Sex is a glorious, beautiful thing. It’s natural and pleasurable. It’s what our bodies are designed for.
Yet when it starts to hurt…you’re in for a lot of trouble—if not horror.
Experiencing pain and discomfort during sex is one of the most common tell-tale signs that there is something wrong “down there.”
But hold that chastity belt for a minute. Before you panic and tell your friends how your partner gave you an STD, you first need to reflect on where and how you feel the pain. Does it affect one specific area or your whole genital area? Is it a burning sensation, a stinging sensation, or a dull ache? Do you have any bleeding during or after sex?
It helps to pay attention to your symptoms and your observations. From there, you can have a better idea of what to look out for as we give you the signs that something’s not right when sex starts to hurt. We’ve compiled a guide to what could be the problem when it hurts to have sex, whether you’re male or female. [Read: STDs 101 – The most common ones and their symptoms]
Painful sex for females
#1 Burning and itchiness. This feeling of “burning love” while having intercourse is often accompanied by severe itching and a cottage cheese-like discharge caused by yeast infections. This can cause swelling and pain in your vagina, making sex painful.
#2 Fishy, fishy. If you experience a burning and itching sensation, accompanied by a fishy odor, this condition may be a sign of bacterial vaginosis, or other sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea or chlamydia.
#3 Deep pain. When you feel deep pain in your lower abdomen and pelvis during penetration, this may be caused by PID, or Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. PID also causes irregular bleeding, fever, and mildly to distinctly painful urination. PID is caused by bacteria in your cervix and other parts of your reproductive organs, usually because of chlamydia, gonorrhea, non-sex-related infection, or childbirth.
#4 Painful position. Your legs are up in the air and your more-than-endowed partner is thrusting inside you. Suddenly, you feel a deep pain in every thrust. This may just be caused by your partner poking your cervix. In this case, the only solution is to switch to a more comfortable angle or position. [Read: 13 spicy sex positions to heat up the bedroom without hurting yourself]
#5 Dry spell. If your vagina feels so dry during intercourse that you’re reminded of sandpaper, this may just be due to menopause. But if you’re in your 20s and definitely not going through “the change,” this dryness may be caused by birth control pills, decongestants, or maybe *just maybe* you’re not that into your partner.
#6 Throbbing pain. A throbbing pain can be caused by endometriosis, a condition wherein the endometrium, or the lining of your uterus, is growing outside your uterus, on areas such as the ovaries, bowels, or pelvis. Aside from painful throbbing and cramping, your periods may also become heavier as you experience the same throbbing pain.
#7 Pain and urination. If you feel pain during sex and you can’t concentrate on the deed because you always feel like you have to pee, you may have interstitial cystitis. Also called painful bladder syndrome, this is a chronic condition that causes painful pressure on your bladder. [Read: 7 problems “down there” you just shouldn’t ignore]
#8 It’s sharp outside. If you feel a sharp, localized pain on the outside of your vagina, you may need to take a mirror and look at it. This pain may just be caused by skin irritation, a pimple, or an ingrown hair. Rubbing up against these bumps during sex may make the irritation and pain even worse.
#9 Stabbing pain. Your partner hasn’t penetrated you yet, but just touching your vagina causes a horrible stabbing pain. This condition is called vulvodynia, in which the tissues around the entrance of your vagina become highly sensitive. Aside from sex, exercise, wearing tight pants, and any additional contact with the outside of your vagina can be very painful.
#10 Shut up. Your vagina painfully clamps shut during penetration, making sex utterly painful—if not impossible. This clamping is caused by involuntary spasms of your pelvic floor muscles, effectively shutting down your vagina for any penetration. This condition is called vaginismus and is often psychological.
#11 Off-limits? You haven’t been able to have sex or insert absolutely anything in your vagina because it hurts excruciatingly badly. This is due to your hymen being completely or partially intact. This means you’re either a virgin, or that there is a break in your hymen, but there is still a band of membrane across the inside of your vagina, making penetration painful. [Read: When sex hurts for women – All the causes of painful sex]
Painful sex for males
Here are the signs to watch out for when you’re getting an uncomfortable or painful feeling under your belt—not only when you are having intercourse, but during urination as well:
#1 Swollen balls. When you feel pain when you urinate, your balls seem to be swollen, and you have unusual penile discharge, you may have chlamydia, one of the most common STIs, caused by a bacterial infection. [Read: Big blue ball facts every girl’s gotta know]
#2 Yellow or green? When you have swollen balls, pain when urinating, AND there is a green or yellow discharge from your penis, you may have contracted gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted infection also caused by a bacteria.
#3 Blisters. Blisters on your genitals accompanied by tingling, itching, and burning sensations on the blisters are caused by the herpes simplex virus. Women are susceptible to this virus and these symptoms as well. [Read: Healthy balls: 7 at-home tests to keep your testicles in check]
#4 A little sore. If you see and feel a very small, firm, and painless sore on your penis, anus, or lips, you may have syphilis. Although you will feel no pain during intercourse, you have to watch out for sores like this because this gives you an increased risk of developing HIV. [Read: 11 health related reasons why sex gets unbearably painful for men]
Experiencing painful symptoms in the genital area while having sex may make you afraid to tell your partner, or even your doctors. You may be scared and embarrassed to know the real cause of your pain and discomfort.
The problem here is, if it is an STI, you have a big chance of spreading the disease to your partner/s, especially if you are sexually active. If it is a non-sexually transmitted infection, it may be another serious medical condition. Either way, the quicker you have it checked by a doctor, the quicker you can be treated and given support.
[Read: The step by step guide to making your vagina smell great and taste even better]
Whether you are male or female, you have to be aware of your body and observe any painful sensations during sex, as these may be due to STIs or other serious conditions. Set aside shame and embarrassment, and pay your doctor a visit.
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