LONDON — Being intimate is an important part of keeping a healthy relationship, but for some women, there’s nothing enjoyable about it. According to a recent British study, nearly one in 10 women find sex to be painful.
Researchers examined 6,669 sexually-active women, ranging from 16 to 74 in age. The authors found that 7.5% of those surveyed feel pain while making love, a phenomenon that is often concomitant with a host of other physical, psychological, and emotional issues, including fear of intercourse.
Published in the journal BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the study was conducted by researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University College London, and NatCen Social Research.
Dyspareunia, the medical term for painful intercourse, was found to be most prevalent in two female age groups: those in their late 50s to early 60s, and those aged 16-to-24. In addition to anxiety over intercourse, researchers found a correlation between dyspareunia and other sexual problems, including vaginal dryness and a lack of sexual pleasure.
While painful sex is sometimes due to inexperience— one earlier, unrelated study found that up to half of female virgins find their first bout of intercourse painful— it can also be a marker of serious maladies, including STDs, fibroids, and endometriosis.
The onset of painful sex can also signal that a woman is going through menopause.
Dr. Kirstin Mitchell, the study’s lead author, recommends that partners discuss what makes the comfortable and uncomfortable when it comes to sex. “Often sex education is about STIs and pregnancy, but it should also prepare people to think about what makes sex enjoyable and how to communicate what they like and dislike in a trusting and respectful relationship,” she told the BBC.
For those who have a serious physical or psychological wound causing the pain, she advises that they seek help from a professional.