Sexual intercourse is typically associated with sensations of pleasure, but for the millions of women with dyspareunia, it’s a different story. Dyspareunia is the medical term for pain during or after intercourse, a condition that affects nearly a third of women during their lifetimes.
Despite how common it is, dyspareunia is often ignored, in part because many women don’t know there are treatments that can help. Seeking treatment as early as possible is important for a woman’s physical comfort as well as her emotional wellness.
As a leading gynecologist in Santa Monica, California, Tristan E. Bickman, MD helps women learn the cause of dyspareunia, providing tailored treatment options to relieve painful symptoms. In this post, learn why dyspareunia occurs and how treatment can help.
Quick facts about dyspareunia
Many women experience dyspareunia during menopause or perimenopause (the years leading up to menopause), primarily due to vaginal changes caused by the decline in estrogen. As hormonal levels drop, natural lubrication declines, too, leaving you with painful dryness and thinning — a condition called vaginal atrophy.
But menopause-related changes are just one possible cause of dyspareunia. Other causes include:
- Sexually-transmitted diseases
- Vaginal muscle damage or trauma
- Inflammation or irritation
- Pelvic organ prolapse
- Large ovarian cysts
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Vulvodynia, a chronic condition that causes vulvar pain
- Structural defects, like a shallow vagina
Some women experience painful intercourse as a result of anxiety or other psychological issues, including a prior history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
While dyspareunia is mostly associated with pain during or after sex, some women with the condition can also have pain when using tampons.
Dysparenuia treatment begins with a thorough review of your symptoms and your medical history, followed by a pelvic exam to evaluate your vaginal walls and lining and your cervix. The exam can also help discover possible causes of dyspareunia, like lesions or STDs.
Depending on your symptoms and other factors, Dr. Bickman may order additional testing, like bloodwork, urinalysis, or ultrasound testing. She’ll also perform a Pap test for lab analysis.
Once she determines the cause of your painful symptoms, she recommends treatments focused specifically on your health needs. Some women benefit from vaginal lubricants or hormone therapy using topical or oral agents. For vaginal atrophy, the Mona Lisa Touch system uses laser energy to rejuvenate the vagina and promote natural lubrication.
Other potential causes, like fibroids, cysts, or endometriosis, benefit from medication or minimally invasive therapies. For women who suffer from anxiety or related issues, psychological counseling combined with other techniques, like physical therapy or relaxation techniques, can help.
Find help for your painful symptoms
Because so many factors can cause or contribute to dyspareunia, having a custom treatment plan is essential. To learn how Dr. Bickman can help you relieve your painful symptoms and improve your physical and emotional well-being, call 310-587-9280 or book an appointment online today.