If pleasure is the main goal of sex, why are there instances where you're overwhelmed by pain?
A new study reports that among 7,000 women surveyed, one in 10 women find sex to be painful. While women ages 55 to 64 are the most common age group to experience this issue, younger women reported similar symptoms - especially those under 34.
Even if you aren't into sadomasochism, it's possible you have experienced pain while doing the deed. I know I have. I remember a single tear dripping down my cheek when I was young, having encountered some eggplant emoji-status girth.
But there's more to painful sex than just encounters with big penises.
From vaginismus to where Mother Nature placed your cervix down there, many different factors can cause sex to be painful for young women.
Pain during sex can be stressful, especially for those who are lacking experience. Is this what you're supposed to feel? Isn't the whole point of sex that it's supposed to feel good? Why does it hurt so much?
There are lots of different reasons you might feel pain during sex. Elite Daily spoke to a few experts to find out exactly how to deal with (and ideally, correct) any instances of painful sex.
1. Identify What's Causing The Pain
So, you've felt consistent discomfort during actual sex, and it's happened on multiple occasions. The pain might be a little different each time, and you might even have a hard time explaining what kind of pain you are in.
Take a deep breath. This is common, according to Dr. Lauren Streicher, Associate Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University and author of Sex Rx: Hormones, Health, and Your Best Sex Ever.
"Finding out what is causing pain with intercourse may be one of the most frustrating things that women must contend with," Streicher says.
You can start by asking yourself some of the questions Streicher asks her patients: When did the pain start? Do you ever have pain-free sex? What medications are you taking? These can be helpful to share with a doctor to find a solution.
While being on your period or hormonal contraception could be potential causes of painful sex, Streicher explains that the medical term for painful sex is "dyspareunia."
I know, try to say that 10 times fast.
"Dyspareunia can be categorized in two general ways -- 'superficial dyspareunia' refers to pain limited to the entry and the walls of the vagina when attempting intercourse, and 'deep dyspareunia' is easy entry into the vagina, but sharp pains or aches from thrusting during intercourse," says Streicher. "It is not unusual to start with one kind of pelvic pain -- but in time end up with both."
End up with both? Is there no justice in this world? Not really, remember, you're a lady. The reason superficial dyspareunia might lead to deep dyspareunia is pretty much due to nature, and our basic instincts.
If initially you only have superficial dyspareunia, your vagina will protect itself from further agony by tightening your pelvic floor muscles to keep a penis out. If you start with deep dyspareunia, the best way to prevent a penis from entering is by not lubricating. In other words, dryness may not be the initial problem but becomes a protective mechanism to prevent intercourse from occurring -- this is how you get into a vicious cycle of pain.
Our bodies basically revert to their old school, animalistic protective mechanisms after prolonged painful sex.If something hurts your vagina, your vagina is going to reject intercourse over time. While "cool" in theory, it's actually extremely frustrating, and a great reason to deal with painful sex sooner than later.
Being a woman is complicated AF.
2. Find The Right Lube For You
Fear not, ladies, as there are ways to change your vajay's mind about opening up to intercourse.
Quite literally, you can start with lube. According to Streicher, that doesn't mean that crusty, old tube you have laying in a drawer with next to some loose change.
"For immediate relief of pain of discomfort during intercourse, reach for a personal lubricant. I recommend choosing a silicone lubricant, like Replens Silky Smooth or Wet Platinum, as it lasts longer than water-based lubes."
Lube is so underrated. Even if you don't have painful sex, it can make sex more enjoyable for both parties. Nobody likes to feel like you're rubbing against sandpaper. And the longer lasting, the better - you don't want to get into a rhythm only to have the pain creep back in.
"One option for a long-lasting treatment is a vaginal moisturizer, particularly if dryness is a recurring complaint," Streicher says. "A good moisturizer, like Replens Long-Lasting Vaginal Moisturizer provides soothing, safe, immediate, and long-lasting relief. It works to correct the root cause of the problem. No matter what the condition, your vulva, vagina, and/or pelvic floor have been traumatized and need to heal. Avoiding irritants and allergens is critical for vulvar health. Pelvic floor physical therapy is your best bet to eliminate painful pelvic floor muscles."
Take care of your body. Experiment with different personal lubricants and invest in your lady parts. Be patient with yourself, and log your reactions to each product.
Helping yourself out with a little lube doesn't mean you're "drying up down there." Think of it more like a beauty product - it's only enhancing what you've already got going on in the best way possible.
3. Take Care Of Your Mental Health
Sex can be complicated, and going against the same pain more than once can be very scary.
You might be thinking you'll never be able to have painless sex again. You might worry that you aren't able to provide what your partner needs without hurting yourself.
All of these thoughts can cause serious mental anguish.
"Overcoming the mental pain of sex can be difficult if you are reluctant to communicate with your partner and/or your doctor about your issues," says Streicher. "Keep in mind that the anticipation of pain is just as harmful as actual pain, which is why many women are still unable to have intercourse even after the initial physical problem has been eliminated."
In relationships, individuals don't like to name the problem they're facing because it's like admitting defeat. It can be especially nerve-racking to talk to your partner about something you are already feeling insecure about, but if you don't bring it up, your mind is going to become turn you into a total hypochondriac. Your fear of pain during sex can actually trick you into feeling pain that isn't there.
"Many women respond to this physiological cycle by losing hope and a total loss of libido is pretty much inevitable,"says Streicher. "The only way to break the cycle is to find the cause of the pain and communicate with your doctor -- don't avoid it!"
If you feel something, say something.
Our brains and bodies are very much in sync. Taking care of things upstairs is just as important as taking care of things downstairs.
It's just important to remember that your body is unique and you know it best. You've taken the first step and acknowledged that sex is painful for you. Sometimes simply stating the worry aloud will ease your mind.
Once you find out what is affecting you, whether dyspareunia or otherwise, take yourself on an indulgent lube-centric shopping spree. You can even make a date out of it, setting aside time to try your new products out with your partner (right after a big Italian dinner someplace nice, of course).
The most important thing is that you take care of yourself, and realize that painful sex is not forever.
There will be pleasure. I promise.