Dyspareunia: Painful Sex

October 30, 2018| Health and Wellbeing /

So what exactly is Dyspareunia? Does it affect everyone? Is it common? Here’s some things you need to learn about a condition that you’ve probably never discussed.

Dyspareunia is a condition that causes pain before, during or after sex. Although many women will experience this condition at some stage in their lives, painful sex is, unsurprisingly, not something many people talk about. 

There are two types of dyspareunia – Superficial Dyspareunia and Deep Dyspareunia. The type of dyspareunia is categorised by the area in which the pain is experienced. Superficial dyspareunia is pain experienced when penetration is attempted, whereas, deep dyspareunia is pain at the top of the vagina that can be caused by the thrusting motion during sex.       

The causes of dyspareunia are many and varied and Dr Kent Kuswanto, a Consultant Gynaecologist from Epworth Freemasons Hospital says that there are both physical and psychological causes of dyspareunia.

Some physical causes that can lead to superficial or entry pain are vaginismus, lack of lubrication or infections such as thrush, while deep dyspareunia can be due to presence of endometriosis, adenomyosis, pelvic inflammation or ovarian cysts. Psychological causes such as partner issues, stress, anxiety or a history of abuse, can also contribute and worsen dyspareunia.
— Dr Kent Kuswanto, Consultant Gynaecologist, Epworth HealthCare

Dyspareunia can affect women of all ages, but young women, menopausal and post-menopausal women are more likely to experience the symptoms of painful sex. During menopause, the elasticity of the vaginal walls may be decreased and there may be an increase in vaginal dryness and a narrowing of the vaginal opening.

For many women, dyspareunia will lead to a lack of sexual interest, mood changes and other psychological issues. Because there are usually both physical and psychological components at play, Dr Kent Kuswanto says it’s really important to visit your doctor as early as possible and get the right diagnosis.

The first person to see would be your local doctor or GP. They may perform initial basic assessment and investigations, before referring to a physiotherapist, counsellor, or specialist gynaecologist depending on the cause.
— Dr Kent Kuswanto, Consultant Gynaecologist, Epworth HealthCare

In some cases, management and treatment of dyspareunia can begin with simple steps like using lubricants or vaginal oestrogen tablets helps to reduce dryness, treating any underlying infections like thrush and avoiding skin irritants such as soap. In other cases, doctors may need to treat underlying pelvic conditions such as endometriosis, adenomyosis and heavy periods.

Pelvic floor physiotherapy and relaxation techniques like massage have also been found to help women overcome dyspareunia and often counselling through a psychologist or sex therapist will be recommended.

Each individual will have a slightly different treatment plan and a variety of causes for their dyspareunia, but the most important thing is to acknowledge that there is a problem and to seek help from a medical professional.

For more information on women’s health issues, support is available at Epworth Geelong Women’s Health Clinic and Jean Hailes at Epworth Freemasons.



Isabel Stewart

Contributor

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