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Dyspareunia (Painful Intercourse)

Dyspareunia is the medical term for painful intercourse. Many women experience vaginal pain during or after sexual activity, and this pain is a common reason for low libido in women.

Dyspareunia is a symptom with several possible causes. The good news: Most of them are highly treatable. 

Dyspareunia: what you should know

  • Vaginal dryness, or lack of lubrication, is the most common cause of pain during intercourse. Vaginal dryness is more common after menopause.
  • These are some other frequent causes of vaginal pain during sex:
    • Sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea
    • Endometriosis, which can also cause painful menstrual periods
    • Vaginismus, which occurs when the muscles around the vagina spasm involuntarily, causing the vagina to close
    • Vulvovaginitis, an inflammation or infection of the vulva and vagina
    • Interstitial cystitis, a chronic inflammation of the bladder
  • For many women, the cause of pain is not physical. Emotional and psychological issues can also cause pain during intercourse.
  • A range of effective treatments are available for most causes of pain during sex. Doctors at Rush can help pinpoint both the cause of your pain and the treatment most likely to help.

How can I get help for dyspareunia?

Talk to your gynecologist or your primary care doctor if pain is affecting your sex life, especially if you have pain every time you have sex.

Care for dyspareunia at Rush

Doctors at Rush will examine you and do any tests necessary to determine the cause of your distress. Because there are many possible causes of pain during intercourse, there are also many possible treatments.

Depending on the cause of your pain, your care at Rush might involve the following:

  • Medications
  • Topical creams or ointments
  • Pelvic floor physical therapy, if your pain is due to problems with muscles in your pelvic area
  • Psychotherapy, to address any emotional issues that arise
  • Surgery or other procedures (only in rare cases)

Why choose Rush for care for dyspareunia

  • Rush has a Marital and Sex Therapy Program through which you can see clinical psychologists who have decades of experience in helping patients with problems such as low sexual desire, erection problems, pain during intercourse, premature ejaculation, inability to have intercourse and difficulty having an orgasm.
  • Rush has a program for abdominal and pelvic health problems, including pain during intercourse, that can address the full spectrum of issues related to these conditions. The program has a coordinator who will help you navigate the multiple specialists you might need to see to find relief.

Departments and programs that treat this condition