from there I didn’t the good or nice of sex because everytime I experience the only pain . Plz help me

I lost my virginity at 15 for a guy 10+yrs set than me. The thing is I never felt pleasure during sex. A little fraction of my clitoris gives me a little pleasure. But during penetration, I don’t feel anything. I’m 24 now and never try to have sex for 7 yrs because I’m scared and terrified of not feeling anything.

He probably already knows something is up. Likely he’d be relieved that there is a physical problem that you might be able to get help with — it’s not that you don’t want him. Maybe say something like “I feel really bad about this, but something is wrong physically. I’m going to go see a doctor and see if I can get help so I don’t feel pain when we have sex.” I bet he’ll be happy you’re getting help.

How do I talk to my boyfriend about the pain? I feel bad because I can’t give him every part of me.

He probably already knows something is up. Likely he’d be relieved that there is a physical problem that you might be able to get help with — it’s not that you don’t want him. Maybe say something like “I feel really bad about this, but something is wrong physically. I’m going to go see a doctor and see if I can get help so I don’t feel pain when we have sex.” I bet he’ll be happy you’re getting help.

dear we are having the same problems that the way am always feeling too

Am 23 yrs since i had sex it has always been painful since my partner had to force his penis to penetrate in to my vagina and after a short time when it penetrate i become dry and i wonder what happens or what is wrong with me please help

I’m a 29 year old adult. Sex has always been painful for me, ever since the very first time. Since the years have gone by more specific pains have happened. More so penetratation had always been and issue, but it’s always the upper part of my pelvic area internally. Something about the initial insertion is always the worst part, because of a intense pain/burning/almost stinging sensation that had kept me away from sex all together. Even when or if I can bring myself to push past that pain, to deep insertion becomes a problem. I’m constantly having to stop in the act because of some kind of internal pain. I’ve done research and read about others expierences. None quite fit my own issue. I’ve potentially given up on the entire idea of any kind of penetration what so ever.

One time me and my boyfriend was having sex and I was on top and I told him to lift and his penis went in me hard and hit something in my vaginal and I was hurting badly until the next day it was hurting when I walked & I’m scared to have sex now

dear we are having the same problems that the way am always feeling too

Doctor pls am Catherine and am 20 years of age and had wanted to hv sex with my boyfriend but after our foreplay he tried inserting his hand in my vagina but i felt pains am virgin and does nt knw may be tht is my first time but now is paining me inside wht should i do plz help me.

Hi Doc

My vigina always swallon after sex i do not now why because it become very thick and it hurts too much
Plz help Doc

Am 23 yrs since i had sex it has always been painful since my partner had to force his penis to penetrate in to my vagina and after a short time when it penetrate i become dry and i wonder what happens or what is wrong with me please help