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  • Jessica Holfeltz

When Sex is Painful


It is estimated that one in every five to six women {16 to 20 percent} have had or will have sexual pain at some point in their lives.


Approximately one to five percent of men experience male dyspareunia (painful sex). That’s 1 to 5 men out of 100.


These numbers are very significant, especially when you consider that the prevalence of individuals {men and women combined} with asthma is 7.7 percent. The prevalence of cancer in men and women is 8.2 percent and heart disease is 12 percent.


Pain associated with sex, in women, is more prevalent than heart disease; yet, this concern rarely, if ever, gets addressed, socially {and sometimes, medically}. Additionally, while pain associated with sex is estimated to be less common in men, the stigma and shame surrounding masculinity does not create a space within society and sometimes doctor’s offices to address this concern.


So, let’s talk about it. The following is a list of possible reasons for pain associated with sex in vagina and penis owners.

  • Hormone changes {lack of estrogen} in women

  • Thinning of vulvar and/or vaginal tissues due to medications, cancer treatments, hormone therapy, etc.

  • Yeast infections

  • UTI (urinary tract infection)

  • STIs {sexual transmitted infections}

  • Personal lubricants - some lubricants can mess with your body's pH, actually dry out your skin/membranes, and cause yeast infections!

  • Lack of using lube altogether

  • Breastfeeding

  • Emotional pain/trauma

  • Anxiety

  • Stress

If you have been experiencing pain assocaited with sex, please address your concerns with your doctor to rule out any underlying physical condition. I also suggest seeking help from a certified sex therapist who has been trained and educated to help individuals who are struggling with this specific concern.


Bottom line: painful sex is not normal, but it is not uncommon. You are not alone. There is help. You have options.


Book I recommend that talk about painful sex:


Better Sex Through Mindfulness by Lori A. Brotto, PhD


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