There are lots of reasons to have sex: connection, pleasure, or fun, to name a few. But feeling pain? That’s everything sex isn’t supposed to be. For many women, though, discomfort is a painful reality of getting intimate: As many as one in five young women say that intercourse consistently hurts. And the physical discomfort is only the start of their strife: Women with dyspareunia, the medical term for pain upon penetration, often fear losing their partner, feel sexually inadequate, and experience a dip in desire and satisfaction in the sack, according to the Journal of Sexual Medicine. [Tweet this fact!]
Yet many women say nothing—to their doctor, or to their partner. “There is a lot of depression and anxiety associated with this topic,” says Kenneth A. Levey, M.D., M.P.H., a gynecology professor and pelvic pain specialist at NYU.
But identifying the underlying cause of your pain is the first step to resolving it. To find out what may be making sex more painful than pleasurable, read on. (And to find a gynecologist who specializes in painful intercourse, visit the International Pelvic Pain Society website, where you can search for physicians in your area.)