Experiencing pain during sex may be more common than previously thought, according to new research in the BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. This survey of almost 7,000 British women aged 16 to 74 found that almost one in 10 experienced pain during sex. And that number is just too damn high. But, if you're someone who suffers yourself, you are definitely not alone. Painful sex was tied to lack of sexual enjoyment, unsurprisingly, as well as anxiety and vaginal dryness. Some women reported avoiding sex all together.
“Everyone gets some aches and pains from time to time,” Dr. Michael Krychman, MD, OBGYN, Sexual Medicine Gynecologist and the executive director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine, tells Bustle. “The concern for sexual pain is when it is persistent and does not subside. If it is associated with other symptoms, like nausea, vomiting, urinary pain/frequent urination, bleeding, persistent pain, vaginal discharge that has a bad odor, fever, chills for instance may signal something more pathological is going on. When in doubt, it is always best to consult a health care professional to get a proper evaluation.”
It's such a common problem, but like many issues around sex, for some reason we're shy about discussing it. But that needs to change. One way to help? Staying educated. Here's a list of some of the painful sex culprits, but when in doubt you should always consult a doctor:
The basic culprit — and one that's more common than you might think — is dryness. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you don't have enough foreplay or are just naturally on the drier side of things, sex can be uncomfortable or painful. That's why lube is your friend.
2Infections And Disease
Endometriosis is when your uterine tissue grows outside of your uterus— and it's just as painful as it sounds. It affects a lot of women, but pain medication and hormone treatment can help, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Pelvic inflammatory disease can be easily treated with antibiotics, but before that it can cause problems, says The Mayo Clinic. It's essentially when your pelvic organs get infected, through an STI or other bacteria, and it makes sex not very fun.
5Mental And Emotional Issues
Anxiety, depression, fear — not all diseases are physical. But some mental health issues can have very real physical side effects. The Mayo Clinic says that emotions are very much involved in sexual activity and can be a factor in sexual pain.
Interstitial cystitis is kind of a b*tch. It's basically when your bladder is constantly inflamed. Doctors don't fully understand it, but it makes sex really painful, especially deep penetration, according to The Mayo Clinic.
Vaginismus is a painful condition where the vaginal muscles tense up during penetration, according to The Mayo Clinic. Although it can make vaginal sex excruciating, you can still have an exciting sex life.
8Irritable Bowel Syndrome
I know, when you think of IBS you don't immediately think of sex. But it messes up your periods and causes general pelvic pain, says the Mayo Clinic, plus sex can also put pressure on the intestine, causing pain.
9An Ectopic Pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancy is when the fetus develops in a fallopian tube instead of the uterus and it can make sex very painful, says WebMD But it's also a very, very dangerous condition, so if there's any chance you have one you need to visit your doctor ASAP.
If you're one of the many women suffering during sex, there's no need to go through that silently. Talk to your doctor and get help — you deserve a satisfying sex life, you just may need the tools to get you there.