mardi 3 août 2010

Sexual Pain And Discomfort During Sex

What does it mean if I feel pain or discomfort during sex?

Sex is supposed to be a pleasurable experience so if you feel any pain or discomfort it is a sign that something is either physically or psychologically wrong.

Both men and women can experience pain or discomfort during any form of sexual activity and particularly during intercourse. Pain or discomfort during sex is sometimes called dyspareunia. The sensations can range from mildly uncomfortable to intense pain and may or may not come with visible symptoms such as redness, bumps, rash, sores, swelling, etc.

For men, the pain can be felt in the penis, in the testicles, in the anus or deeper inside the body. For women, the pain can be felt anywhere in the vulvar area, at the vaginal opening, inside the vagina, in the anus or deeper inside the body.

What could be causing my sexual pain or discomfort?

Physical conditions, diseases, certain medications, infections, pelvic surgeries and sexually transmitted infections are often the cause of pain in the pelvic and genital areas during sex.

For men, sex can become painful or uncomfortable for several reasons. For example, having a tight foreskin that doesn't pull back easily, stimulating your penis without enough lubrication or having Peyronie's disease (a condition which causes the penis to bend) can end up causing pain during sexual activity.

For women, one of the most common causes is vaginal dryness. If you are not sufficiently lubricated when intercourse begins, the movement of your partner's penis can irritate your vaginal walls. This is likely to be the case if you are:
  • Not getting enough time or sexual stimulation to become aroused before attempting intercourse.
  • Going through hormonal changes such as menopause.
  • Taking antihistamines or other medications.
  • Having feelings (such as fear, anxiety, etc.) which interfere with your ability to relax and become aroused.
Another condition experienced by some women is called vaginismus. If the muscles at the entrance of your vagina contract involuntarily (you would not be aware that you're contracting them) when you attempt intercourse, penetration can be painful or even impossible.

For both men and women, psychological, emotional or relationship factors have been known to cause or contribute to sexual discomfort or pain. This may be the case if you have:
  • anxiety or depression
  • negative feelings or attitudes towards sex
  • past experiences of sexual abuse or trauma involving your genitals
  • communication problems in your relationship
What can I do to stop it from happening?

Here are a few suggestions that may help you to prevent or get rid of any pain or discomfort during sex:
  • Make sure you get enough time and stimulation to feel aroused and lubricated.
  • Use a water soluble lubricant when stimulating your or your partner's genitals and before intercourse.
  • Be the one to guide the movements or ask your partner to make slower movements.
  • Change your position to one that is more comfortable for you.
If you continue to feel pain during sex, stop what you are doing and explore other activities that feel GOOD or you can choose to stop sexual activity altogether until the pain and discomfort goes away.

You should never feel guilty, ashamed or embarrassed to stop whatever you are doing and tell your partner that you are uncomfortable or feeling pain. Pretending that everything is OK can actually make things worse physically and emotionally.

If you are concerned that emotional or relationship factors could be affecting you, you can ask yourself if there anything about sex, your relationship, or your partner that is making you uncomfortable. Consulting a clinical sexologist can provide assistance in understanding and resolving these issues.

When should I talk to my doctor?

If you know or think you may have a medical condition that could cause pain or if you also feel the pain during non-sexual activities such as when urinating, exercising, biking sitting, etc. talk to your health care provider as soon as possible.

If your pain or discomfort continues to interfere with your enjoyment of sex, it is wise to talk with your health care provider.

Lisa Henry, B.A., M.A.
Sexologue clinicienne et psychothérapeute

Where can I find out more?

Resources for more information:

Chronic Pelvic Pain: A Patient Education Booklet
http://www.pelvicpain.org/pdf/Patients/CPP_Pt_Ed_Booklet.pdf
A patient information brochure written by two physicians Michael Wenof, M.D. and C. Paul Perry, M.D.
Source: The International Pelvic Pain Society

Chronic Pelvic Pain Information 
www.womenshealthmatters.ca/centres/pelvic_health/chronic_pain/
Source : Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre

Goodwin, Aurelie-Jones & Marc E. Agronin. (1997) A Woman's Guide to Overcoming Sexual Fear and Pain.  New Harbinger Publications Inc. 176 pages.  ISBN 157224089X
A self-help book for women suffering from vaginismus and dyspareunia.

Le laboratoire d'étude de la douleur gynécologique
www.er.uqam.ca/nobel/berger/sb.php?f=f1
Latest research, advice and resources for consumers and health care professionals from the research and clinical group at the Université du Québec à Montréal.

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