November 7, 2007

Q&A: New Sex Position Is Painful

Dr. Debby Herbenick answers a listener's question about pain with new sex positions and dealing with complications afterward from possible infection.

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Question: The last time my boyfriend and I had sex we decided to try a different position which he found quite enjoyable, but I unfortunately, did not. Not only was it initially painful, I also bled during this experience. Is this normal? After intercourse, I moved slightly from the position I was in and was overwhelmed with abdominal pain comparable to the worst cramps/losing my virginity. Also, its been a couple of days since this last rendezvous and it stings somewhat when I urinate and sit down fast. Could these be signs of an infection?

I am so sorry to hear that you have been experiencing pain and bleeding resulting from sex with your boyfriend.

Many women have had similar experiences, sometimes just once, other times more often, from having sex. However, just because it is not unusual to have discomfort, pain or bleeding from sex does not mean that it is okay, “normal” or that pain during sex should be par from the course. Sex should not hurt – bottom line. When it does hurt, it is always worth checking out.

Check For Visible Cuts

You might take a look at your genitals to see if you have visible cuts.

Sometimes women tear during sex and these cuts can be seen with the naked eye; other times the cuts are very small and would either not be noticeable by most of us (being untrained to see these) but might be visible by a healthcare provider. Other times the cuts are incredibly small, or could be inside the vagina, and may not be easily seen but may certainly be felt.

Often, if the pain and bleeding were as a result of slight tearing during sex, women tend to notice an improvement in their discomfort after a few days – particularly if they avoid anything (like vaginal penetration, whether with fingers, toys, a tampon or a penis) for a few days that might cause further irritation.

In the mean time, if you want to be sexual with your partner, you might explore other ways of being sexually intimate together (e.g., kissing, making out, breast touching, sensual massage).

Check In With A Healthcare Provider

If the pain does not improve, if it hurts even when you are not using the bathroom, if the pain feels like it is still in your abdominal area rather than in your vagina, or if it generally just worries you or feels like something about which you would like a medical opinion, please do check in with a healthcare provider.

It is fairly common for women to call their healthcare provider, explain to the nurse that they have had pain and bleeding from sex, and ask to be seen by their healthcare provider as soon as possible.

This is not unusual and many women often feel reassured to have a trained healthcare professional take a look at their bodies to make sure that everything seems fine and healthy.

Talk To Your Boyfriend

Sometimes after women or men have had an uncomfortable or painful sexual experience, they may feel hesitant to be sexual again with a partner. Consider talking with your boyfriend about what happened and share ideas about how you might try being sexual again with each other in ways that feel good, and how you can relax together and take sex more slowly at first if that’s what feels most comfortable.

It is important to become comfortable with each other so that you know you can always tell each other when sex is feeling good, when it hurts, when you need to stop, or when you need to try something else.

Recommended Reading

A good book to learn about sexual communication is For Each Other: Sharing Sexual Intimacy and for more information about safer, pleasurable sex – and how to talk to each other about exploration – you might like reading The Good Vibrations Guide to Sex.