What to Do if Sex is Painful


By Alexa Santory

 

Anyone with a vagina can confirm that having one is hard. There are so many things that can happen and so many things that will happen that make taking care of your vagina so much more stressful than it needs to be. Take sex for example. Sex is supposed to be fun, not painful. But sometimes an unfortunate caveat for people with vaginas is that sex can be painful, and for reasons that aren’t always talked about openly. There are a bunch of factors that can lead to painful sex, some of which are completely treatable, others that are more serious. And aside from the physical pain, there can also be emotional struggles that go along with it. There are too many vaginal health issues that aren’t talked about in the mainstream and the fact remains that we should have an open dialogue about it! People shouldn’t feel alone in this because people aren’t alone in this.

What causes painful sex?

Oftentimes, painful sex is the result of a lack of arousal or lubrication, aka something that’s nothing to really worry about but should be the topic of conversation between you and your partner on how to make it better. If you’re feeling uncomfortable about having sex, do not force yourself to do it. But if you are comfortable and feel you need to relax a bit more, take more time during foreplay to get your body ready for it.

However, there are more serious things that cause painful sex like certain STI’s, pelvic inflammatory disease, and endometriosis. STIs, specifically chlamydia and gonorrhea, have often been linked to pain during sex. Since these two STI’s often show no symptoms, it’s best to get tested every few months or after every new partner. If left untreated, they can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID, where the tissue in the pelvis become badly inflamed leading to major pain during intercourse. If left untreated, it can lead to infertility. Scary as it sounds, if you catch it early, it can be treated with antibiotics! Listen to your body during sex and don’t force yourself to keep going if the pain is unbearable! On the more serious end, one of the side effects of endometriosis is pain during sex. We’ve discussed the seriousness of this elusive condition and if you feel that it’s something that you may have, definitely speak to your doctor about it. A few other conditions that cause pain during sex are vaginismus, which is a common condition where the vaginal muscles involuntarily spasm, yeast infections, and menopause, since the vaginal lining loses its natural moisture as we get older.

 

What else can go wrong?!

Oh sis….so much. Unfortunately, the female reproductive system is prone to a slew of conditions and problems, most of which aren’t talked about nearly enough. It’s almost like we don’t make up half the population or something! It’s time to open the floor for some real discourse about some of the (very common) issues people with vaginas deal with and what they mean.

 

Cysts

The name alone is pretty daunting, but they’re actually way more common than you think! So common that may even have one right now without knowing it. Ovarian cysts are fluid filled pockets that can grow either in or on the ovary and for the most part, they’re harmless and actually pretty functional. Most of them don’t cause any pain and go away on their own. These are known as corpus luteus or follicular cysts, and they grow to produce estrogen and progesterone and release the egg when you ovulate. These functional cysts develop around our periods to help our bodies release an egg. They can be serious though, and sometimes may contain hair, teeth, and skin. These horror movie-like cysts are called dermoid cysts and develop through embryonic cells. There are also cystadenomas, which develop on the surface of the ovary and are filled with water or mucus, and endometriomas, which develop as a result of endometriosis. These are much more serious as they made lead the ovary moving out of place or ovarian twisting, which is super painful and can inhibit blood flow to the ovary. Unfortunately there’s no way to stop them from developing, so it’s important to monitor any pain you may feel in your pelvic area, especially around the time of your period.

 

Bacterial Vaginosis

AKA BV, this is a super duper common vaginal infection that often develops after sex. It’s not quite an STI but it is often caused by intercourse of any kind, as well as smoking, douching, or using harsh soaps or perfumes on the area. Basically it’s an overgrowth of bad bacteria because the levels of good bacteria dropped quickly. The thing about the bacteria in our vaginas is that it can be thrown off by the littlest things, which is why it’s important to monitor scent, discharge, and if there’s any itchiness or pain. With BV, there are often no symptoms, but the most common ones are thin, white discharge, burning when you pee, and a strong odor that becomes more apparent after sex. It also makes it easier to contract an STI, so wear protection! Clearing it up is easy, though! Telling you gyno what you’re feeling, they’ll do a swab test and provide you with antibiotics. (Source)

 

Uterine fibroids.

These are non-cancerous growths in the uterus that can range in size from being so small they’re undetectable to so large that they stretch and distort the uterus. They’re pretty common and a lot of women go through life with them without even knowing, just like ovarian cysts. The trouble is when the symptoms start to become serious of course. These include pelvic pressure or pain, periods lasting more than a week, heavy periods, frequent peeing, and back pains. Like most female reproductive issues, the direct cause of uterine fibroids is unknown but they could be the result of major hormonal changes. Oftentimes, they’re genetic too and Black women are more likely to develop them and at a younger age than any other race. There are a bunch of natural ways to take care of fibroids, like changes in diet, supplements like milk thistle, vitex, and fish oil. (Source)

 

All Natural Tips for a Health Kitty

When it comes to vaginal health, over the counter stuff is usually the way we go. And if it’s more serious, of course we see our doctor. But there are also natural ways of going about caring for your kitty, from how to deal with pain during sex to easing uncomfortable fibroids.

 

  • Chamomile tea and epsom salt baths for ovarian cysts. Ovarian cysts can sometimes be pretty painful, especially around your period. Drinking chamomile tea has been found to help ease the pain because of its sedative effect. I mean, have you ever had a cup of chamomile tea before bed? Knocks you right out. It has that same effect on the discomfort you feel because of a cyst. Epsom salt baths are great too, because they’re have a lot of magnesium sulfate, which acts as a natural muscle relaxant! (Source)
  • Cranberries for UTIs. You’ve heard this one before, we all have! But the best thing to do is make it part of your daily routine. Taking daily cranberry supplements can help maintain the health of the urinary tract and can lower the risk of contracting one. UTIs are most often caused by bacteria introduced during sex and women have a high chance of contracting them because their urethras are shorter! So always pee after sex and take daily cranberry supplements!
  • Natural oils for vaginal dryness. This is easily the most common reason behind pain during sex, and it’s especially common in older women who are going through menopause. There’s a name for it: vaginal atrophy, which indicates that there is inflammation, dryness, and thinning of the vaginal walls, all of which can make sex a bit less pleasurable as we get older (Source). Luckily, there are oils you can use if you’re sensitive to lubes! Avocado oil, coconut oil, and jojoba oil are among the best but it’s important not to use them if you’re using condoms since it can cause them to break.
  • Diet changes for fibroids. It’s been found that diets high in red meat and refined sugars can lead to uterine fibroids. Switching up your diet and cutting back on these two food sources is a great way to help reduce the risk and ease the pain if you already have them. A diet high in leafy greens, organic foods, foods with lots of beta carotene, and flaxseeds can help reduce the chance of developing or irritating already existing fibroids! (Source)
  • Probiotics for everything. If you feel that your pH is off, you’re probably right! That overgrowth of bad bacteria is no joke sometimes, which is why probiotics are such an important part of daily health regimens in general! They’re great for your gut, your skin, and your kitty! Probiotics are good flora, so they’re gonna help reintroduce it to your body, and they’re not leaving the vagina out of the equation. Introducing probiotics to your daily routine can help rebalance the pH of the vagina, fix odor problems, and reduce itchiness. You can get these in pill form, or by eating yogurt, drinking kombucha, and eating fermented foods.  
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