Why is sex painful for some women – and what can they do?

Up to one third of women experience pain during sex, but most never seek the treatment they need

Sex is painful for nearly one in eight women according to a study in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Researchers vary in their estimates of how common painful sex is – some studies say it affects up to one in three women – but all agree it’s a neglected problem. Most women never seek help. Some carry on having penetrative sex through gritted teeth.

The medical name for painful sex – dyspareunia – covers a multitude of reasons why intercourse hurts, such as sexually transmitted diseases (chlamydia or herpes), thrush and endometriosis (which causes pelvic inflammation). Then there is anxiety, lack of sexual arousal and/or a previous traumatic experience of sex.

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