“Burning Love” may be a good song to get you in the mood, but if your sex life is accompanied by a burning feeling of any kind, you’re probably more likely to strap on a chastity belt than opt for any kind of sexual encounter.
In fact, almost 30 percent of women experience pain during sex (medically called dyspareunia), but many are too embarrassed to report it to a doctor – opting instead to either resign themselves to the hurt or to a sexless existence. The good news? There are other (better) options for coping with painful sex.
Get a handle on what’s keeping you sidelined from the sack by reading this checklist of symptoms, then the solution that will get you back in the saddle again.

Why Sex Might Be Painful—and What to Do About It

Problem: Burning love

Causes: Yeast infections (or vaginal candidiasis) are extremely common; as many as three out of four women will get (at least) one in her lifetime. The swelling and pain associated with these infections pretty much takes sex off the table. Plus, having sex before you’re completely healed can mean passing the infection to a partner’s genitals or mouth. These symptoms could also be a sign of bacterial vaginosis (which is often accompanied by a fishy odor, but can cause no symptoms at all) or sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia or gonorrhea.
Solutions: Be wary of self-diagnosing and treating yourself for a yeast infection, especially if you’ve never had one before. Your best bet is to see a doctor to get the issue properly diagnosed. For a yeast infection, you may be prescribed an antifungal medication; for bacterial vaginosis or a sexually transmitted infection, you may need an antibiotic.

Problem: The outside of your vagina is crazy-irritated

Causes: This isn’t the kind of burning love anyone hopes to experience. But if irritation and redness on your outer labia or vulva are keeping you from enjoying the action, blame a bad reaction on a personal care product that made contact with the area—such as soap, body wash, massage oil, or even your toilet paper. Dyes, perfumes, and other additives in these products can trigger vaginitis, or inflammation of the skin around the vagina.

Solutions: Speed healing by leaving the area alone for a day or two until the irritation subsides. (Dabbing on a lotion or cream can just make the inflammation worse.) Then, take inventory of the products you use below the belt and swap out items with chemical additives for all-natural ones.

Problem: You feel a pain deep inside you during thrusting with a penis, fingers, or toy, but it goes away when you switch positions

Causes: Your partner may have just poked your cervix. It’s most likely an issue of position and angle.
Solutions: This isn’t medically harmful, but it can make sex a whole lot less fun. If you find that this always happens in a certain position, switch things up until you find a position that’s more comfortable for you.

Problem: Your vagina is clamped shut

Causes: Vaginismus. If penetration has gone from painful to downright impossible because your vagina is shut tight, it may signal a little-known condition called vaginismus, says Rachel Dardik, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center. Characterized by painful, involuntary contraction of the vaginal muscles, the cause is a mystery, though it may be the result of past trauma, like sexual abuse. “It’s like your vagina has put up a ‘do not enter’ sign,” adds Dweck.

Solutions: Ask your doctor specifically about vaginismus—otherwise, she might just blow it off as anxiety or stress. That would be a shame, because vaginismus is real, and it’s definitely treatable. We teach women exercises that help them relax the pelvic floor muscles, which can help a great deal.

Problem: You feel a deep pelvic throbbing and cramping during sex

Causes: This could be a symptom of endometriosis, a disorder that causes uterus-lining tissue (the endometrium) to grow somewhere outside your uterus, like the ovaries, bowel, or pelvis. In addition to making sex painful, endometriosis may cause periods to be a lot heavier and come with the same deep, throbbing pain.
Solutions: See a doctor, who may prescribe you pain relievers and hormone therapy medications. Extreme cases may require surgery like a hysterectomy.

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