What Causes Vaginal Pain?
In females, the vagina is the passage from the cervix to the vulva. Pain or discomfort in your vagina is often the result of a medical or psychological issue. Early treatment and intervention may help you find relief and lower your risk of complications.
What are the symptoms of vaginal pain?
The specific symptoms of vaginal pain and discomfort vary, depending on the underlying cause. For example, vulvar vestibulitis is a condition that causes pain only when there’s pressure put on your vagina. In contrast, vulvodynia is a condition that causes constant chronic pain.
Depending on your specific condition, you might experience one or more of the following symptoms associated with vaginal pain:
- Pain during intercourse
If your vaginal pain is caused by an infection, you may develop abnormal vaginal discharge. For example, it may look or smell different than usual. This can indicate a yeast or bacterial infection.
What causes vaginal pain?
Vaginal pain may be confined to your vaginal area. Or, it may radiate down from your pelvis or cervix.
The most common cause of vaginal pain is infection, reports the UNC School of Medicine. Examples include:
- Yeast infection
Other potential causes of vaginal pain include:
- Trauma caused by sex, childbirth, surgery, or other medical procedures
- Vaginismus due to tightening of the pelvic floor muscles due to anticipation of penetration. More here.
- Vulvovaginal atrophy due to a drop in estrogen following menopause
- Vulvar vestibulitis
- Cervical cancer
Vaginal pain can also stem from a condition called dyspareunia. This is a medical term for painful intercourse. It can be caused by insufficient lubrication during sex from hormonal changes or lack of sexual arousal.
Vaginal pain can also stem from psychological conditions, such as a history of sexual abuse.
In some cases, your doctor may not be able to determine the cause of your vaginal pain. Vulvodynia is the medical term for chronic vaginal pain with no known cause.
Who is at risk of vaginal pain?
Women of all ages can experience vaginal pain.
In some cases, your medical history may increase your risk. For example, hormonal changes brought on by pregnancy, menopause, or hysterectomy may raise your risk of vaginal pain. If you have a history of breast cancer treatment, you’re also at higher risk.
Certain medications may also raise your risk of vaginal pain. For example, statins are medications that help lower cholesterol. They’re known to cause vaginal dryness. This can lead to vaginal pain.
Advancing age is also a risk factor. Menopause causes changes in your hormone levels and thinning of your vaginal tissue. This affects your vaginal lubrication and can contribute to vaginal pain.
The main vulvodynia symptom is pain in your genital area, which can be characterized as:
- Painful intercourse (dyspareunia)
Your pain might be constant or occasional. It might occur only when the sensitive area is touched (provoked). You might feel the pain in your entire vulvar area (generalized), or the pain might be localized to a certain area, such as the opening of your vagina (vestibule).
Vulvar tissue might look slightly inflamed or swollen. More often, your vulva appears normal.
A similar condition, vestibulodynia, causes pain only when pressure is applied to the area surrounding the entrance to your vagina.
What you can do
Do a thorough medical examination with your O&G doctor. Get a second opinion if needed.
If your O&G doctor tells you there is nothing medically wrong with you, and you still feel pain (not imagined), you may wish to seek the support of a pelvic floor specialist for a more through internal examination.
If you believe you have Vaginismus, then PLEASE seek my help! I have worked with more than 500 women with Vaginismuus over almost 10 years and I will be able to provide you with many resources, tips, and way-forward strategies even with ONE session.
Get support because you deserve to have a healthy and expressed life!
Vulvodynia — Symptoms and causes. (2017, July 22). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vulvodynia/symptoms-causes/syc-20353423 (3 Sept 2018)
Vaginal pain: Causes, Symptoms and Diagnosis. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/symptom/vaginal-pain (3 Sept 2018)
About Dr. Martha Tara Lee
Surrounded by friends who were sexually inhibited and struck by dire lack of positive conversations around sex and sexuality in Singapore, Dr. Martha Tara Lee set out to make a positive difference in embarking on her doctorate in human sexuality before launching Eros Coaching in 2009. Today, she remains dedicated to working with individuals and couples who wish to lead self-actualised and pleasure-filled lives.
She also holds certificates in counselling, coaching and sex therapy, and her fourth degree — a Masters in Counselling in May 2018. In practice for more than nine years, she is the only certified sexuality educator and certified sexuality educator supervisor by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) in Singapore.
Often cited in the local media, Dr. Lee is the appointed sex expert for Men’s Health Singapore, and Men’s Health Malaysia. She was recognised as one of ‘Top 50 Inspiring Women Under 40′ by Her World in July 2010, and one of ‘Top 100 Inspiring Women’ by CozyCot in March 2011. She is the host of weekly radio show Eros Evolution on the OMTimes Radio Network. She has published three books: Love, Sex and Everything In-Between, Orgasmic Yoga and From Princess to Queen.
Martha works with individuals and couples in private coaching sessions, and conducts her own workshops. She takes prides in making sure all her workshops are also fun, educational, and sex-positive. This comes easily to her because even though she is extremely dedicated and serious about her work, she fundamentally believes that sex is meant to be fun, wonderful, amazing and sacred. As such, this serious light-heartedness has shone through again and again. For her full profile, click here. Email her here.