Painful sex, known as dyspareunia, will happen to three quarters of women at some point in their lives and not just during the menopause. It can cause problems in a couples relationship, not just the physical aspect but also emotionally as well.
Causes of sexual pain is predominantly pain in the pelvic area. Some of the most common causes can be:
– Limited muscle movement and control
– Postural problems
– Allergies or irritations
If you experience pain during or after sex, you should always seek advice from your GP or a sexual health clinic.
Below we explore some products and exercises that may be able to help.
Pelvic Floor Muscles
Predominantly the pelvic floor muscles need to be strong to help you control your bladder and bowels, but also to get enjoyment out of sex and ultimately to have an orgasm. As you go into the menopause, you can find that your pelvic floor has weakened over the years. This can be from childbirth or simply not exercising the pelvic floor muscles enough. Ultimately this can lead to, not being able to orgasm easily or pain during sex.
We recommend starting to exercise your pelvic floor immediately! Even if you aren’t having any bladder or bowel problems, you should start now. The more you exercise these muscles the better it will be later on in life. A simple exercise routine will only take 5 minutes and can be done anytime, anywhere.
Here is how to exercise your pelvic floor properly:
1. Think about when you are going for a wee, now think about having to stop that wee mid-flow! That is the pelvic floor muscle.
2. Now, think about your back passage and when you are trying to stop passing wind, that is also the pelvic floor muscles.
3. Combine the 2 moves together and think about trying to lift the muscles up.
4. Hold this for 2 or 3 seconds, then release.
5. Repeat this exercise until you can hold for the count of 8.
6. Do this up to 8-10 times.
There are lots of devices on the market that can help with your pelvic floor such as Kegel balls and Smart devices. Menodelight stock a selection of these which can be found in the Painful Sex symptom section here.
Lubricants and Moisturisers
During the menopause, the vaginal lining can lose its normal moisture and become dry. This is mainly due to the reduction of oestrogen that is being produced. In many cases where not enough lubrication is being produced naturally, it helps to use a vaginal moisturiser or lubricant.
Lubricants are best used during sex to help provide extra lubrication. The can also add an extra element of fun too! There is a large range of lubricants on the market but it’s important to choose one carefully. Be careful not to buy a scented or flavoured lubricant as they can actually irritate your skin and cause further dryness or pain. Always choose a skin-safe lubricant that is pH balanced to work with the body. The lubricant also needs to be glycerin, paraben and glycol free. We recommend YES water-based lubricant, or YES oil-based lubricant. The latter is great for a wet and slippery feeling plus it can really help with friction pain too.
If vaginal dryness is a recurring issue, then moisturisers will help to hydrate the vaginal tissue. We recommend using YES VM applicators, as they are easy to use and less messy. They are also known to not cause any skin irritations. They contain a gel moisturiser so feels very natural. Initially use the applicators every day for approximately 5-7 days. This should help with any existing vulval conditions, then to keep the vaginal tissues hydrated continue to use 2-3 times per week. This will really help with painful sex and keep the vagina healthy.
Please remember the vagina does not need to be cleaned, so do not use any soap or personal washes, these can irritate the skin and cause problems.
If you are still finding sex painful then a barrier method may really help lessen the friction pain. The OHNUT is a revolutionary design that acts as a buffer between you and your partners penis.
This amazing product will really help get your sex life back on track and alleviate the pain. It comes with 4 rings that are placed on your partners penis, to help you choose the depth of penetration. Designed by a woman who was experiencing painful sex herself, it is an amazing design and has been medically certified, plus it’s 100% body safe too.
One review on the product said “I couldn’t tell what was my skin and what wasn’t. Ohnut is made with a soft squishy material and can stretch to accommodate all men and most toys. Ohnut often feels like an extension of your body, with a little hug.”
The vagina during menopause can also get narrower and less flexible, which all contribute to painful sex. Dilators are a great tool to help alleviate painful sex. Dilators work by gradually and over time, stretching the vaginal walls. There are different sizes, ranging from the smallest, measuring half an inch up to an inch and a half for the largest. Dilators are available in sets enabling you to start with the size comfortable for you and gradually working up to the larger sizes.
It is always best to use a lubricant when inserting anything into the vagina, so make sure you purchase a good quality one as discussed earlier, to compliment your dilator. For further information on using a dilator you can find detailed steps in our ‘How to Use a Vaginal Dilator’.
For a full range of body-safe dilators and other products that can help with painful sex, browse our full range here.
If, you are unsure about using any of the methods above or find that your pelvic pain is troubling you then we would always recommend consulting your GP. If you have a male GP then you can ask to see a female doctor, should this make you feel more comfortable.