Painful intercourse — persistent or recurrent genital pain that occurs just before, during or after sex — may occur for a variety of reasons ranging from anatomical problems to psychological concerns. It is not uncommon for women to experience pain during intercourse at some point in their lives, but treatments that focus on the underlying causes can help eliminate or reduce this common problem. We’ve helped hundreds of women no different than you take the pain out of painful sex. Some of their stories follow.
As I exited your offices yesterday, I felt both regret- that I had waited so damn long to get help, and great excitement- that there was hope in resolving my issue.
I had not realized how menopause was slowly taking away some of the emotional treasures of my life. I had made peace with my suddenly furry face and having to throw off my blankets in the middle of the night, but painful sex was taking away the cherished intimacy between my husband and myself.
I had gone to my gynecologist a few months earlier and when I brought up the pain, my gynecologist dismissed it as peri-menopausal and recommended a different lubricant. More recently, when I mentioned the pain to a close friend, she insisted that I go to Maze center and get evaluated. That it was too early in my life to start compromising on the quality of my sex life. Initially, I was resistant at setting up the appointment and having to reveal such intimate details to a group of strangers but after another episode of painful sex, I made the appointment. I consider it one of the best decisions I have ever made.
The Maze team was lovely, compassionate and very respectful. They were patient and explained to me everything was taking place in my body and that there was no need to live with the ongoing pain. They laid out several options and made me feel that there was hope in resolving my issue. I walked out of the office feeling great relief and excitement.
When I had discussed my issue with many of my friends, they mentioned having similar issues but had taken no action- and they asked me to report back if I had found a solution. Well- I have a solution and it’s the Maze center. I will be sharing my findings with any woman that mentions this challenge. It is horrible that so many women are suffering needlessly with symptoms of menopause that can be so easily treated.
I cannot thank the Maze center enough.
It has been three months since my initial visit and I no longer experience painful intercourse. I have my sex life back!
I was experiencing painful intercourse for about a year and with proper treatment I got my sex life back in a short period of time.
My husband is a patient of Dr. Werner’s. I went with him to an appointment one day and I saw a pamphlet in the waiting room explaining how many women experience painful intercourse post menopause. After reading the pamphlet I immediately decided to make an appointment.
My first appointment was a very pleasant experience. I had a consultation with Tara Ford and Bat Sheva Marcus and they both made me feel very comfortable. I was able to speak freely about my sex life and what I was experiencing with painful intercourse. The next thing was the physical examination. Tara described each part of the exam to me prior to it being done. I was relaxed during the exam as I knew what to expect. My reaction did not change, but just reinforced my decision to seek treatment.
My treatment included medication first and then dilation. I began to see results within the first month and my condition kept getting better with every week that went by.
Women should know that they are not alone. There are many women experiencing the same problem. If you are experiencing post-menopausal painful intercourse like I was, don’t wait to seek treatment. Make an appointment right away. You too can get your sex life back.
– MC, Age 51 –
I can’t say enough about MCFS! It changed my life with my husband.
After breast cancer a double mastectomy, I had an oophorectomy and began taking anti-estrogen meds. I was experiencing severe dryness and very painful intercourse. I spoke with many doctors about my issues including my oncologist, my gynecologist and my general practitioner. Not one of the doctors had anything to offer me. They told me to use a couple of over the counter solutions which I tried with no relief.
I was close to giving up hope when a friend of mine told me about Maze. They helped me get my sex life back. They really listen and had all kinds of advice. I can’t say enough about how they helped me. I want to tell any woman out there who thinks they won’t ever be able to have comfortable sex again to go to Maze. It does require some work, but they help you through it and end up with real results!
– M, Age 47 –
I learned about Maze Women’s Sexual Health in a New York Times article about women and mid-life sexual changes. I had been having less and less interest in sex along with discomfort (dryness primarily), so sex itself was uncomfortable even when I was interested. My body just seemed to be drying up. I went through menopause about four years ago and I thought once that was done that the changes would stop, but they didn’t. That’s when the dryness and lack of interest and response became worse and worse.
I talked to my regular gynecologist about this and she prescribed Vagifem. It helped a little with the dryness, but sex was still uncomfortable and I still had very little interest or response. I thought about calling Maze for a while before I actually made the call because I felt embarrassed, but the staff was really nice and obviously knew how to handle the calls. I was nervous going to the first appointment, especially filling out the forms and answering questions that were embarrassing to me. When I met with Melissa and Rachel, I felt like my problem was nothing new to them but at the same time I felt like I was a unique person. They listened really closely, they had good senses of humor and I felt like they understood what I was trying to tell them.
At the first appointment, they took blood work, gave me some vaginal cream to use to complement the Vagifem (and explained why the Vagifem doesn’t always work alone) and talked to me about the role testosterone plays in a woman’s sexual response. I learned a ton!
I’m now taking the estrogen cream and Vagifem along with a testosterone gel and it has made a huge difference. I have no pain or discomfort during sex and I have a much better response than I’ve had in years! I know so many women could benefit from this kind of support and I’d encourage them to make a call and go see what can be done.
– PB, Age 59 –
I was experiencing pain during intercourse and I had no sexual desire. I lived with it for almost 4 years throughout my marriage (I was a virgin when I got married). The first step I took was to ask my ob/gyn for advice on the matter, and was referred to the Medical Center for Female Sexuality to seek help.
I was nervous about making the call, but I also knew it was the only way to fix my situation. At the beginning of my first appointment I was very nervous because I had no idea what to expect and I was extremely embarrassed because I’m a very private person and I did not feel comfortable talking about my sex life with complete strangers. However, I felt that both practitioners were very knowledgeable and comforting, letting me know that there are plenty of women out there going through the same thing.
At Maze, they discovered very quickly that the birth control pill was messing up my hormones which caused the pain. From the very first appointment, I left with specific, tangible things to do at home. Everything came with directions and everything was explained to me in detail. I started with dilators and the Estrogen cream and I was directed to get off the pill immediately.
It took about 3 months for things to begin to resolve but it felt like the blink of an eye, and as of yet I have not had a relapse or needed more help. My sex life has become incredibly great! I always thought I would just never enjoy sex but now I’m initiating it, very frequently, too. I also feel less inhibited with my husband. Both of us are really enjoying our time together.
I learned that there are no or very few conditions in the sex department that cannot be treated. You just need the courage to speak up about what you’re going through; that’s the biggest obstacle.
Do not think that you are the only one going through this. You can take matters into your own hands and change your situation. The results will come very quickly and you’ll feel like a totally different person. Do not feel embarrassed because these people are extremely professional and knowledgeable and they will quickly become your best friends. I always say they deserve a medal for the work they do! They can dramatically improve women’s lives and save many marriages!
– C –
I just wanted to write a note to say thank you, Tara, for all you have done! I really appreciate all your help. I know you are a specialist and all but I have never had a medical provider be so attentive and responsive as you and everyone else at the center were to me.
It’s such a good feeling to have this issue (lichen sclerosis) fixed/under control, but even more so in learning/finally understanding that it is fine and okay to talk about sex and whatever issues are happening in that area with significant others, friends, doctors etc. as for some reason I was brought up to never ever talk about sex (super healthy right ha ha).
Tara and Rachel are wonderful and I would recommend you in a heartbeat! Thank you again.
– MK, Age 30 –
Shortly after going through menopause I started experiencing searing pain during intercourse. I spoke to my gynecologist about it and he prescribed some hormone cream. It didn’t help the problem and my doctor said there was nothing he could do. So for many, many years I abstained from intercourse with my husband.
On the Internet one day I found information about Maze Women’s Sexual Health. I was very interested and thought maybe they could help me. I waited four months before I gave them a call.
I called and filled out the necessary forms and set up my first appointment. I first spoke with a sex therapist and then with Melissa. She explained the treatment to me, which was simple enough. During the first treatment I did experience some pain, but worked through it and eventually it subsided. I progressed through the treatment quickly. It took about three months after which my husband and I finally tried to have intercourse again and I was totally pain free! I was so thankful to the Center for their patience and understanding. I am celebrating my 40th wedding anniversary and I feel like a young bride again.
– SS, Age 60 –
I had pain during sex that could only be described as the type of pain you get from a paper cut. Upon closer examination it was discovered that I did in fact have a paper cut like tear where the pain was. I also had nearly no sex drive at all, which was beginning to affect my relationship.
I lived with the issue of pain for 7-8 years. I also had asked each Gynecologist during my annuals if they could fix this issue for the past 6 years or so. No one ever gave me any more advice than to use extra lubrication. This never seemed to help, and I had mostly given up and adapted the idea that the pain was “normal.” It wasn’t until my significant other became concerned that I realized something was actually wrong.
The main cause for both my issues stemmed from using hormonal birth control and not being informed by my previous doctors that these are side effects from these kinds of medications. If I had been properly informed about the side effects when I started this medication, I would not have suffered for 8 years.
I casually sought help from every doctor I saw for my annuals. None of them thought twice when I asked for my refill of birth control. In the 6 months before I found Maze Women’s Sexual Health I saw 3 other doctors just for these issues. I was prescribed steroid creams, estrogen creams, and one doctor even wanted to biopsy the incredibly sensitive area that was always in pain. After much frustration with my regular Gynecologist, she gave me a pamphlet to the Center.
Calling for the first time was a little hard. I was in so much despair due to so many failed attempts. I didn’t think another doctor was going to find anything that the others hadn’t.
My first appointment I found myself to be very comfortable with the doctors. I could be as open and blunt as I needed to be and they were receptive to all my concerns. I think the most drastic of my reactions was the surprise I had when I was not rushed into a cold exam room and given a gown but instead I sat down and I got to talk about my sexually history, my issues in depth, my concerns, my hopes, and everything I needed my Doctor to know. I wasn’t just a medical issue that needed to be fixed; I was a person with a problem that was affecting my life. This was the first time my problems were treated this way.
My problems began to resolve just a few weeks after ending my birth control. Since then, so far so good! But if I ever do have to come back I am happy I have a place that cares and knows what they are doing to come back to.
I feel great. I can enjoy sex again.
This taught me that everyone reacts different to different medications and we are not always informed of all the issues that we may encounter.
Don’t wait any longer, because as soon as you start feeling better and find the treatment is working you’ll wish you had started years ago.
– C, Age 26 –
I struggled with painful intercourse from the day I became sexually active. Since sex had never felt any different, I assumed that was how intercourse was supposed to feel.
I enjoyed every other part of my sex life, had no problem obtaining orgasm, as long as it did not involve penetration I was fine. Because every woman I knew loved sexual intercourse, I figured my issue must be psychological.
After all, if there was something wrong with my body, I figured, wouldn’t my gynecologist have said something to me? I went to therapy but it did not fix how intercourse felt. It took me 20 years to mention my issue to two gynecologists, due to my shame, but they couldn’t give me any answers. They suggested trying different positions (as if I hadn’t!). One mentioned the importance of relaxing, which only furthered my shame that I must have had some psychological issue.
After I gave birth to my first child, I had complications that required me to get stitches twice, and intercourse became not just painful but unbearable. At that point, I felt I had no choice but to seek help because it was impacting my marriage.
Our marriage therapist mentioned to me that vaginismus is a physical reflex (not psychological) condition and that it is truly involuntary. That made me feel more comfortable seeking help. By chance, I saw a newspaper article featuring Dr. Marcus from Maze Women’s Sexual Health. As I searched on the internet, they were the only agency in the area that addressed my issue.
I read the testimonials on their website and I really connected to the women who wrote about them. It still took me three weeks to call. I was afraid I would cry as soon as they answered the phone and I didn’t want to feel embarrassed. When I mustered up enough courage, I made an appointment. Finally, I was where I belonged.
Although it was difficult to share my story with them, I knew I needed to address my issue. The women I spoke with helped me to feel heard. The dilators I was given were the best part of my treatment. I started with the small and progressed to the large until my body became accustomed to allowing a full sized penis to enter me without any pain.
The process was so much easier than I had imagined! When my blood was tested at the clinic, it was also discovered that my DHEA and my testosterone level was way below the normal range which explained why my sexual desire was not strong.
In addition to taking a natural supplement to help increase my DHEA and testosterone, it was recommended that I take an anti-depressant temporarily. I was most resistant to taking the anti-depressant because I have never taken medication for anything. But, in my heart, I knew I was not happy. After a few weeks, I agreed to try an anti-depressant that would not negatively impact sexual desire or weight gain (because some of them do). This also helped tremendously. It was as if a big dark cloud had lifted from over my head and the sun had finally come out. Now, I was both enjoying intercourse and life!
I want to thank Maze for helping me to feel like a normal woman.
– Identity Withheld –
For about 5 years, around my menopausal period, sexual intercourse with my husband became painful. We stopped having sexual intercourse and we both got so busy between work, family (older parents), our own children and other things.
I told my gynecologist and she tried to help me, but we were not successful. My gynecologist referred me to Maze. After all that time, and all our attempts at solving the problem ourselves, I was ready to get help.
I made the appointment because I needed help, so I listened to everything they told me and followed their instructions the best I can. They did not ask me to do anything that I was not comfortable doing.
My condition needed a process called “dilation”. I did it gradually under their supervision until I reached the state where I may try to have sexual intercourse with my husband. It took more or less 5 months from my first visit due to several disruptions on my part.
I had some little setbacks during the process, but Maze was always there to help me. Now, I feel happy to be able to fulfill one of my duties as a wife.
It turns out my situation is common to many women my age. There is help out there. We have to ask and I believe the best place to start is with our gynecologist. If you can’t get help there, don’t give up.
This women’s condition is not a sickness. This is part of aging process which unfortunately we all have to go through. I am just thankful that nowadays there are professionals who can help us address this condition and not face it by ourselves.
– T, Age 61 –
My problem was pain during sex and I lived with it my whole life. I mentioned the problem to my gynecologist but it did not result in anything helpful.
My sister was treated at Maze and she highly recommended my seeking treatment there. I felt slightly embarrassed when I first came to Maze but after seeing how confident and knowledgeable everyone was, that feeling was replaced by courage.
It is believed that the cause of my pain was from long term use of the birth control pill. Dr. Bat Sheva and a wonderful nurse sat with me and discussed my problem in detail; different treatments were considered and tried and they did not give up until my problem was solved.
This was a process; it took a few months until we figured out the cause. Once it was determined, my problem began to disappear rather quickly and now I feel fabulous and sex doesn’t hurt anymore.
The single most important thing I learned from this experience is to be patient and seek out the people who have the ability to help you at all costs. I believe that the people at Maze do care and will work hard to help you whatever your problem.
– A, Age 34 –
For years I put my feelings to the side, making excuses for why I could not use tampons or have sex. After being married for almost a year, my wonderful husband and I were still unable to consummate our marriage. Every time we attempted intercourse, it would end in tears and I could feel my confidence being eaten away.
My husband is an incredible, understanding man, but I could see our troubles with intercourse affecting his confidence as well. There were no more excuses left to be made.
Finally, I said enough is enough. I had to be fair to myself, my husband and our relationship. I took my gynecologist’s advice and saw a psychologist. Unfortunately, I left her office feeling more down on myself and alone than ever before.
“Why can’t I just have sex like everyone else?” I thought as I cried on my couch. In desperation, my husband and I surfed the internet for help, and there it was: Maze Women’s Sexual Health. Finally, we had hope.
Of course, I was extremely anxious about making the phone call. This was our last hope, what if this resulted in disappointment just as all our other attempts to a solution did? But, we had nothing to worry about.
At the Maze I was not looked at with confusion or sorrow, but with compassion and understanding. There was finally a name for my problem- Vaginismus. And even better, there was a solution.
In a matter of a few months, I went from being terrified and anxious about intercourse to having and enjoying intercourse. My treatment consisted of about 7 weeks of daily exercises. At first they were a bit painful, but they became easier and easier with each passing day. I could feel the progress- it was actually working!
Looking back, I cannot believe how fast and easy the process was! In a matter of months, the Maze Women’s Sexual Health “fixed” the struggles I thought would never end.
Maze changed my life. I can finally have and enjoy intercourse like the rest of the world. I feel normal again, and that is the greatest gift in the world.
The amazing doctors were there for me every step of the way, and I cannot thank them enough. They seemed to know what I was thinking before I said it, taking away my discomfort and guilt. They understood my problem, created a course of action, and best of all, made me believe I could do it.
I wish I had known of Maze Women’s Sexual Health years ago. No one should suffer from sexual discomfort and I urge anyone who does to call Maze. You deserve it.
– K, Age 26 –
A follow up comment from this patient several months after treatment:
I just wanted to write and let you know that I went to the gynecologist (for an exam) and everything went well! I was able to have the full exam!
I finally know for sure that I am healthy and can have peace of mind knowing I conquered the challenge I have been facing for years. I would never have been able to do it without you.
Thank you so much!!
And another exciting follow up:
I just wanted to write and let you know that I am 15 weeks pregnant!! I just wanted to thank you once again for the miracles you provide. I am forever grateful!
– K –
Originally I thought I had an extremely bad yeast infection that just wouldn’t go away. I finally went in to see the doctor and he told me that I was inflamed and irritated and he prescribed a higher dosage of medication to deal with the infection.
The medication didn’t help with the inflammation and irritation and at the same time I started to complain about painful intercourse and light bleeding afterwards.
The doctor then recommended using Vagifem after explaining that what was happening was a thinning of the vaginal walls due to menopause. It was frustrating and disheartening. I used Vagifem daily for 2 weeks and the condition did not improve.
At the end of that 2 week period my husband and I attempted intercourse again and I had to have him stop due to the pain.
My doctor then put me on Premarin for 2 weeks nightly, and again at the end of that time period sex felt like someone was rubbing sandpaper in and out of my vagina. My husband of 34 years was supportive but he was also frustrated.
At that time my doctor suggested I make an appointment with Maze Women’s Sexual Health. From my first phone call to them, throughout the whole process, they were completely supportive and compassionate about my concerns and difficulties.
I did feel uncomfortable with their initial line of questioning since mine was only a physical difficulty, nothing to do with lack of desire before this whole condition started.
But eventually, I found that everyone I spoke to was understanding and this helped me to deal with the problem in a more positive manner now that I felt there was finally a solution.
I followed their procedure as prescribed, at times it was uncomfortable, but eventually I started to feel an improvement. I now do the procedure 4 – 5 times a week as maintenance and I use Premarin 2 – 3 times a week. If I feel any discomfort I just make sure that I keep up with the program and it feels better. My husband and I are enjoying our sexual relationship again.
Thanks so much for your help!
– LM, Age 61 –
My problem was very difficult to diagnosis, and was given many different diagnoses. My midwife’s practice thought it was “difficult BV,” and then they said chronic yeast infections even though all the tests for yeast were negative. I suffered with pain and itching, gross discharge and uncomfortable episodes weekly, and sex, forget it, very painful. This went on and off for 4 years.
Finally I saw a GYN who told me I had vulvar vestibulitis, and started me on a regime of medicines and prescribed no sex for what seemed like forever. I followed her recommendations for months and I was not getting very much better and still no sex.
After years of pain and almost 6 months of no sex, something had to give. So she gave me the info for Maze Women’s Sexual Health, and I had my first appointment in August 2010. I couldn’t wait. I just wanted a cure.
Well, I think of myself as one who does not embarrass easily and is pretty open, but I must say the first appointment and the sexual history was a slight bit awkward, but the staff at the center make you feel so comfortable and that it is ok to talk about sex, that you loosen up almost instantly, or at least I did.
I looked forward to my appointments and to meet with people who really cared if I was getting well. Not to mention I was taking the time I needed to work on my issue and correct it.
By September, I was having sex with little to no pain, and over the next couple months I was on a regime that was working well and warded off the itching, discharge and the discomfort and the pain. It was amazing. I was so grateful.
The staff gave a working diagnosis of vulvodynia and specific treatment for it, and we tapered the treatment over time, and initially that didn’t work, so we had to resume the big guns. But by November the tapering could be done successfully, and I must say I finished with Maze in December 2010, and I am almost totally off my medications, with no relapse.
So in a matter of five months I was totally cured after 4 years of suffering and embarrassment and feelings of not being heard, and inadequacies.
I am so grateful to the staff at Maze for their time, and empathy and expertise. I highly recommend the Center if you are suffering with any sexual issues or medical problems in that “area” that aren’t resolving.
Don’t wait, there is no reason to!
– E, Age 35 –
By the time I went to visit Maze I was a mess and starting to think I was crazy. I had been with my boyfriend for 3 years. The first year we were together things were great. We were having sex all the time. Sometimes twice a day. A year later though, something weird started happening. Suddenly I had pain when we were having intercourse. I thought it might have had something to do with the new birth control I was on (the Nuvaring) since the pain started up shortly after I started using it. I asked my ob/gyn who insisted there was no connection.
The next two years were terrible sexually. The pain got worse and worse and I was less and less interested in sex. My vagina seemed to get more and more irritated and prone to infections. It was starting to drive my boyfriend crazy and it was making me upset.
By the time I got to Maze I had stopped having intercourse altogether and I was beginning to think no one could help me. I had stopped the Nuvaring by this time but was feeling generally hopeless.
Well, things have certainly changed. At the first visit Shannon and Melissa assured me that the Nuvaring was often the cause of vaginal pain and they thought I was absolutely correct to have stopped using it. They also diagnosed and treated a raging infection, treated low Vitamin D, prescribed some topical creams and had me work with dilators. I couldn’t believe it! One month after I started seeing them I was a totally different person. When I came in for my last visit I told them that I had sex 5 times during the last week and a half. I think that’s more than we had the entire year before! I’m trying to get my (very happy) boyfriend to write a testimonial as well.
– V, Age 24 –
I came to Maze Women’s Sexual Health in a state of desperation. I had spent the past seven years unable to have intercourse with my husband because it was too painful. All along, I thought it was something I’d “get used to,” but it became clear that that was not going to happen. I had no idea where to turn and I was afraid that this would be a lifetime sentence…for me and my wonderful husband.
I consulted my gynecologist, who was sympathetic but had no suggestions as to how this problem may be treated. I also consulted my endocrinologist with the same result. All the while, intimacy with my husband was strained because of my feelings of anxiety and guilt. If not for his patience and understanding, I don’t think our new marriage (we are a couple in our 20s) would have endured.
It was a few years, after realizing that I needed some kind of medical help, before I figured out where to turn for it. Through research online I came upon the website for Maze and I called immediately. I can still remember the excitement I felt after describing my problem, when the receptionist said “Yes, you’ve called the right place.” I was cautiously optimistic…but this was much closer than I’d come to a solution than ever before.
Shortly thereafter, I met with Dr. Marcus. She put me at ease right away with her “You-can-call-me-Bat Sheva” familiarity. Her ease at talking about sex made me laugh to myself and probably blush in her presence, but also it made me feel completely uninhibited, knowing she was not judging me. She was very honest, and made no promises about a quick and easy treatment, which made me trust her that much more. As a woman in my 20s having these kinds of problems with sex, which none of my friends had ever experienced nor have my doctors known much about, I felt anxious and for lack of a better term “like a freak of nature.” Bat Sheva made me feel like discussing my inner-most problems was “coffee talk” because she was so approachable, yet at the same time she always maintained a professional demeanor.
One could say that Bat Sheva Marcus led me to the yellow brick road and at the end was a healthy sex life. My treatment consisted of 6 weeks of daily exercises that were a little uncomfortable at worst…but I felt a steady progression, which was very encouraging. Bat Sheva and her team monitored my progress and were available for questions. And now that horribly painful intercourse, a condition that nobody would validate or acknowledge, much less treat, is a thing of my past.
It is so important for women to know that they do not need to suffer and “just deal with” intercourse that is painful…and that just because the problem is not common, doesn’t make it insignificant.
It was one of the best things I ever did for myself and my marriage.
I came to Maze after a couple of frustrating months of being a newlywed and not able to consummate my marriage. I had a feeling that before I got married that I would have trouble with consummating my marriage because visits to the gynecologist had been very painful.
With the support of my husband I called Maze Women’s Sexual Health and made an appointment. The atmosphere was warm and friendly yet professional. After a quick physical examination it was determined that I had vaginisimus. The treatment was inserting dilators in order to expand the vagina and make it easier for me to get used to have something inside of me. Every week I used a bigger dilator until I had gotten to the largest one. I think there were about 7 or 8. At the beginning the treatment was very painful…As the weeks went on I became more comfortable with the dilators and it progressed from pain to mild discomfort.
While I wouldn’t say the treatment was easy, it was definitely worthwhile and effective. The support and encouragement I received along the way from everyone made it possible to complete the program successfully. I am now able to enjoy sex with my husband without any pain. I urge anyone with a sexual problem to get help at Maze It was one of the best things I ever did for myself and my marriage.
– L, Age 28 –