When I was younger, I was too embarrassed to speak up about my sex life, even though it was not what I wanted it to be. It was so painful, and I was having all kinds of problems post-hookup. But I was incredibly embarrassed by it, telling myself that there was something wrong with me.
Normally, this would be where someone makes an appointment with their OB/GYN – just to check in and make sure everything is okay. But the shame overrode the logic, and I didn’t want to hear that there was something wrong with me. I didn’t want to know that I was broken, that my lady bits didn’t work the way they were supposed to.
Eventually, I did make that appointment (but not before plenty of research, so I could be prepared). Surprise: I was totally normal and healthy, I just didn’t react to stimulation with a physical level of arousal. One of the main factors behind my pain: my medication messed with my sexual response. It was a complete “oh my god, duh,” moment, followed by the thought, “why didn’t I visit my doctor sooner?” Since then, I’ve found solutions that work for me, making sex less painful.
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There are many reasons why sex can hurt. Mine was related to medication, but that isn’t the only reason behind pain. Here, I’ve listed reasons why sex may hurt, as well as products that can help ease the discomfort.
What’s Causing Me Pain?
There are numerous causes for intercourse pain – given the fancy name “dyspareunia” – and no two people are the same. Bodies are complex! That’s why it’s important to do your research and talk to your doctor (aka, the exact opposite of what I did). These are common reasons why sex may not feel right.
In my case, it was my medication that was causing pain. Turns out, this is fairly common. While birth control is important, some pills, like Yaz and Lo Ovral, can lead to dryness. Other medications, like Xanax and Ativan, are connected to estrogen function, causing dryness. And if you’re regularly taking antihistamines, you’re not just drying out your sinuses – they can dry out your lady parts as well.
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Are you using an irritating soap, or perhaps scented tampons and pads? Back away from them slowly. Many women are sensitive to the chemicals within specific underwear, feminine hygiene products, towels…you name it, you could be reacting to it. Try using all-natural products instead of those with chemicals, dyes, and/or perfumes.
Mentally Stressing Yourself Out
If you’ve had pain before, it’s easy to stress out about bleeding and pain before you actually have sex. This fearful anticipation can lead to performance anxiety, causing you to stay in your head rather than go with the flow. While it’s common to think that performance anxiety only affects men, it can be a reason behind dryness.
If you’re going through or are post-menopause, it’s no surprise that sex will feel different. This is because estrogen levels lower, which results in thinning vaginal tissues and overall dryness. Cancer treatments can also result in lowered estrogen and general dryness throughout the entire body, including down there.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
While many don’t notice when they have an STI, sometimes STIs manifest in painful sex. Open sores – especially if infected – from herpes can cause pain during sex, as can genital warts. Other STIs, like chlamydia, gonorrhea, trich, and syphilis may cause irritation in the genital areas that is exacerbated during penetration.
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Undiagnosed Medical Conditions
There are plenty of disorders (I’m not talking about STIs) that can cause pain during sex, which is a big reason to go to a doctor rather than assume you know what the problem is. For example, vaginismus is a condition in which the vaginal muscles spasm, leading to pain during sex. There’s also pelvic inflammatory disease, in which the vaginal tissues become inflamed. Vulvodynia is another reason sex may hurt, as it affects external sexual organs, like the labia and vaginal opening.
You’re Just Not Turned On Enough
So, mentally, you might be ready to go. But that doesn’t always mean your body is, too. Add some foreplay rather than going straight to sex, which gives time for lubrication. Don’t know what will get you going? Now is a wonderful time to learn about your own body and what you enjoy. Whether you go at it solo or with a partner, with your hand or with a sex toy (we wrote about those), take the time to (literally) feel out what works and what doesn’t.
Products That Can Help Make Things ~Flow~
We wrote an entire article on the best lubes, and these can absolutely help. There are also other products on the market that can help with lubrication. And of course, sometimes you need assistance to get you there, and toys can help with this. These are our favorite remedies:
Whether you choose water-based, silicone-based, or any-other-based lubes, these are a fantastic solution to dry sex. Make sure to read up on what you can and cannot use specific lubes with (for example, silicone-based lube can’t be used with silicone toys), then pick which works best for you.
There are vaginal moisturizers that can mimic natural lubrication. Just like with lube, make sure you see what the base is. For example, K-Y’s Liquibeads are silicone-based, so don’t use them with silicone toys.
Sex toys aren’t for everyone, but they can absolutely help turn you on, especially during foreplay. Whether you prefer a bullet vibrator, internal stimulator, or suction toy, these can help speed things up and make sex about your pleasure.
If you don’t consider yourself a reader, erotica audiobooks can unlock your libido. It’s slightly voyeuristic, and many find the idea of being read sexual stories hot (kind of like watching movies, but with your imagination painting the picture instead). You can also imagine yourself in place of the characters.
The number one message I want you to take away from this: you are totally normal, and there is nothing wrong with you. Everyone’s body is different, and it’s important to internalize that knowledge. Just check in with your doctor, try out any of the above, and let go of the stigma…then have the best sex of your life.
What helps you have less painful sex? Let us know in the comments!
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