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Dyspareunia Medical Definition

Definitions

dyspareunia

  Play dys·pa·reu·ni·a

sexual intercourse that is physically painful or difficult

Origin of dyspareunia

Modern Latin from dys- + Classical Greek pareunos, lying beside from para, beside (see para-) + eun?, bed

Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fifth Edition Copyright © 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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“dyspareunia.” YourDictionary, n.d. Web. 29 November 2018. <https://www.yourdictionary.com/dyspareunia>.

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dyspareunia. (n.d.). Retrieved November 29th, 2018, from https://www.yourdictionary.com/dyspareunia


dyspareunia

noun

Difficult or painful sexual intercourse.

Origin of dyspareunia

dys- Greek pareunos lying with ( para- beside, with ; see para- 1. ) ( eunē bed )

THE AMERICAN HERITAGE® DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, FIFTH EDITION by the Editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries. Copyright © 2016, 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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MLA Style

“dyspareunia.” YourDictionary, n.d. Web. 29 November 2018. <https://www.yourdictionary.com/dyspareunia>.

APA Style

dyspareunia. (n.d.). Retrieved November 29th, 2018, from https://www.yourdictionary.com/dyspareunia

Noun

(uncountable)

  1. (medicine) Painful or difficult sexual intercourse, especially in women.
Origin

From dys- + Ancient Greek πάρευνος (pareunos, “lying beside, lying with”) +‎ -ia.

English Wiktionary. Available under CC-BY-SA license.
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MLA Style

“dyspareunia.” YourDictionary, n.d. Web. 29 November 2018. <https://www.yourdictionary.com/dyspareunia>.

APA Style

dyspareunia. (n.d.). Retrieved November 29th, 2018, from https://www.yourdictionary.com/dyspareunia


dyspareunia – Medical Definition

n.

Difficult or painful sexual intercourse.

The American Heritage Dictionary of Medicine © 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
  • Link/Cite

Link to this page

Cite this page

MLA Style

“dyspareunia.” YourDictionary, n.d. Web. 29 November 2018. <https://www.yourdictionary.com/dyspareunia>.

APA Style

dyspareunia. (n.d.). Retrieved November 29th, 2018, from https://www.yourdictionary.com/dyspareunia


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  • Dyspareunia – When implants are located behind the uterus, you may experience pain during or after sexual intercourse.
 
 

Words near dyspareunia in the dictionary


  • dysosmic
  • dysostosis
  • dysoxia
  • dysoxic
  • dyspareunia
  • dyspathy
  • dyspepsia
  • dyspepsias
  • dyspepsies
  • dyspepsy

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What causes dyspareunia, or painful intercourse?

Last updated

Last updated Fri 22 Dec 2017

Table of contents

  1. Symptoms
  2. Causes
  3. Diagnosis
  4. Treatment options
  5. Lifestyle and home remedies
Dyspareunia is a persistent or recurrent pain that can happen during sexual intercourse. Causes vary widely. It can lead to distress and relationship problems.

Painful intercourse can affect both men and women, but it is more common in women. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), up to 20 percent of American women experience it.

A variety of factors – both physical to psychological – can contribute. Treatment normally focuses on the underlying cause.

Fast facts about exercise dyspareunia

Here are some facts about dyspareunia. More detail is in the main article.

  • Dyspareunia refers to pain during sexual intercourse. It mostly affects women.
  • Pain can range from moderate to severe.
  • Reasons can be physical or psychological, and they may be related to menopause .
  • Solutions include estrogen therapy, changing existing medications, and counseling.

Symptoms

[Dyspareunia]
There is a number of reasons why intercourse can be painful. Dyspareunia affects women more than men.

The defining symptom of dyspareunia is pain with intercourse that may occur at the vaginal opening or deep in the pelvis.

The pain may be distinct and localized, or there may be a broader sense of discomfort.

There be an aching, burning, throbbing, or ripping sensation.

Dissatisfaction with, or disinterest in, intercourse can result.

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Causes

Causes of dyspareunia are varied and include physical factors, psychological factors, or both.

The location of the pain may help identify a specific physical cause.

Physical causes: Entry pain

[Dyspareunia reproductive system]
Problems with the reproductive system can lead to dyspareunia.

Entry pain may be associated with vaginal dryness, vaginismus , genital injury, and others.

Vaginal dryness: During sexual arousal, glands at the entrance of the vagina secrete fluids to aid intercourse. Too little fluid can lead to painful intercourse.

Inadequate lubrication can arise from:

  • a lack of foreplay
  • a reduction in estrogen, particularly after menopause or childbirth
  • medications, including some antidepressants , antihistamines, and birth control pills

Vaginismus: The involuntary contraction of the pelvic floor muscles causes vaginismus, leading to painful sexual intercourse.

Women with vaginismus may also experience difficulty with gynecological examinations and tampon insertion.

There are several forms of vaginismus. Symptoms vary between individuals and range from mild to severe. It can be caused by medical factors, emotional factors, or both.

Genital injury: Any trauma to the genital region can lead to dyspareunia. Examples include female genital mutilation (FGM), pelvic surgery, or injury arising from an accident.

Painful intercourse is also common after childbirth. Some research suggests 45 percent of participants experienced postpartum dyspareunia.

Inflammation or infection: Inflammation around the vaginal opening is called vulvar vestibulitis. This can cause dyspareunia. Vaginal yeast infections, urinary tract infections , or sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can also lead to painful intercourse.

Skin disorders or irritation: Dyspareunia may arise from eczema , lichen planus , lichen sclerosus, or other skin problems in the genital area.

Irritation or allergic reactions to clothing, laundry detergents, or personal hygiene products may also cause pain.

Abnormalities at birth: Less common underlying causes of dyspareunia include vaginal agenesis, when the vagina does not develop fully, or imperforate hymen, in which the hymen blocks the vaginal opening.

Physical causes: Deep pain

If pain occurs during deep penetration or is more acute in particular positions, it may be the result of a medical treatment or a medical condition.

Medical treatments that can lead to pain include pelvic surgery, hysterectomy, and some cancer treatments.

Medical conditions include:

  • cystitis: An inflammation of the bladder wall, usually caused by bacterial infection
  • endometriosis: A condition arising from the presence of tissue from the uterus in other areas of the body
  • fibroids: Non-cancerous tumors that grow on the wall of the uterus
  • interstitial cystitis: A chronic painful bladder condition
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): A functional disorder of the digestive tract
  • ovarian cysts: A build-up of fluid within an ovary
  • pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): Inflammation of the female reproductive organs, usually caused by infection
  • uterine prolapse: One or more pelvic organs extend into the vagina

Psychological causes

Some common emotional and psychological factors can play a role in painful intercourse.

  • Anxiety , fear, and depression can inhibit sexual arousal and contribute to vaginal dryness or vaginismus
  • Stress can trigger a tightening of the pelvic floor muscles, resulting in pain

A history of sexual abuse or sexual violence may contribute to dyspareunia.

Diagnosis

A physician will also ask about the patient’s medical history and carry out a pelvic examination, to try to identify the cause of the pain.

The patient should be ready to explain the exact location, length, and timing of the pain. They may need to talk about previous sexual experiences and reproductive history.

Pelvic examination

During a pelvic examination, a doctor checks for signs of infection or structural abnormalities.

They may use a device called a speculum, which is inserted into the vagina to enable a visual examination. This can cause some discomfort or pain to women with dyspareunia.

Telling the doctor when and where the pain occurs during the examination may help identify the cause.

The doctor may also gently press on the genitals and pelvic muscles to determine the location of the pain.

A pelvic ultrasound may help detect structural abnormalities, endometriosis , fibroids , or cysts .

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Treatment options

Treatment aims to relieve the underlying cause of the condition. Options include medication and counseling.

Counseling

[Dyspareunia relationship]
Painful intercourse can lead to relationship problems. It may be worthwhile to speak to a relationship counselor if this is the case.

If sexual abuse, trauma, or other emotional issues are the root cause of the dyspareunia, counseling may help.

Women whose dyspareunia does not have a psychological cause may also wish to attend counseling to cope with the emotional consequences of painful or difficult intercourse.

Couples may attend counseling together if painful intercourse is leading to communication or intimacy issues.

Medication

Medication can treat pain due to an infection or medical condition.

If existing medications are causing vaginal dryness, a doctor may recommend alternatives.

Topical estrogen may help women who experience vaginal dryness due to low estrogen levels.

In 2013, the United States (U.S.) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a drug called ospemifene for women with moderate to severe dyspareunia due to menopause, at a dosage of 60 mg once a day.

Adverse effects include that mild to moderate hot flashes.

Desensitization therapy

Learning some techniques can help relax the vaginal muscles and decrease pain levels.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Some lifestyle changes can address painful intercourse.

Changes to sexual behavior

Pain experienced during intercourse can be reduced by:

  • using water-based personal lubricants
  • engaging in longer foreplay to encourage secretion of the body’s natural lubricants
  • enhanced communication between sexual partners
  • choosing comfortable sexual positions to minimize deep pain

Maintaining sexual and reproductive health

Practicing good genital hygiene and safe sex, and attending regular medical check-ups will help to prevent genital and urinary infections that can contribute to painful intercourse.

Kegel contractions

Some women with vaginismus may find Kegel exercises useful to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.

To locate these muscles, try to stop urination midstream. If successful, the person urinating has found the correct muscles.

Squeeze and hold these muscles for 10 seconds, then relax them for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times, three times each day. It can be helpful to practice deep breathing techniques while performing Kegels.

Related coverage

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Bleeding after sex can be a symptom of an underlying health condition. Included is detail on risk factors and information for pregnant people.

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How to prevent endometriosis pain during sex
Painful sex, or dyspareunia, is a common symptom of endometriosis. We explore ways to make sex more comfortable, including positions, toys, times, and alternatives to intercourse. Why does endometriosis cause pain during sex, and how can the subject be approached with a partner? Find answers and learn more here.

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Can yoga improve your sex life?
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Vulvodynia: What you need to know
When a person has chronic pain, itching, or discomfort in the vulva or area that protects the internal genitals, it may be one of two conditions known as vulvodynia and vestibulodynia. Why these occur is unknown but thought to be nerve-related. Learn how to avoid the conditions, home remedies to try, and diagnosis.

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Additional information

    Article last updated by Yvette Brazier on Fri 22 December 2017.

    Visit our Sexual Health / STDs category page for the latest news on this subject, or sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest updates on Sexual Health / STDs.

    All references are available in the References tab.

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