Painful Intercourse Specialist

Rebecca Dunsmoor-Su, MD, MSCE -  - Vaginal Rejuvenation Center


Rebecca Dunsmoor-Su, MD, MSCE

Vaginal Rejuvenation Center located in Seattle, WA

If you dread the thought of intimacy with your partner because sex has gone from pleasurable to painful, you may be experiencing a medical condition called dyspareunia, or painful intercourse. This common problem, which affects about three out of four women at some point in their lives, can happen before, during, or after sex. When dyspareunia is persistent or recurrent, it’s important to uncover any underlying conditions. At Seattle’s leading vaginal rejuvenation center RENUvaGYN, board-certified gynecologist Dr. Rebecca Dunsmoor-Su provides comprehensive care for women affected by painful intercourse. Call or book your appointment online today.

Painful Intercourse Q & A

What is Dyspareunia?

Dyspareunia is a medical term used to describe painful vaginal intercourse that happens frequently or all the time. It can involve feeling genital pain at any point just before, during, or following sex.

Common dyspareunia symptoms include:

  • Pain during sexual penetration
  • Deep pain with each thrust  
  • Pain that emerges following normal sex
  • Pain that continues long after sex
  • Pain with any penetration, such as tampon use

What Causes Painful Intercourse?

A wide variety of underlying issues can lead to pain during sex, including physical problems, gynecological conditions, and emotional issues.

Emotions that make it hard for you to relax can make intercourse painful, as they interfere with arousal and lubrication. Medications, including some types of birth control, can also disrupt your natural sexual response and cause dyspareunia.  

Gynecological problems that may lead to painful intercourse include:

  • Hormonal Changes: Reduced estrogen levels in perimenopause and menopause can cause vaginal dryness and make intercourse uncomfortable.
  • Vulvodynia: This common pain disorder, which affects the vulva, may be the result of inflammation, nerve damage, or pelvic floor muscle dysfunction.
  • Vaginismus: This is the reflex contraction, or tightening, of vaginal muscles during sex. It can make intercourse painful, particularly during penetration.
  • Perineum Trauma: Women who have experienced either tears in the perineum or an episiotomy during childbirth may experience painful intercourse for months after giving birth.
  • Contact Dermatitis: A skin disorder that frequently affects the vulva, contact dermatitis is an itching, burning, or painful reaction to an irritating substance such as a lubricant or a perfumed soap.

How is Dyspareunia Treated?

To find relief from painful intercourse, it’s important to identify the underlying cause. Before prescribing any treatment, Dr. Dunsmoor-Su asks you about your symptoms, takes your medical history, and performs a comprehensive exam.  

Treatment options for dyspareunia range from changing prescription medications that interfere with natural lubrication to using lubricants prior to intercourse. Women who are dealing with vaginal trauma or injury may see results with physical therapy or surgery.

What are the Benefits of Laser Therapy?

Painful intercourse is often caused by lower estrogen levels and menopause-related vaginal dryness. In such cases, vaginal rejuvenation treatments with MonaLisa Touch® laser therapy is an effective long-term solution.

MonaLisa Touch uses safe and healing laser technology to revitalize the tissues that line your vaginal canal. By restoring proper trophic balance to these tissues, the treatment directly addresses the underlying condition that causes painful sex.

MonaLisa Touch has close to a 90% success rate for addressing dyspareunia, which means about nine in 10 women are able to return to pain-free intimacy after just three treatments sessions.