When Anna Tan* had a hysterectomy seven years ago, she expected her health to improve. Instead, she developed a problem that has affected her physically, mentally and emotionally. It has been too hard for the normally confident life coach to talk about.
The problem is painful sex, and Anna is not alone. According to the American College of Gynaecologists, nearly three out of four women will experience painful intercourse at some point of time. The problem can be temporary, but studies have shown that up to a third of women will have persistent problems.
The medical term for pain before, during or after vaginal intercourse is dyspareunia. According to women’s health organisation Jean Hailes, it affects women of all ages. It’s common in menopausal and postmenopausal women due to hormonal changes leading to vaginal dryness and decreased elasticity. Left unmanaged, it can lead to loss of sexual interest, mood changes and relationship issues.
Management starts with acknowledging the problem. Gynaecologist Dr Elizabeth Farrell, a founder and medical director of Jean Hailes says, “There is help available. See your doctor and talk about it.” If you don’t feel comfortable discussing it with your doctor, try a different one, or a community or women’s health nurse.
Here, find out more about what causes painful sex and the doctor-approved ways to solve the issue.