Pain during or after sex (dyspareunia) can be caused by many things, such as:

  • illness

  • infection

  • a physical problem

  • a psychological problem

If you get pain during or after sex, your body may be trying to tell you something is wrong, so don't ignore it.

See your GP or go to a sexual health (genitourinary medicine, or GUM) clinic.

You may find talking about sex embarrassing, but remember that doctors are used to dealing with problems like this.

Pain during sex can affect both men and women.

Women can experience pain during or after sex, either in the vagina or deeper in the pelvis.

Pain in the vagina could be caused by:

  • an infection – thrush or a sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea or genital herpes

  • the menopause – changing hormone levels can make your vagina dry

  • lack of sexual arousal at any age

  • vaginismus – a condition where muscles in or around the vagina shut tightly, making sex painful or impossible

  • genital irritation or allergy caused by spermicides, latex condoms or products such as soap and shampoo


Pain felt inside the pelvis can be caused by conditions such as:

  • pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

  • endometriosis

  • fibroids growing near your vagina or cervix

  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

  • constipation

Some causes of painful sex in men include:

  • infections like thrush, which can cause soreness and itching, and some STIs, such as herpes

  • a tight foreskin, which can make penetration painful, as the foreskin is pushed back

  • small tears in the foreskin that can't be seen but cause soreness and a sharp, stinging pain around the tear

  • inflammation of the prostate gland (prostatitis)

  • testicle pain and swelling can sometimes be caused by getting sexually aroused but not ejaculating (coming); it can also be a sign of an infection, such as chlamydia