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DYSPAREUNIA – Painful Intercourse

October 4, 2023

Today’s Word of the day Wednesday is… DYSPAREUNIA. No, it’s not some type of exotic flower. It means painful sexual intercourse. It can happen to anyone, though women are disproportionally affected (8-21% in a 2006 global study – but keep in mind self-report is notoriously poor for these sorts of personal conditions). And there are *SO MANY* reasons why sex can be painful. Once things like infection or malignancies are ruled out or addressed, there are still many possibilities to consider. Perhaps there was trauma to the pelvic floor with childbirth or abuse. Perhaps there is muscle tension that needs to be addressed. Perhaps there is a bladder condition that is resulting in pain. Perhaps there’s decreased lubrication due to an estrogen deficiency (e.g. with vaginal atrophy with menopause, or vaginal dryness with lactation). I could go on… but you get the idea. Lots of possibilities.

And dyspareunia can present in different ways: with initial penetration in some, with deeper penetration in others, after ejaculation for men… The point is, where there’s discomfort and pain, it’s hard to focus on the fun stuff, which means there’s less self-lubrication (for women), and the pelvic floor muscles will tighten (for both) – which just further compounds the discomfort. This also can lead folks to limit their sexual activity or avoid it altogether. And it should go without saying that there is a significant psychological toll of not being able to enjoy your funparts when you might like to.

So – if “down there” is a no-go zone and you’d like it to be, consider talking to your MD and your pelvic PT about it today. Trust us: you’re not alone in wondering if sex can ever be fun again — we work with these sorts of issues every day! And if your MD tells you to “have a glass of wine and relax” – ?? Stop right there and go find a new MD immediately, because that answer does not take you and your concerns seriously, and demonstrates an utter lack of knowledge and respect for this condition. And yes, there are still doctors saying this sort of ridiculous nonsense in 2023.

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