Sex tip of the day: What does it mean if I'm experiencing pain during sex?

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We answer your questions about the more serious side of sexual relationships...

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Pain during sex isn't an uncommon problem, so don't put off a doctor's visit out of embarrassment. Most of us will have at least one experience of pain during sex, but it's most commonly caused by something very treatable.

Sometimes that uncomfortable burning feeling down below can be caused by your monthly cycle. During ovulation the ovary that's releasing the egg can be painful and swollen resulting in a feeling of discomfort during penetration, especially if your man is very well endowed. Experts also warn that you might feel some soreness right before or right after your period, so before you panic, check your calender.

Hormones aside, the most common cause of painful sex is vaginal dryness. During foreplay when you're feeling aroused the vagina secretes its own lubricant, designed to make intercourse easy. If you don't create enough of this fluid you will have two dry surfaces (his penis and your internal vaginal walls) rubbing together creating uncomfortable friction.

Heat and burning definitely aren't fun during sex! This pain won't go away quickly either, you'll have a feeling like carpet burn for hours and maybe even days.

So why does dryness occur? In most cases it occurs because we don't spend long enough on effective foreplay. You need to get turned on ladies! It takes roughly 20 minutes for the average woman to be warmed up enough for penetrative sex, so you've been warned.

As women get older (especially if you're going through the menopause) vaginal dryness can be a bigger problem. It can also be exacerbated by antihistamines (like hayfever tablets) and some contraceptive pills too.

The answer is simple, spend more time on foreplay and use a good quality water-based lubricant that won't interfere with the delicate latex of condoms. Most good high street stores and online suppliers will stock everything you need.

There are medical issues that can cause pain during sex and they can be split into three main areas; yeast, bacterial or herpes infections. This can cause swelling and irritation that leads to pain.

Yeast infections like thrush or sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia, gonorrhoea or genital herpes are some of the biggest culprits. In these cases you'll probably notice unusual discharge or an unpleasant smell that should alert you to an infection

Even something like an allergic reaction to soaps or a new laundry detergent can cause pain that makes sex impossible.

Less understood conditions like vestibulitis, an irritation of the glands that surround the opening of your vagina, can make even touching the opening unbearable. Another infection called vaginismus, or involuntary spasms of the muscles surrounding your vagina, can make it almost impossible for a penis or even a finger to enter. The causes of these conditions aren't fully understood, but the latter is thought to be linked with a painful or traumatic past event.

In cases of psychological pain, stress or trauma that's making sex painful, there are experts and counselors on hand to help. Ask your doctor for a referral to someone trained to help.

Recurrent pain during deep penetration can also mean a medical problem — whether it's an ovarian cyst, endometriosis, fibroids, constipation or a pelvic infection — so always see your doctor.

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