What is Dyspareunia? – Causes & Symptoms
- Published on August 12, 2022
What is dyspareunia?
Dyspareunia refers to the pain and discomfort in the genital area or pelvis that occurs before, during, or after sexual intercourse.
The pain can be felt on the external part of the genitalia, such as the vulva and the vaginal opening, or it can be inside the body like the lower abdomen, cervix, uterus, or pelvic region. The pain can be felt as a burning sensation, a sharp pain, or it can feel like cramps.
Dyspareunia has been observed in males as well as females but is more commonly seen in females. The condition can result in strained relationships and marital distress and negatively impact your intimacy.
Dyspareunia causes can be physical or psychological, and your doctor will suggest the treatment depending upon the underlying causative factors.
There are numerous causes resulting in dyspareunia in females as well as males and can be divided into physical and emotional causes.
– Physical causes
For easier understanding and treatment modalities, physical dyspareunia causes are classified according to the location of pain, whether the pain is entry-level or deep.
Causes of entry-level pain
The entry-level pain can be at the opening of the vagina, vulva, penis, etc. Following are the reasons for entry-level dyspareunia:
- Vaginal infections: Infections affecting the vulva, or the area around the vagina, and vaginal opening result in the inflammation of the genitalia and cause dyspareunia. Bacterial infections, yeast or fungal infections of the vagina, or even urinary tract infections may lead to painful intercourse.
- Vaginal dryness: In normal circumstances, glands present at the vaginal opening secrete fluids to lubricate it. When a woman is breastfeeding, or there is a lack of arousal before intercourse, the fluid secretion is too little to provide any lubrication during the intercourse. Some medications like antidepressants and oral contraceptive pills also cause vaginal dryness. Changes in hormonal levels during childbirth and menopause can also lead to vaginal dryness and dyspareunia symptoms.
- Skin infection around external genitalia: If there is irritation of the skin in the genital area due to tight clothing, allergies to some soaps or hygiene products, or if there is any skin infection such as sexually transmitted disease, it can result in dyspareunia due to the skin inflammation.
- Vaginismus: Vaginismus refers to the tightening of the vaginal muscles in reaction to any vaginal penetration. Any emotional or physical factor can trigger this tightening, causing dyspareunia symptoms. People suffering from vaginismus can also experience pain during a vaginal examination.
- Injury to external genital area: Any injury to the external reproductive organs, including injuries during childbirth, can give rise to dyspareunia.
- Birth defects: Certain birth abnormalities such as imperforated hymen and improper vaginal development in females, and penile deformities in males leads to painful intercourse.
- Damaged foreskin: Rubbing or tearing of the penile foreskin can damage it and cause painful intercourse in males.
- Painful erections: Painful erections in males may contribute to dyspareunia.
Causes of deep pain
This type of pain can be due to some underlying medical condition. Deep pain is experienced during deep penetration or can be sharper in a particular position. Here are some reasons for deep pain:
- Conditions affecting uterine cervix: Infections of the cervix, erosion, etc., cause pain during deep penetration.
- Conditions affecting the uterus: Medical issues like uterine fibroids, uterine prolapse, endometriosis, etc., may cause painful sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse too soon after delivery can also hurt during the intercourse.
- Conditions affecting ovaries: Ovarian cysts are tiny cysts above the ovaries that can cause dyspareunia symptoms.
- Conditions affecting the pelvis and pelvic organs: Urinary bladder inflammation, cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease, etc., are some of the conditions that cause swelling in the pelvic area, resulting in painful sexual intercourse.
Anxiety, depression, any history of sexual abuse, fear, low self-esteem, and stress are some of the factors that can contribute to dyspareunia.
Dyspareunia symptoms can vary depending on the underlying cause and other individual factors. Following are some of the symptoms experienced by the individuals:
- Pain in the vaginal opening during entry
- Deep pelvic or abdominal pain during penetration
- Pain after intercourse
- Throbbing or burning sensation
- Dull abdominal pain
- A crampy feeling in the pelvic region
- Rarely some individuals may report bleeding
- As stated above, dyspareunia treatment depends upon the underlying cause. That said, some causes do not need any type of mediation. For example, painful intercourse after childbirth can be resolved by giving the reproductive system some time, maybe six weeks, to get back into shape.
- Counselling as dyspareunia treatment is suggested for both partners if the cause is found to be psychological. It can also be beneficial for couples suffering from relationship issues caused by painful intercourse.
- The healthcare provider prescribes medications like antibiotics or antifungals for any underlying bacterial or fungal infection.
- If hormonal disturbances cause vaginal dryness, local application of estrogen helps reduce it. Some vaginal lubricating creams are applied locally for dyspareunia treatment and are available over the counter.
- Apart from the above, some alternative remedies can be tried to reduce dyspareunia symptoms. Kegel exercises help relieve vaginismus by strengthening the pelvic muscles, thus preventing dyspareunia. Taking precautions to maintain proper sexual hygiene will alleviate any chance of infections and painful intercourse. Investing enough time in foreplay and stimulation is another method to prevent painful intercourse.
In Indian society, speaking openly about sexual problems is still considered taboo. Due to these prejudices, many couples suffer silently because of dyspareunia.
Birla Fertility & IVF is a fast growing chain of fertility clinics that offer comprehensive patient-centric management of dyspareunia through its reliable and trustworthy treatment modalities.
We have a highly-experienced team of doctors with expertise in handling and managing complex conditions such as painful intercourse. Apart from diagnosis, each clinic also provides knowledge about preventive steps in order to ward off diseases or diagnose them at the earliest.
Visit Birla Fertility & IVF and book an appointment with Dr. Rachita Munjal to know more about dyspareunia and how to avert it.
1. What is the most common cause of dyspareunia?
The most common cause of dyspareunia is inadequate lubrication of the vagina which different factors, physical or emotional, can trigger.
2. Is dyspareunia curable?
Various underlying conditions that cause dyspareunia can usually be cured or managed with treatment. Nonetheless, individuals with emotional causes of dyspareunia need counselling to get relief from the symptoms.
3. Does dyspareunia hamper the chances of getting pregnant?
Dyspareunia does not directly lead to infertility, but painful sex can decrease your chances of pregnancy as it interferes with sexual intercourse.
4. Can yoga help alleviate dyspareunia symptoms?
Some yoga poses like child’s pose, happy baby, and diaphragmatic breathing help to stretch and strengthen pelvic muscles and reduce the chances of pain during sexual intercourse.
Dr Rachita Munjal
Consultant – Birla Fertility and IVF
Dr Rachita Munjal completed her MBBS from Dr D. Y. Patil Medical College, Hospital & Research Centre, Pune and MS (Obstetrics and gynaecology) from Dr. D.Y Patil Vidyapeeth Pune. She has also completed her DAGE (Diploma in Advanced Gynae Endoscopy) from Germany and MRCOG-I (Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists, UK) Membership Examination.
Over 14 years of experience
Fertility TreatmentsProblems with fertility are both emotionally and medically challenging. At Birla Fertility & IVF, we focus on providing you with supportive, personalized care at every step of your journey towards becoming a parent.
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We offer a comprehensive range of sperm retrieval procedures and treatments for couples with male factor infertility or sexual dysfunction.