Symptoms and Signs of Painful Intercourse (Dyspareunia)

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 8/5/2022

Doctor's Notes on Painful Intercourse (Dyspareunia)

Painful intercourse is the experience of discomfort or pain during sex. The medical term for painful intercourse is dyspareunia. Causes may include:

  • vaginismus (involuntary contraction of the vaginal muscles),
  • sexually transmitted diseases,
  • abnormalities or tumors of the female genital tract, and
  • lower estrogen levels in perimenopause and after menopause, which can result in insufficient lubrication and painful intercourse along with certain medications.

Associated symptoms may include:

  • vaginal dryness, 
  • burning, 
  • itching, 
  • bleeding, or 
  • discharge. 

Other signs and symptoms depend upon the cause and may include:

What Is the Treatment for Painful Intercourse?

Treatment for painful intercourse depends on the cause of the condition. Treatment may include:

  • Drugs to treat infections that may be causing the pain
  • Over-the-counter vaginal lubricant products
  • Prescription medications to increase vaginal lubrication
  • Vaginal relaxation exercises
  • Psychological counseling, patient education, and stress management techniques where appropriate
  • Surgery to remove vaginal strictures if present
  • Management of any underlying conditions that cause or worsen the pain

Must Read Articles:


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.