All too often women feel the need to fight through painful sex—which is often ignored by doctors.
The following six stories help to capture the unique ways and varied experiences so many women have with painful sex. And hopefully they will open a door for more women to share those stories and encourage women to seek help with sexual issues. You deserve to enjoy sex too!
I went through all the tests/scans in the hospital due to suspected Endometriosis or a cyst, as I was having extreme pain after sex. Turns out, I’m allergic to semen! I used to have swelling, pain, and burning sensations. A few times I’ve had to bathe to try and help the pain, and a lot of crying!
I eventually found a doctor who took me seriously, and he was the one who sent me for all my scans in the hospital to see if it was Endometriosis. I then became good friends with a doctor who I told all of this to, and he suggested an allergy rather than Endo.
I would advise anyone experiencing painful sex to push the doctors for a diagnosis and change doctors if they aren’t doing anything.
- Rhiannon, 22
I experienced painful sex with my partner of four years for the last two years of our relationship. It just started one day and never really went away. We tried all sorts of things to ease the pain, such as lots of foreplay and lube. After a while, I went to the doctors to get a proper check up, but they couldn't find anything wrong.
Looking back on the relationship, I'm starting to realize that I was in pain because I was falling out of love with my partner. I don't regret the relationship at all and still see him as one of my closest friends, but I definitely learnt the importance of being attracted to your partner when having sex!
- Jasmine, 26
I’ve had vaginal pain for as long as I can remember, although it was taken less seriously than my other Endometriosis symptoms. I frequented the OBGYN to manage my symptoms from Endometriosis and was often poked, prodded, and would have trans-vaginal ultrasounds ordered.
It wasn’t until this past summer that a doctor introduced the idea that the stress from my Endometriosis and having vulvodynia could be what was causing this particular pain. I was put on a variety of muscle relaxers and nerve pain medication, which did not help, unfortunately. The next step for me was pelvic floor therapy.
The Endo, unfortunately, did not get better, but my vaginal pain has decreased into almost nothing. For the first time, I’ve been able to have sex with my boyfriend—and not by gritting and waiting for it to be over. I am finally able to enjoy myself and be present in the moment and enjoy the intimacy, which is something I genuinely didn’t think I’d ever be able to do. And that certainly has made it worth it.
- Josie, 19
I suffered from ovarian cysts since age 20. Sex was always painful and I had certain positions I would stick to because sex was such a difficult thing. Over time, it became such a negative experience that I would just avoid it, and I ended up being unable to have sex for several years. Through working with my therapist and also with my gyno prescribing vaginal vallium, I was able to work through it, and after a couple of months I was able to have pain-free sex.
The first step, I would say, would be to make sure there isn’t a health issue going on. Once I was cyst free and still having pain, it was time to look at it from the emotional angle.
Sometimes, if your emotional health isn’t 100 percent or it’s a certain time of the month, a woman can experience that discomfort, and it’s OK to stop and try again another day.
- Hope, 31
I experience pain during sex because I live with chronic pain from Fibromyalgia and Osteoarthritis. Overall body pain and the dryness that comes from having an autoimmune disorder make sex a difficult and often uncomfortable task. Don’t get me wrong… My hubby and I still try and the use of lube helps, but it’s still a challenge.
- Pamela, 56
I started having penetrative sex at 18. For my first four years of sexual activity, it hurt basically every time. I was having a lot of sex, usually under the influence of something, and every time it was painful.
I went to an OBGYN and they couldn’t tell me what was wrong. It wasn’t until I started going to therapy, got my multiple diagnoses for conditions like depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, and ADHD, and began taking medication, that it started not to hurt anymore. I just pushed through it for years because I felt like I was supposed to. Now I am mostly celibate and kind of afraid to have sex because I’m worried the pain will come back.
- Mary*, 26
*Names have been changed
**Stories have been edited for clarity