Sex shouldn’t be painful. However, nearly three out of four women will experience some sort of painful sex in their lifetime.1 Painful sex (also known as dyspareunia) can interfere with getting pregnant. 

For one, painful sex may indicate an underlying medical condition that is negatively affecting your fertility. Second, painful sex itself can make getting pregnant difficult to impossible. If you can’t tolerate sexual intercourse, especially around the time of ovulation, you won’t be able to get pregnant.

Learn what’s normal and what’s not when it comes to sexual pain, what medical conditions may cause painful intercourse, and what you should do if you’re facing this problem.

Note: While this article is focused on sexual pain in women, it’s important to state that men can also experience sexual pain. Sexual pain in men can also cause difficulties with conception. 

Can Pain During Sex Ever Be Normal?
Occasional discomfort during sex can be normal. For example, the first time a woman has sex may involve some discomfort. This may be due to inexperience and anxiety for both partners.

However, a first sexual encounter isn’t supposed to hurt. The myth that sex for the first time “should” cause pain and bleeding is untrue. Even first time sex can feel good.

Another possible normal cause of painful sex is having sex in an uncomfortable position. Positions that allow for deep thrusting can lead to the cervix getting bumped, which can be painful. Changing positions or avoiding uncomfortable ones can resolve this issue easily.

Another possible normal cause of discomfort during sex is not taking enough time for pre-intimacy. The reproductive organs actually shift during sexual arousal. The cervix moves up and back when you’re turned on, and this shift makes sex more comfortable.

With all that said, pain and occasional discomfort are not the same things. Pain that is consistent or prevents you from having sex is another ball game altogether.

Causes of Painful Sex That May Affect Fertility
The medical term for painful sex is dyspareunia. Painful sex can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Some of those conditions can negatively impact fertility or make staying pregnant more difficult.

There are several possible causes of painful intercourse that may also impact fertility:2

Vaginal dryness: This can range from a slight discomfort issue to a pretty intense pain, especially when combined with overall low estrogen levels. This pain tends to occur upon vaginal entry. A lack of cervical mucus can indicate hormonal imbalance, but it can also occur due to medication side effects.