Is it normal to feel pain during intercourse?

Painful penetration can be a common symptom that women experience, particularly in our postpartum population, regardless of whether they delivered their baby vaginally or via caesarian.


Painful intercourse

Painful intercourse (also known as dyspareunia) refers to pain in the genital region before, during, or after intimacy. Around 75 percent of women have painful intercourse at some time, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). This is such a high number! Painful intercourse can be broken down to:

  • Entry level pain – intraorbital or superficial dyspareunia (often described as pain at the vaginal opening)
  • Deep pain – collision dyspareunia (pain felt deep within the pelvis)

This can then be broken down even further, into:

  • Primary pain: is pain you’ve had since becoming sexually active.
  • Secondary pain: develops after experiencing pain-free sex previously
  • Complete pain: means you feel pain every time you have sex
  • Situational pain: is when the pain only happens at certain time

Pain can be described in many ways such as burning, aching, sharpness, spasming, tightness or throbbing.

10 reasons you may feel pain during intercourse or penetration

  • Fungal or bacterial infections such as thrush or UTI’s
  • Sexually transmitted infection (STIs)
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Vaginismus – involuntary spasms of your pelvic floor muscles
  • Vulvodynia – chronic pain in the vulval region
  • Reduced lubrication levels – vaginal dryness
  • Endometriosis
  • Skin irritants – latex condoms or products marketed at cleaning the vagina etc.
  • Anatomy – tilted uterus or penis shape and size
  • Mental health conditions

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and there are many other causes for painful penetration. Some women experience painful penetration at times when they’re not being intimate, such as inserting tampons or menstrual cups.

So how can my pelvic health osteopath help?

Treatment is determined by the underlying cause, and your pelvic health osteopaths will take a thorough history to help determine the cause for your pain. From here they will develop a treatment plan for you, which may include:

  • An opportunity for you to debrief your birth with us
  • Referral to pain specialist or psychologist if required
  • Gentle hands on treatment to the pelvis and surrounding structures (including the option of an internal treatment to the pelvic floor) which may be contributing to pain
  • Specific exercises to promote long term pelvic health
  • Lifestyle modifications and advice specific to each patient

If you have any questions about pelvic health osteopathy, painful penetration, and how osteopaths can help you with pelvic pain, give us a call on (03) 9773 8085! Alternatively, click here to book an appointment online.

Sarah @ Total Balance Healthcare



This blog post is an educational tool only.  It is not a replacement for medical advice from a registered and qualified doctor or health professional.

Phone: (03) 9773 8085

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