Q&A: I Experience Vulva Pain Before And After Sex. What Can I Do?

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QUESTION: I have vulva pain during and after sex, and it also bothers me for days after. Is there anything around the house or at the pharmacy I can use to treat this on my own to keep from having to go to the doctor?

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Depending on the type of irritation or pain that you experience, your healthcare provider may recommend various at-home remedies or prescription treatments to help you.

Vulvodynia

As many as 10-15% of women experience vulvar or vaginal pain on an ongoing basis. Even more women experience genital pain less frequently. Any time a woman is experiencing pain in connecting with sex – especially ongoing pain – I recommend that she check in with a healthcare provider, such as a gynecologist, for a check-up.

If you do not have the money or insurance to be seen by a healthcare provider, you might call around to the clinics in your community or in a nearby town to find a clinic that offers free, low-cost or sliding scale healthcare. Many Planned Parenthood clinics offer affordable healthcare

In addition, many local, county and state health departments offer healthcare services related to sexual health, so you might ask around and see what resources you have available to you.

Cause and Effect

There are many different causes for pain during sex. Sometimes, women and their partners spend very little time in foreplay, not leaving the vagina enough time to lubricate naturally, which can be painful.

If a woman has a male partner who has a large penis, or is she has a small vagina, the genital fit can be painful too. Sometimes adding a store-bought lubricant can help sex to feel more comfortable. Spending more time in foreplay to allow for vaginal lubrication can be helpful, too.

Sex may also be painful if a woman is allergic to her male partner’s semen and such irritation may last for days.

However, other times, healthcare is very important. Some instances of painful sex are linked to medical conditions for which treatment may be available. You can learn more about painful sex through The National Vulvodynia Association.

Treatment and Information

Depending on the type of irritation or pain that you experience, your healthcare provider may recommend various at-home remedies or prescription treatments to help you. You can learn more about genital pain problems in The V Book: A Doctor’s Guide to Complete Vulvovaginal Health.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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