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What could cause pain during sex?

Both women and men can experience pain during sex for a wide range of reasons, including sexually transmitted infections. If it occurs regularly it can have a serious impact on pleasure and enjoyment of sex. In this blog, we take an in depth look at the potential causes of pain during sex for both men and women.

Pain during sex for women

Women can experience pain during sex for a wide variety of reasons and it’s not uncommon. If pain is impacting your enjoyment of sex long term, you should seek medical attention and discuss your symptoms with a doctor.

STDs and Thrush

A number of sexually transmitted infections can cause pain or discomfort during sex, including chlamydia and gonorrhoea. It may be the only symptom that you notice of an STD, which is why regular STD testing is important to rule it out as the cause of pain during sex. Although it’s not a sexually transmitted infection, thrush can also cause pain during sex and there are a range of treatments available to treat this.

Certain Positions

Some women may experience pain in certain sexual positions that lead to deep penetration. This can be caused by having a tilted uterus, something which 1 in 4 women have. Although it’s not necessarily a problem, you should avoid positions where you experience pain or opt for positions which enable you to control the depth of penetration.


The menopause can cause a change in the hormone balance in women which can lead to vaginal dryness. This increases the amount of friction during penetration leading to pain during sex. Using lubrication can alleviate the pain caused by vaginal dryness.

Lack of arousal

One of the most common causes of pain during sex is a lack of arousal causing vaginal dryness. It’s often caused by external factors such as anxiety, stress, lack of confidence or relationship problems which all have the ability to reduce libido and sexual desires. It may also be caused by a lack of experience and understanding by both you and your partner of what arouses you sexually.


Vaginismus is a condition which causes the vagina to involuntarily tighten during sex making penetration painful and difficult. It is not caused by a lack of arousal, but it may be triggered by a previously unpleasant sexual experience or as a result of anxiety or nervousness surrounding sex. One example could be a fear that your vagina is too small for penetration. It is a condition that can easily be overcome by practising a range of exercises to help you relax the muscles and to help you prepare for penetration.

Irritation or allergies

Another common cause of pain during sex can be skin irritation around the vagina. This may occur as a result of allergies to latex condoms or spermicides or it may be caused by the use of scented soaps, shower gels or shampoos used near the genital area.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

Pain noticed in the pelvic area during and after sex could be a symptom of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is often caused by a sexually transmitted infection such as chlamydia which then spreads to the upper part of the genital tract. It can have a long term impact on your reproductive health if it goes untreated for a long period of time.

Other causes of pain during sex

There are also many other potential causes of pain during sex for women. If symptoms continue to occur you should visit a GP. Other known causes of pain during sex include: –

  • Endometriosis
  • Fibroids growing near your vagina or cervix
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Constipation

Pain during sex for men

Experiencing pain during or after sex is reported much less often in men compared to women, but it’s still common. Here are some of the potential causes.


Just like women, a number of STDs can cause pain during sex, including herpes, chlamydia and gonorrhoea. These can cause inflammation to the urine tract, causing a burning sensation. You should get tested regularly for sexually transmitted infections in order to diagnose STDs so that you can get effective treatment.


The prostate is a small gland that sits between the penis and bladder. It produces the fluid that’s mixed with sperm to create semen. An enlarged or swollen prostate is known as prostatitis which can cause pain during and after ejaculation. If you notice pain during ejaculation that recurs and you notice other symptoms such as trouble peeing, then it may be caused by prostatitis and you should seek attention from your GP.

Soreness or injuries

Too much sex or sex without enough lubrication can lead to pain caused by friction or rubbing. You may also experience injuries to the foreskin during sex which can be painful and may take a number of days or weeks to recover. If you notice that you have redness or notice any blood then you should avoid having sex until you have recovered as further sex may make it worse.