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Pain During Penetration with Brooke Brownlee

Jul 11, 2023


Pain during sex isn’t fun to deal with and can be challenging not only for one’s sexual health, but emotionally as well. While pleasure is the typical goal of sex, painful sex is unfortunately not uncommon for women engaging in sexual intercourse, aka penetrative sex. There are a few common reasons why painful intercourse might be happening. On this episode of the Modern Intimacy Podcast, Dr. Kate Balestrieri and Modern Intimacy Clinical Associate, Brooke Brownlee, APCC break down what those reasons can be and how to cope if you’re experiencing pain during sex.


Why Do I Feel Pain During Penetrative Sex?


There are various reasons why one might feel pain during sex. Someone might be dealing with vaginal dryness, certain sexually transmitted infections, vaginal infections, or certain sexual dysfunctions such as dyspareunia and vaginismus or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). For some, sex is associated with chronic pain in that sex is painful every time they engage in penetrative sexual activity.


Vaginal Dryness


Vaginal dryness is one reason you might be experiencing pain during sex. You might have low estrogen levels which means you are likely not going to produce enough lubrication for penetration. You might also experience vaginal dryness if you are not engaging in enough foreplay or if you are not particularly aroused by a partner or the type of sex you’re having. If you are aroused by your partner and sex, then it may be worth looking into silicone based lubricants to help with the dryness.


Vaginal Infections


One of the most common infections women can get that can lead to painful sex is a yeast infection. Having sex while going through a yeast infection can produce a burning sensation due to irritation to vaginal tissue. If you have a yeast infection, it’s likely best to refrain from sex for a few days while the infection runs its course.


Dyspareunia and Vaginismus


Dyspareunia and vaginismus are two common sexual dysfunctions that can cause pain during sex. Dyspareunia refers to genital pain one can feel either during (primary dyspareunia) or after sexual activity (secondary dyspareunia). Vaginismus is a spasming of the muscles around the lower third of the vagina which makes penetration very painful. Someone can suffer with one or both conditions.


Sexually Transmitted Infections


Certain STIs, namely, chlamydia and gonorrhea, can cause pain during sex present due to vaginal irritation. Additionally, some who have genital herpes, the blisters and sores can sometimes be painful during penetrative sex.


Coping with Painful Sex


There are some instances where painful sex becomes unbearable and by no means should anyone engage in sexual activity that is more uncomfortable than they are willing and able to handle. There are some things you can do that might help reduce the pain during sex.


  • Be sure to use lubricant. When it comes to painful sex, lubrication can be your best friend. Silicone based lube can be great as it tends to last longer than water-based lubes. If you are using a condom during sex, be sure to avoid things like baby oil or petroleum jelly as it can dissolve the latex.
  • Don’t forget the foreplay. Foreplay is crucial in getting you in the mood and can help with creating more lubrication. Spend all the time you need on foreplay and don’t feel like you have to be in a rush.
  • Talk to your partner about your experiences. Your partner most likely wants to help mitigate pain as much as possible. Let your partner know about your pain levels, what feels okay and what you need to avoid to reduce the pain.
  • Engage in other forms of sexual pleasure. Penetration isn’t everything and there are other ways you and your partner can promote pleasure. If oral sex feels okay, you might try that instead of penetration. You can also look into all the various ways one can experience pleasure/orgasm that do not involve genitals.

Brooke Brownlee, APCC is an Associate Professional Clinical Counselor at Modern Intimacy under the supervision of Dr. Kate Balestrieri. Brooke is passionate about helping clients heal from trauma, feel more empowered sexually, and repair relationships. Brooke is continuing her education and working towards becoming a Certified Sex Therapist.  Brooke specializes in counseling patients with Pain during Sex issues.


In this episode Dr. Kate and Brooke speak about causes for pain during sex and how this can be an isolating experience. They also talk about the gap in mental health and sexual health and some potential remedies. They also speak about various reasons for pain: from abuse, a traumatic medical experience, fear of engulfment from the relationship, disgust and shame and many others. Their discussion of disgust and shame leading to potentially painful sex is eye-opening.


It is a fascinating topic and anyone suffering from this will learn more of it’s potential origins, will feel not alone in this, and will know there is help out there for you.

This is the cover for the Modern Intimacy with Dr. Kate Balestrieri podcast.
Dr. Kate Balestrieri, host of Modern Intimacy, a licensed psychologist and certified sex therapist, helps people live more fulfilled lives by shattering stigma and erasing shame. Dr. Kate invites you to join her as she investigates the relationship between sex, mental health, relationships and modern society.


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