Painful sex (dyspareunia)

Dyspareunia refers to pain during sexual intercourse. It can affect your happiness, your self-esteem and your relationship.

Causes vary widely.

There are options to deal with dyspareunia, no matter the cause.


Dyspareunia is the term used to describe pain before, during or after vaginal intercourse. It can be distressing and result in the loss of sexual interest, relationship problems, and affect your mood. Getting a diagnosis of what is causing the pain can help you to know what treatment might be best for you.


There are many causes of dyspareunia including physical ones like not enough lubrication, infection, illness or surgery. Psychological causes like stress and anxiety can also contribute and make it even worse. The location of the pain may help identify a specific physical cause. Superficial dyspareunia may be associated with vaginal dryness, vaginismus, infection and others. Deep dyspareunia may be related to medical conditions such as endometriosis, fibroids, prolapse and pelvic inflammatory disease. The important thing to remember is that there are options to deal with dyspareunia, no matter the cause.


Painful sex is a common but neglected female health problem. The population prevalence is estimated to vary from 3 to 18% globally. It can affect women of all ages, with young women the most likely to be affected, however menopausal and postmenopausal women can suffer from sexual pain too due to decreased oestrogen level and sexual drive.


To investigate the cause of the pain, you will be asked about your medical history and a pelvic examination will be performed. We check for signs of infection or structural abnormalities and we may use a device called a speculum, which is inserted into the vagina to enable a visual examination. A pelvic ultrasound also may help to detect structural abnormalities, such as endometriosis, fibroids, or cysts. Once we found the cause of the problem and we will be able to tell you which treatment you may need.