Pain & Pleasure

Here I am, along with other Christian bloggers, encouraging women to have great intimate encounters with their husbands, and some women continue to resist.  Because for some of you, when it comes down to it, intercourse is like inserting a serrated knife into your ear — or worse.  Sex flat out hurts.

Photo of woman in pain

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This is absolutely not an area in which “No Pain, No Gain” applies.  Sex is not supposed to be physically painful.  If it is, you do not grit your teeth and bear it, or lie back and think of England.  You need to treat it like any other instance of pain in your body.  If you had ongoing migraines, you would try to find out why and treat them.  If you had excruciating back pain, you would see your doctor, a chiropractor, or a masseuse.  If you had sharp pangs every time you walked, you wouldn’t stop walking altogether or merely decide that painful walking was your personal normal, you would say to yourself, “Hey, what’s up? Walking isn’t supposed to hurt!”

So here are a few tips to address the pain that some women feel in intercourse.  Remember that God designed sex in marriage to provide intimacy and pleasure.  That is what He desires for you.

Examination.  Visit your doctor and see if there is a physical reason for your pain.  Cervical structure, low estrogen, and other factors can negatively impact your comfort during intercourse.  Physical causes of sexual pain can be addressed.

After childbirth, intercourse with my husband felt like having a scythe inserted vaginally.  At my third visit to the gynecologist, the physician’s assistant realized that my estrogen was especially low.  She prescribed a cream, and voilá! pain alleviated.  It was a relief to me and my husband that I could engage in intimate encounters without wincing, crying buckets, and begging (internally) for him to finish.  Thank goodness we discovered the physical cause and treated it.

Preparation.  If physical factors are not to blame, it could be that the husband is entering his wife too soon.  A woman needs adequate lubrication and swelling to receive a penis without discomfort.  The inner vaginal lips (or labia minora) must be swollen to perhaps three times their regular size.  If the woman is not moist enough or swollen enough, her body requires more preparation.  Preparation = foreplay.

Women take longer to heat up.  Some have compared men and women to microwaves and slow cookers.  Make sure you allow time to become sufficiently aroused.  If necessary, designate a specified time for foreplay.  Tell hubby that you need fifteen minutes of love play before entry.  Or a certain number of romantic songs playing in the background can be your timer.  Make sure that you are ready for your husband’s penis to be inserted.  If you are, it will likely feel quite good when he enters. 

Lubrication.  It can be difficult, at times, to produce enough lubrication on your own.  Perhaps it’s a time of the month when hormones are less cooperative, or the couple doesn’t have sufficient time in the schedule for long foreplay, or aging is playing its part in slowing down the juices.  Whatever the reason, purchase a lubricant and keep it near your bed.  Try different brands to find the one you like best.  You can apply the lubricant yourself or ask your hubby to do so (a request he would likely oblige).

Moisture in the vaginal area assists with stimulation and pleasure.  Your husband’s fondling may not feel good without that wetness.  If you aren’t producing it on your own, don’t worry about it.  Just apply lubrication.

Experimentation.  Find out what feels good to you.  A lot of women who claim they don’t like sex have merely accepted the method used by their husband, and what he does doesn’t feel good.  You need to try different ways of touching one another, different positions, or different times for entry or ways of thrusting.  This isn’t a perfect-on-the-first-try activity.  Explore one another’s bodies and learn what is enjoyable.  Free yourself to find out what brings you pleasure and what brings pain, so you can pursue the former and avoid the latter.

Prior to childbirth, I had a tilted uterus, and sex often felt more comfortable when my husband entered my vagina from behind.  A little experimentation led us to discover a position that kept me from experiencing pain and intensified my pleasure.  Of course, my enjoyment made the encounter more enjoyable for my husband as well.

Communication.  Talk to your husband about what feels good and what doesn’t.  If you begin to feel discomfort or pain, let him know!  He isn’t a mind reader.  Most men are not so absorbed by their own desire for climax that they don’t care about injuring you.  Loving husbands want their wives to gain pleasure from having sex with them.  So communicate.

This may mean piping up verbally during the event to say, “Ooh, that doesn’t feel good.  How about this?”  Or it may mean guiding his hand or his penis where you want it.  It can also entail sitting down outside the bedroom and having a heart-to-heart conversation about the pain you experience and your desire to experience pleasure instead.  Your husband will probably be happy to discuss options for accomplishing that goal.

Habituation.  (I chose a big word to match all of the other –ations which really means frequency.)  Sex needs to happen with some regularity for pain or soreness to be avoided.

If I try to run five miles, my legs are going to scream bloody murder at me, and I will awaken the next morning barely able to move.  If I don’t run again until three months later, it will still hurt like the dickens.  But if I run today, tomorrow, the next day, and so on, I will be able to run five miles before I know it with a runner’s high instead of a weakling’s cramping.

Some women experience unnecessary pain because they do not engage in sex often enough for their muscles to adapt.  Vaginas stretch a little with use.  The vagina will still be tight enough to cause pleasure for the man, but it needs to remain elastic enough to respond.  If sex hurts and you don’t have sex again for three months, it will likely hurt just as much the next time.  Making sex a habit gets your body used to the physical activity, increasing the likelihood that you will enjoy the experience.

Remember that sex isn’t supposed to hurt.  See if one of these reasons is causing the problem and address it immediately.  Bring your husband in on the deal and enlist his help.

26 thoughts on “Pain & Pleasure

  1. Anonymous

    I experienced painful sexual attempts 4 a while until I went 2 my Dr. and discovered that I had condition called “VAGINISMUS”. It is much more common in women than once believed but not very well known of because of the shame and stigma that women feel who have it…they simply don’t share it with others. My husband and I had been living with this 4 20yrs until 2 months ago, when I obtained a self-help kit from the website Vaginismus.com – founded and run by a couple who went through this same thing. IT IS AWESOME and I am making such GREAT progress! It is a true GOD-SEND and I am so thanfful 2 Him 4 letting me find that site and get the kit.

    – Madelaine J. (aka Drivenbyfaith on Twitter)

  2. Lady LaWanda Engleman

    This is good! Really good! I dnt hve problems in this area much (sometimes my hubby is so into foreplay, I’m not sure if he’ll ever “ENTER IN” lol) I am definitely gonna pass it along tho! I surely have a friend in need! I’m glad there are more christians that are open to talking about sex!!!!!

  3. J

    Bless you for sharing, Madelaine! This may help many women to hear of this condition and discover that they don’t have to live in pain. I’m glad you finally have some relief. I pray that your marriage experiences all the intimacy and pleasure God desires for you.

  4. J

    What a great idea, Lady LaWanda! If this post doesn’t apply to you, you may know someone who needs to read it. Pass along the information. We girlfriends need to be there for each other!

  5. Anonymous

    We’ve tried almost every lubrication on the market and hands down, the one that causes the least irritation: AloeCadabra. I have chronic yeast and sometimes can’t stand any form of lubricant, which is sort of necessary with the yeast and hormone issues I have. This one doesn’t irritate at all, lasts a long time, and feels good for both of us. Highly recommend.

    1. Grace

      Try coconut oil! It was a complete blessing for my husband and I!! It’s a natural anti bacterial, anti fungel and it moisturizes!! The Dr. I see for sexual pain reccomended it! I have vaginisimus and many many many allergies and this works wonderfully. It also relieves itching for me. Sorry if that’s tmi!

  6. J

    Thanks so much for the tip on lubrication, Anonymous! It’s always nice to have a word-of-mouth recommendation. Glad you found a good one.

  7. J

    Perfectly timed Wifey Wednesday post from Sheila Wray Gregoire at To Love, Honor & Vacuum: http://bit.ly/kyvwwf. She discusses the pain of vaginismus and treatment.

    Check out her post if you experience muscular pain during intercourse.

  8. Anonymous

    Thanks for the article! Question: Is a tilted uterus the same as a “retroverted uterus”? At my last ob gyn appt. my doc said I had a retroverted uterus. My husband and I have been married for almost 3 years, and I am still working on learning how to enjoy sex (we were both virgins when we got married). I’m wondering if the retroverted uterus has something to do with me not enjoying sex very much.

  9. J

    Disclaimer: I am NOT a medical health professional, and your doctor is the best one to ask about a specific diagnosis. However, from my research, I understand that a retroverted uterus is tilted toward the rear (or rectum). Most women have a slightly anteverted (forward tipping) uterus. It is estimated that perhaps 20% of women have a retroverted uterus, and for most it does not pose a problem. Yet it can be associated with pain during intercourse and menstruation. If a woman bears children, her uterus will likely right itself during pregnancy.

    I personally experienced some discomfort with a tilted (retroverted) uterus before kids. I discovered that having a husband enter the vagina from the rear may feel better for the wife.

    I suggest you ask your doctor more questions and/or research online. It may especially help to see an anatomical diagram of a retroverted uterus to see why this position may be preferable.

    Best wishes for finding answers, Anon! I bet your husband would love for you to experience genuine pleasure during lovemaking.

  10. Anonymous

    Thanks for the information! I did want to discuss further with my gyn…but you know how rushed they are in appointments…in and out! I have been doing some research online though. I wish I could just magically start enjoying sex, but I do believe I’m on the path by doing research and learning more about my body. Thank you for your blog! Can’t wait to read more 🙂

  11. J

    Anon – You’re welcome! I definitely know how those Ob-Gyn visits can be. I appreciate the compliment. Best wishes!

  12. Anonymous

    I am really glad I came across your blog. I have been married for almost 3 years now and I must admit that I have trouble enjoying sex. I was a virgin coming into my marriage, but I don’t think that was the problem. I think the real problem was my shyness about discussing sex and having another female to really ask candid questions. I definitely want to seek godly advice about sex and look forward to reading more of your blog.

  13. J

    Thanks, Anonymous! I love your godly attitude toward this important part of marriage. I pray for the marriages of those who read my blog. Blessings!

  14. Anonymous

    My husband and I have been married a little over a year and were both virgins when we married. I was diagnosed with cancer 4 months into our marriage so our love life has suffered because I’ve been sick for most of our married time. My wedding night was pretty painful and we have struggled with having sex since. We have had sex once when it wasn’t painful but I seem to have a hard time relaxing because I anticipate the initial pain of him entering me. Any suggestions?

    1. J

      Ideally, this is something you should talk to a cancer specialist about. I know that some medications and treatments can cause non-responsiveness in women (lack of lubrication and swelling). Cancer doctors are often able to balance their treatment with methods and medications to diminish complications.

      I do personally know a woman who suffered from cancer and discussed her sex life with me. Her take was that they got creative (for example, oral sex and hand jobs if penetration was too painful) and that a substantial amount of lubrication had to be applied and reapplied. Still, I think a medical professional can address this best.

      My heart goes out to you and your husband. What a difficult diagnosis! You are in my prayers. Though Anonymous here, God knows exactly who you are and what you need.

  15. Anonymous

    What a great post! Whilst sex is generally pleasurable for me, I have found that after orgasm, penetration can become almost unbearable. I assume that this has something to do with heightened nerve sensitivity, but other women seem to report increased pleasure after orgasm. Do you have any insight on this?

    A few specialists are quite convinced I have endometriosis (yet to be confirmed by a laparoscopy), which could be responsible. I have also noticed increased discomfort during ovulation, which sometimes manifests in a searing pain that shoots right up to my ovaries. Do you know of anyone who has found an effective way of dealing with painful intercourse caused by endometriosis? I’m not really into hormone treatments or medications.

    Thanks for writing openly about such topics! God bless.

    1. J

      As to the pain post-orgasm, you are not alone. There are plenty of women who report this. It could be nerve sensitivity, endometriosis, cysts, or even pelvic hernias.

      Knowing whether you have endometriosis will help a lot in knowing how to tackle this issue. According to the Endometriosis Foundation of America, a majority of women with endometriosis experience dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse due to medical or psychological causes). Endometriosis can affect the ability to lubricate, and certain positions and deep penetration may hurt.

      My (limited) research suggests that trying different positions (think angles of entry; I’m not talking about hanging off a chandelier here) may help. Also, you may have certain times of the month that are more comfortable than others. You can track that, and schedule intimate nights accordingly. Additional lubrication may be a stand-by in the night table. A substantial number of women do report improvement with laparoscopic surgery, although discomfort may not be eliminated entirely.

      Since the muscles may be tightening too much with orgasm, you could also try relaxation exercises for a few minutes in between your orgasm and hubby’s penetration. (One person who told their story online swore their pain decreased when they cut caffeine out of their diet; not a bad idea for general health anyway, so who knows?)

      Hope something there helps. DO NOT LET THIS ISSUE GO with your doctor. Keep on it. Make sure your physician knows it flat out hurts and sex isn’t supposed to feel like daggers.

  16. Anonymous

    Thanks for your response and tips regarding endometriosis. I will be sure to follow it up and get the problem sorted! Thanks again.

  17. Anonymous

    Will you expand on the CERVICAL STRUCTURE bit? I have an ANTERIOR CERVIX and my doc said it can get hit during sex. I often have pain of varying levels, as well. Thanks!!!!!

    1. J

      Sorry for the delay in answering. I wanted to do some research first.

      First off, I stink at anatomy. Even after all this time, I still have to look at pictures to remember where all that internal stuff is. But as you know, the cervix resides just above the vagina and with deep penetration it can be hit. Posterior means front, and anterior means back. So an anterior cervix would lean toward the back.

      Second, some women like having their cervix hit, and for others it involves pain, at times very intense. However, sex is not supposed to really hurt, so if you’re having pain during intercourse then you need to figure out how to reduce or alleviate it.

      Third, position, position, position. That is pretty much what determines whether your cervix will be hit during sex. A particularly long penis might connect more easily, but average or even shorter penises can hit the cervix with thrusting. So the way to deal with the issue is probably to try out various positions to find what’s most comfortable for you both. Perhaps missionary isn’t the way to go. You might enjoy your husband entering your vagina from behind or woman-on-top or side-by-side or any number of options. Even tilting your hips a little or varying the position of your legs can change the angle at which your husband enters and affect how likely he is to contact your cervix.

      Hope this helps! Blessings.

  18. Anonymous

    Thank you so much for point 4 – it may be the key. My husband and I were both virgins, and I had asked my obgyn (after being told I had a tilted uterus) and marriage counselor for advice on sex and still had a painful and emotional honeymoon. We had to build into it with him stretching me out based on advice from a book I found on my parents’ shelf, and dealing with his feelings of inadeqecy b/c it took so long for me to be ready he couldn’t stay ready. Sex felt like searing pain. I had no idea what to do but kept having sex for my husband’s sake. Finally, I awkwardly asked a peer who was a nurse if she knew anything, and she told me to perhaps try a different position. It worked: gal on top. I still can’t orgasm inside him, and need to find out how to do so, but sex is actually pleasureable now. It is also still a bit painful to let him in – I need to go slowly and he needs to wait till I’m ready. It’s just really great to get advice on this issue; I still get jealous when I hear people post about how amazing their honeymoon sex was.

    1. J

      Thanks for sharing your story. Just know that “amazing…honeymoon sex” doesn’t seem to be as common as people think. There is nothing wrong with taking time to get really good at something. 😉 The comparison that marriage and family expert Dr. Kevin Leman often uses is that you don’t play a violin well on the first day, but if you learn how to play and practice a lot, you can become an accomplished musician. Same with sex.

      Just another quick thing: Have you asked your OB-Gyn about your estrogen levels? Low estrogen can cause difficulty in arousal and discomfort with sex. I’m certainly NOT a physician and that may have nothing whatsoever to do with your situation, but I’d feel negligent not to mention it.

      Best wishes!

  19. Anonymous

    thank you for the information. i find that i often bleed. even if my husband has just entered from the tip, in a few seconds i will be bleeding. he is a size of a man but this has caused me so much fear that sex becomes so uncomfortable.

  20. Pingback: When Sex Hurts: Hope for Those who Tense Up Due To Vaginismus

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