Dyspareunia is a feeling of pain during or after sexual intercourse. It is sometimes confused with vaginismus, but it is different, as in vaginismus the pain is caused by involuntary spasms of the pelvic muscles which surround the vagina.
Actually, these pains are quite common, especially in menopausal women, as their ovaries stop producing high levels of estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen is responsible for maintaining the thickness and health of the vagina walls and facilitate the normal functioning of the vagina during intercourse. When estrogen levels are low, the vaginal walls become thinner and dryer, thus conducting to painful intercourse.
Other common causes of dyspareunia include:
- Cysts, genital warts, herpes, or other such lesions or abrasions within the vulva or vagina
- Scarring from childbirth, episiotomy (an incision made by surgeons to facilitate birth), laceration repair, or other vaginal surgery
- Cystitis or other urinary tract infections
- Size mismatch between sexual partners (i.e. penis too big for the vagina) or resuming intercourse after a prolonged period of abstinence
- Lubricants, spermicidal creams or gels, and latex condoms can act as an irritants
- Breast-feeding can lead to vaginal dryness and painful intercourse
- Pelvic inflammatory disease can lead to painful sex, together with other symptoms such as fevers, chills, hot flashes, and foul discharge
- Descent of the uterus (prolapse) can lead to painful sex for the woman, associated with a feeling that something is falling out of the vagina, and for the man with an unusual sensation during sex
- Some psychological factors can lead to lower libido and painful intercourse (close death, financial problems, major illness, etc.)
Establishing a dyspareunia diagnose involves a physical examination and the acknowledgement of symptoms resulting from medical and sexual history. It is important to give the therapist details such as the exact location, length, timing, and frequency of the pain, for him/her to establish various details as: whether previous intercourse was painful as well, if there is enough natural lubrication, whether there is a possibility to have contracted a sexually transmitted disease, or whether or not there is a history of abuse.
Fortunately, the recovery rate for the majority of dyspareunia causes is extremely high. The treatment must be chosen depending on the main cause of the discomfort:
- the use of lubricants, when the cause is inadequate natural lubrication
- estrogen replacement therapy for menopausal women
- dilation therapy using vaginal dilators
- treatment for cysts or other lesions involved
- abstinence while problems or infections heal
- surgery to remove painful lesions
Using vaginal dilators for dyspareunia
When treatment includes dilation therapy, we recommend Soul Source Silicone Vaginal Dilators. Available in 8 sizes, with a comfortable texture, they are the best choice for this process that involves comfortable and slow insertion. However, you should always discuss the use of vaginal dilators with your Qualified Medical Practitioner and follow their directions precisely