Question: I’ve been sexually active with my boyfriend for a year and half. At one point, it started to hurt, especially when he tried to insert his penis, it felt like the skin was burning and like sand paper was being held against the clitoris’ skin. Now it’s just impossible to insert his penis. It hurts so much, I feel like crying at times.
There are many reasons why women may develop vaginal pain or pain during sex, and it’s impossible for me to know what’s causing your issues with pain. Let’s go over some of the possibilities.
Think About What Has Changed
Because sex used to feel all right for you, I’m guessing that it is unlikely that you are generally afraid or fearful of having sex. However, if for some reason you feel that you have long felt afraid of sex, uncomfortable having sex with your boyfriend, or guilty or ashamed about your sexual behavior, it might be helpful to talk with a sex therapist.
If sex used to feel pleasurable and good for you, this is probably unlikely to be true for you but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it. Sometimes circumstances change and people go from feeling positive about sex to feeling worried or shameful about sex, and certainly the way one feels about sex can impact on how it feels physically.
It’s also possible that medical issues are at stake here. I would highly recommend checking in with a gynecologist or other healthcare provider to see if any physical causes of your pain can be identified.
Sometimes women develop genital skin conditions (such as lichen sclerosus) that can cause or contribute to pain during sex. These conditions are often treatable.
Other times, women have internal causes of pelvic pain (for example, endometriosis). Alternatively, it may also be that you’ve developed an allergic reaction to a lubricant that you’ve been using or to a lubricated condom that you’ve been using during sex.
If you’re using condoms, consider switching brands or trying a non-lubricated condom to see if that changes how sex feels. You can always add your own water-based lubricant and might prefer one that is described as hypoallergenic or that is recommended to you by a healthcare provider as less likely to be irritating.
If you’re using lubricants, you might try not using a lubricant one time (to see if the lubricant you were using is what was causing or contributing to the pain) or else switching brands.
If you use scented laundry or bath products (or recently switched to a new laundry detergent or bath product), even that could be contributing to genital irritation. There have even been a few cases of women experiencing painful intercourse as a result of their male partner ingesting something that the women were allergic or sensitive to.
Open The Lines Of Communication
It’s also very important that you let your boyfriend know how much sex hurts for you. Most people want to create pleasurable experiences for their partner. If he doesn’t care how much sex hurts for you and is focused only on his pleasure, that’s something you might want to pay attention to.
And if he is trying to avoid causing pain for you, and you’re the one who insists on having sex in spite of experiencing pain, you might ask yourself why it is that you feel vaginal intercourse is so important to have, even when it hurts and makes you want to cry, as you noted.
There are many ways of sharing intimacy and being sexual together that don’t have to involve vaginal intercourse, including kissing, sexual touching, oral sex and sex toy play. Exploring these more often may help create positive experiences for you two while you work to address this issue.
Although it is somewhat common for women to experience some discomfort or pain during intercourse, our research suggests that the pain is usually described as mild and fleeting – not so bad that it makes a person want to cry. Your description suggests that checking in with a healthcare provider could be an important next step for you.
Finally, you might find it helpful to read When Sex Hurts: A Woman’s Guide to Banishing Sexual Pain, by some of country’s leading experts in women’s sexual health and vulvovaginal pain. Please know that sex doesn’t have to hurt and there are often good treatments and therapies available to help improve your sexual experiences. The National Vulvodynia Association is also an excellent resource for information about vulvar pain and referrals to specialists who treat patients with vulvar pain.
Next Question: Can I Get Pregnant While I’m On My Period?
Generally speaking, a woman is unlikely to become pregnant while she is having her period. However, that does not mean that it is impossible to become pregnant when one is having menstrual bleeding.
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Reviewed and updated on April 29, 2017.