sex hurts, painful sex, uncomfortable sex

Sex. Sometimes it’s earth-shattering, other times it’s uninspiring. But one thing sex shouldn’t be is consistently painful. We’ve all had those awkward moments, wondering if the discomfort we feel is simply a lack of—ahem—readiness or an actual symptom of something more serious. Here are some common and not-so common reasons sex can hurt and cures.

“At some point in her life, almost every woman will have pain during sex,” says Hilda Hutcherson, MD, assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center and author of Pleasure: A Woman’s Guide to Getting the Sex You Want, Need and Deserve. But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer through it. Pain is an indication that something’s wrong... and most of those somethings are easily treatable.

VAGINAL PAIN
Vaginal pain is discomfort during insertion and along the vaginal walls.

Medication.
If you’re taking a medication like birth control or an antihistamine, vaginal dryness can be a side effect. But don’t immediately assume that you should change your medication. “It’s hard enough to find a birth control pill that really agrees with you,” says Dr. Hutcherson. “So if dryness is your only problem, use a water-based lubricant. Incorporate it as part of foreplay: Rub it onto him, then have him rub it onto you.” But if sex remains uncomfortable or you find that the dryness is just one of several side effects you’re experiencing, talk to your doctor to see if she can prescribe another pill.

Lack of arousal.
“For a young woman,” says Dr. Hutcherson, “the number one cause of pain during sex is lack of arousal, most often because she’s not getting enough foreplay from her partner.” When you haven’t had enough time to become fully aroused before intercourse, the vagina isn’t lubricated, causing uncomfortable heat and friction as it is penetrated. Treatment is easy and fun: Just tell your partner you need more time and attention lavished on you to get completely in the mood.