British researchers have investigated how many women have pain during sexual intercourse – and what may be the cause of the plagues. According to researchers behind the study, painful sex – dyspareuni – is a common but neglected health problem among women.
The study was conducted in the UK with British female participants and published in the journal British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Painful sex (dyspareuni) is persistent or recurrent pain when attempting or achieving penetration of the penis in the vagina. The condition can be primary – that is, the woman has always had pain associated with sexual activity. Or secondary – that the woman previously worked normally sexually.
Also read: Normal sexual function in women
The researchers initially report in the report that the prevalence of the population is estimated to be from 3 to 18 percent, and the underlying conditions are often difficult to diagnose and treat. Precisely, therefore, pain associated with sex is often overlooked or poorly handled, which exacerbates the patient’s plagues.
The aim of this study was to get a more accurate estimate of how many women are concerned with this – and look at contexts that may be the cause of the pain.
During the study, researchers surveyed nearly 7000 sexually active women aged 16 to 74 years. They found that almost eight percent had pain in connection with sex.
Physical factors such as dryness of the vagina and mental factors such as anxiety associated with sex, appeared to be some of the root causes of the pain.
In this connection, vaginism is a key term: there is pain associated with fear of sex. This is a mental reaction in which the woman connects sexual activity with pain and fear. There has been a phobia against any form of penetration of the vagina. The thought of or attempted penetration causes involuntary muscle contractions around the entry of the vagina.
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Pain during sex and lack of sexual interest
The women who participated in the survey were asked about pain associated with sex that lasted for three months or more. They were also asked if they experienced other problems with their sex life, such as: lack of sexual interest, lack of desire, fear of sex, lack of excitement and agitation, dry sheath and lack of orgasm.
They adjusted for age and examined the connection between feeling physical pain in sex with other sexual problems, demographic factors, sexual behavior, sexual relationships and attitudes to sex.
Reporting about painful sex was strongly associated with experiences of other sexual problems, especially vaginal dryness, anxiety and lack of pleasure in sex.
The results showed that among the women who reported pain, it was:
– 45 percent reported unpleasant dry vagina, compared to 10 percent of women who did not experience pain
– 21 percent said they felt anxiety associated with sex, compared with 4 percent in the other group
– 40 percent felt no pleasure in sex – against 10 percent
– 24 percent were not excited and 40 percent did not get orgasm – against 7 and 14 percent respectively
– 45 percent avoided sex because of the difficulties – against 11 percent
Also read: Sexual dysfunction in women
Few women get a diagnosis
The proportion of reported painful sex is highest among young women (16-24 years old) and those who are older: 55-64 years.
The researchers note in the report that they did not find any connection between sexual pain and general happiness in the relationship. On the other hand, there were stronng connection between the pain and the sexual aspects of the relationship, such as not having the same interest in sex, or do not feel the proximity and difficulty talking about sex.
There where also a number of other studies that have linked childhood abuse to painful sex later in life, and in this study also found such a connection.
Chronic conditions such as irritable bowel, urinary tract infection, depression and chronic fatigue syndrome were also associated with pain during sexual intercourse. In women during or after menopause, painful sex was usually associated with dry vagina.
Also read: Sexual dysfunction in menopause
The researchers report that painful sex can lead to feelings of isolation, shame, sexual inadequacy, loss of confidence and sense of control. Only a few of the women who have such a pain condition are given an official diagnosis, and the researchers conclude that the treatment given is perceived as not effective.