Dyspareunia is physical pain experienced by women upon vaginal penetration during sexual intercourse. The pain may occur before, during of after penetration. It has been estimated that approximately 1 in 5 women suffer from dyspareunia.
Types of dyspareunia
The pain associated with dyspareunia is divided into different categories, based on where the pain is located. When it comes to superficial dyspareunia, the pain is located around the opening of the vagina, whereas pain associated with deep dyspareunia occurs deep within the vagina.
Causes may vary depending on the area where the pain is located.
Pain located around the opening of the vagina may be the result of:
- Trauma, injury or surgical scars
- Vaginal dryness due to low estrogen levels
- Vaginal infection
- Lack of lubrication
- Reaction to spermicide, vaginal douche or condoms
- Narrow vagina
Causes associated with deep dyspareunia include:
- Tear in the ligaments that support the uterus
- Injury caused by childbirth
- Health issue affecting a Fallopian tube or ovary
- Urinary problem such as a bladder infection, for example
- Problems with the cervix
Luckily, most of the causes are reversible.
Psychological factors can sometimes be associated with dyspareunia. Depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, loss of sexual desire and psychosexual trauma for example, may lead to dyspareunia.
Pain may vary from one woman to another. Also, it may occur with every penetration or only under certain circumstances, and may or may not be present with every partner. Dyspareunia can develop in women who are already sexually active. The pain itself has been described as sharp, burning, cutting or irritating. The apprehension of pain causes many women to involuntarily contract their pelvic muscles during intercourse which may worsen the pain.
For a doctor to properly diagnose this condition, they must know the following:
- The location of the pain
- The length of time the patient has been experiencing pain
- The circumstances that cause the pain to appear
Afterwards, the physician will perform a gynaecological examination. Unfortunately, countless women will never be diagnosed or treated because they are too embarrassed to speak to a doctor about this issue.
Treatment varies based on the cause of the pain. Treatment may consist of treating a vaginal or bladder infection, or using a vaginal lubricant. It is therefore important to be properly diagnosed.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to speak to your pharmacist.