Painful intercourse

Synonyms: Dyspareunia

Medical Specialties: Geriatrics, Obstetrics/gynecology, Psychiatry

Clinical Definition

Painful intercourse has a number of possible causes. It may be the result of gynecologic problems, such as cysts or endometriosis, or lubrication issues caused by menopause or lack of arousal. It also may stem from emotional issues relating to relationship problems or anxiety.

In Our Own Words

Painful intercourse is something many women experience at some point in their lives. Causes run the gamut from gynecologic problems to sexual response issues to underlying medical conditions.


Pain at entry may be the result of causes such as genital or urinary tract infections, lack of lubrication or intercourse too soon after childbirth. Internal pain may be caused by ovarian cysts, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease or other medical conditions. Additional causes of pain may be related to emotional stress and anxiety about intercourse and intimacy. 

Relevant Conditions
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Vaginismus
  • Endometriosis
  • Menopause
Common Types
  • Vulvodynia
  • Vaginismus
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes and other rep
Side Effects
  • Pain in vulva, vagina or perineum during intercourse
  • Pain in lower back, pelvic region, uterus or bladder during intercourse
  • Lack of sexual desire or arousal
  • Lack of vaginal lubrication
  • Feelings of anxiety, guilt, fear or shame in regards to intercourse
  • Depression
Share this article
  • Cleveland Clinic. “Sexual Health: Female Pain During Sex.” Updated March 2012. Accessed September 2013.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) – CDC Fact Sheet.” Accessed October 2013.
  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “Frequently Asked Questions: Gynecologic Problems.” Accessed October 2013.
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