At Maze Women’s Health, we see many women reporting pain with sex. Most of them come to us after having been to other specialists and receiving various explanations and suggestions, such as:
1) “It’s normal”
2) “It’s emotional”
3) “You just have to deal with it.”
Unfortunately, besides being just plain wrong, the above three phrases undermine a woman’s sense of self by suggesting and perpetuating a feeling of being damaged, broken, or crazy.
Firstly, one need not have to “just have to deal with it” or put up with pain. Pain with sex is a condition that needs to be remedied and can be treated. Sometimes, it’s a matter of tight muscles or compromised tissue, or both, and there are treatment options.
Painful sex is not “normal”, however, it is common. Normal and common are not the same thing. Almost 75% of women have experienced some degree of pain with sex. 7%-22% have more persistent pain. Up to 45% of menopausal women report painful sex. This speaks to how common it is. Let’s not confuse this with being normal, which it is not.
When told that pain with sex must be emotional, my response is yes, it becomes emotional because when there’s pain, there’s anxiety around pain. When we anticipate pain, an increase in pain response follows and a vicious cycle is created. Here’s an article by Dr. Jen Gunter called Sex Hurts. Help!