DEAR DR. JENN,

When my boyfriend and I have sex, it hurts — not all the time but frequently enough to make sex less appealing. I’m too embarrassed to tell him. What should I do? —Ouch

DEAR OUCH,

You are not alone. Research shows that 30 percent of women experience pain during vaginal sex, 72 percent report pain during anal sex, and “large proportions of Americans” (whatever that means) don’t tell their partners when sex hurts. Why are we so scared to speak up when sex doesn’t feel good? In my clinical experience, I’ve found that often, women do not tell their partners because they are embarrassed, worry that something is wrong with them, are afraid of hurting their partner’s feelings, or are afraid of being perceived as less sexy.

It’s not uncommon for a person in a relationship to consent to sex that they are not really up for in order to take one for the team, so to speak. Research shows that we tend to do this to give pleasure to a partner, increase intimacy, and protect the relationship. While these are all good reasons to choose to engage in an intimate connection with your partner, letting them know when — and stopping — when you’re in pain is crucial. A healthy partner does not want to hurt their lover. And there is a lot that can be done to prevent and alleviate pain if your partner knows it exists.

Here are some of the most common causes of pain and discomfort during sex. Anytime that sex is consistently causing you pain, you must speak with your gynecologist and should be honest with your partner too; I consider reasons 1-5 the typical, everyday stuff that may not always require a trip to the doc, but if you suspect reasons 6-8 may be at play, talk to a medical professional immediately. Knowing what’s going on is the first step to healing.

1. Not enough lubrication

I cannot tell you how many people’s lives would be improved by a little lube. Getting started before your body is ready is a common issue when it comes to pain during sex, and while increased foreplay can get your juices flowing or, if you are both too impatient to wait, a good bottle of lube  can also do the trick.

2. Incompatible sex positions

Sometimes the wrong sex position for your body or your lover’s can cause you pain. And just because a certain sexual position was your go-to with your previous partner does not mean it will be the right one with this person. If your boyfriend is well endowed or has a curved penis, for example, some positions will make you feel like your cervix is hosting a boxing match. In those cases, you’ll want to avoid deep penetration positions like doggie style.

3. Rough sex

Rough sex or super long sessions can cause pain or injury. These activities can lead to abrasions, tears, or bruises in the area that will leave you sensitive. If you’re into aggressive sex, make sure you’re giving yourself time to heal or change up your routine if you start feeling discomfort.

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DEAR DR. JENN, When my boyfriend and I have sex, it hurts — not all the time but frequently enough to make sex less appealing. I’m too embarrassed to tell him. What should I do? —Ouch DEAR OUCH, You are not alone. Research shows that 30 percent of women experience pain during vaginal sex,...