Q&A: Painful Intercourse in the First Year

At times a couple who has waited to have sex until marriage will leave their wedding expecting that there will be some minor pain and discomfort for the woman associated with having intercourse. Unfortunately for some women the pain is much more severe and more difficult to overcome.

We received the following question from a newly wedded couple:

We have been married for about 6 months and we don’t have intercourse very often because of the severe pain that my wife goes through. We recently went to a highly recommended gynecologist and she said that every thing was normal and suggested we changed birth controls. We tried again and still the same pain. Do you guys have any suggestions? Any stretches? Creams? We have found creative things to do which is awesome, but we would both like to enjoy intercourse. Thank you!

I can understand your frustration because sex was painful for me for nearly a year when I was first married. Even after the first year I would often be uncomfortable for the first few thrusts. In fact, I would say that it wasn’t until after the birth of my first child that every sexual encounter was completely comfortable from beginning to end. It could be that I was just smaller than average, but I think a number of other factors contributed to the problem as well.

This helpful website defines vaginismus as vaginal tightness causing discomfort, burning, pain, penetration problems, or complete inability to have intercourse.

It is not at all an uncommon problem. Your wife and I are not the only women who have experienced it and it can be over come. Please visit the vaginismus site and read over it with your wife as it will provide you with far more information than I can offer you in this one article.

One thing to consider is how much time you are spending in foreplay. If your wife isn’t aroused enough it will be more painful for her. Not only will arousal allow her body to produce her natural lubricant, but it will also add more elasticity to her vagina which will allow her to accommodate you more easily. Try getting her to orgasm first through oral or manual sex, and then try entering her after she has had an orgasm. Or try getting her to the point where she is right on the edge of orgasm and then enter her at that point. Adding some artificial lubricant such as coconut oil is a good idea too, but avoid the misconception that in and of itself it should be enough. She needs to be aroused.

It is very likely that with the history you have so far, your wife is battling some negative physiological mentalities as you prepare to come together for sex, as I’m sure you are. It is very hard to enjoy the thought of having sex together if it always causes pain so it is probably very hard for her to get aroused. So it is a vicious cycle as depicted by this chart.

It’s good you were able to visit a gynecologist to determine whether or not there was another problem. For the couples who read here who are experiencing this and haven’t seen your doctor yet, I would encourage you to do so because they may be able to give you some helpful insight. When I visited my doctor in the first month after we were married, he suggested that perhaps the pain was just because we were having too much sex, being newly married Christians who had waited. This is a very real possibility and it could indeed be a reason for pain, but in cases like yours and mine, the pain involved was enough to keep us from engaging in intercourse all that often. I wasn’t really satisfied with my visit to my doctor that particular day, but I wasn’t the self assured woman I am now who will go after what she wants and needs so I left thinking we’d have to figure it out for ourselves.

There are a variety of different techniques the two of you can employ in order to work towards solving this. Some couples have had success with these dilators. Your wife will start with the smallest one and gradually increase the size as she becomes comfortable. You may also find that if she does pelvic floor exercises that it will help.

I’m not sure if you and your wife are in the habit of praying for your sexuality, but I would definitely spend some time praying about this as well as praying about other aspects of your sexual relationship. For some couples it might seem odd to pray about sexually related things, but it is important because as you connect with God about these things not only can He help you, but He teaches you how He sees things so you can grow in having His perspective of sex.

These ideas and the vaginismus site should point you in the right direction to solving this problem. Bless you!


  1. I experienced the same difficulty. My doctor prescribed an Estrogen cream that I found VERY helpful. My low level discomfort continued through our first couple years of marriage until I went off birth control in anticipation of becoming pregnant. It was like a whole new world! I can’t even describe the difference, the discomfort was gone in just one month. The hormones keep your body in an “infertile” state, with very little natural lubrication even after intercourse- so you don’t even recover well. It’s not only a lack of lubrication but also the membrane linings are much thinner while on birth control. Not all birth controls are the same and most certainly not all women are the same! However, if your wife continues to have discomfort, do explore the idea of dropping it all together and trying something like FAM.

    MY PERSONAL SOLUTION: I’m not going to get into the ethics of hormonal birth control, but I for one will never go back. After seeing the enormous difference it made in my body, I reasoned it couldn’t be good for me to have something artificially changing me that much. After 3 kids our love life is still awesome, and I’m completely comfortable during intercourse. We’ve found that we really like Nonoxinol 9 products, particularly the one named Encare. They not only provide the birth control during the time when we need it, but I’ve also found it to be sexually enhancing.

  2. Thank you! I decided today to look and see if you had any advice on this topic before I wrote asking and here it is! It’s definitely good to know that I am not alone in my problem, that there are possibilities for help out there and that it might be temporary due to the bc. All helpful things to find out for a young, newly married (9 months now!) lady 🙂

  3. I had the same problems too! I had horrible, horrible pain. The best description of it that I can give is that it felt like someone was trying to rip my legs in opposite directions (sorry if that’s TMI but it was BAD). I have been married for almost 4 years now and we didn’t have PIV for almost 2 years (yes you read that right) because of the pain and difficulty that I had. I am Thrilled to say that everything is in *better than* working order now and we are still experiencing what we are calling our 2nd honeymoon…. it’s waaayy better than the 1st one when it comes to the bedroom. I thank the Lord for my patient DH who stayed with me through the whole thing and was supportive. For others that are experiencing this situation, here’s my suggestions/advice:
    — Pray, pray, pray. Get down on your knees, get down on your face, and cry out your pain and tears to the Lord. Ask not only that he heal your body, but that he heal your heart and bless your marriage. He is the great healer.
    — Educate yourself. I recommend Dr Roseneau’s Celebration of Sex, and I also like the Vaginismus books. The more that you know about your body and how it is supposed to work, the better off you are. The Vag. book had a good section about how to approach your doc, gave scripts of things to say and everything.
    — Find a supportive physician. My doc(s) were super supportive and constantly reassured me that physically I am normal. They also ruled me out for crazy conditions like vestibulitis (inflammation of the secretory ducts down there) and interstitial cystitis (painful bladder inflammation that causes frequent UTIs). Knowing all of that helped me relax when I was ready to try again.
    — Try the dilators from the Vag site (linked above). I just about hyperventilated the 1st time I tried it (with the smallest one), but it was probably one of the most helpful things I did for myself. Without DH there, I could focus on getting in the pleasure zone and then what I was feeling (good & bad) and where exactly the issues were. I also learned about what angles and such were most comfortable, which was good to share with DH.
    — If it hurts, STOP. It is so tempting to think “if he’ll just hurry I can put up with it” but it’s worse for you (BOTH of you) in the long run. Your body will continue to have painful reactions when it’s expecting pain, and you have to break that cycle.
    — I will say that I also got off of oral BC pills, as they can cause low libido. As it turns out, this allowed me to find an underlying hormonal problem that I didn’t know I had, which may or may not have been involved in my personal situation.

    Sorry for the long comment — but this is so near to my heart since I have recently recovered from this very situation — it’s also helpful to have a support buddy (girlfriend) to help you. I go to a small church but am lucky to have a great friend to discuss with.

    GOOD LUCK! To the ladies out there that are dealing with this situation.

  4. I had alot of pain for the first 3 years of marrige! It was terrible. I tried stretching myself and kegels made it even worse. Some of it I can see now was related to a yeast infection. However my doctor perscribed a gel called xylocaine to freeze my vagina. I This was the first time I ever experienced sex that at least felt like nothing! It was the start of a much better sex life. I continued to use it for a few months and slowly started to use less and less until I no longer had any pain. Thank the Lord that I had a doctor who was willing to try the unconventional!

  5. I’m curious if you experienced pain after the freezing wore off.

  6. sigh… oh sisters…

    I just had a very embarrassing and frustrating appointment with the doctor today. I decided that it might be a good idea to get a Pap smear done before I was sexually active after my wedding (so they could monitor the change of my cervix). Not only did she diagnose me with vaginismus (I can’t put in tampons either, though I have been able to insert my finger), I bawled and cried out like a baby when she tried to insert the instruments. She told me that she was going to try with her finger to see if the vagina was physiologically normal. It was beyond horrible. I really regret even going to get the test, because now I have this traumatic experience associating me with vaginal pain.

    She told me to try with my fingers, and then we could move up to dilators, maybe even recommend me to a clinical sex therapist.

    I was so disheartened today. I went from knowing I was unable to insert tampons, to shrieking and crying at insertion in the doctor’s office. I know it’s going to be more of a fearful and discouraging road to fix this, thank goodness my fiance is so supportive.
    At least I know I will be aroused and trusting with him, so it won’t be as bad.

    I know it’s not the end of the world. I just really wish that I had tried to stretch myself and not gone. I would appreciate any similar experiences or some shared comfort, ladies. Thanks for creating a safe space.

  7. I’m not sure when you are getting married, but I would encourage you to use this knowledge to your advantage. I think it is actually good that you know that you need to stretch. Imagine if you came to your wedding night not knowing and were disappointed. I would first encourage you to let Jesus speak to the fearful parts inside you. The fear you describe sounds like an attempt from the enemy to rob you of the joy that is before you. Ask the Lord to set you free from that fear and to help you as you prepare your body.
    Are you opposed to using stretching techniques and dilators at this point? If not, I would encourage you to do so now. If you prefer to wait until you are married so you can explore this with your husband, then bring the dilators along on your honeymoon. Your husband can still give you a clitoral orgasm and you can bring him to orgasm even if you can not achieve full penetration right away.
    Don’t be discouraged by this. We were all made differently so invite God into your situation and see what he will do 🙂 I have much hope for your situation, even if it isn’t what you hoped it would be right from the start.

  8. Thanks for such an encouraging reply, Cinnamon Sticks =) I will start stretching right away, and getting comfortable first with my fingers on a regular basis. Will also be using lube for this, and will likely get dilators as well, and maybe even numbing cream. I’m determined to beat this!

    Am getting married in August, so I have three months to make good progress. Will begin praying for this. Will let you know my results, and will be sure to share my experiences! Thanks for the support.

    P.S. It is so the devil trying to rain on my marital sex parade! I’m going to show him who’s really in control of this gift!

  9. My fiance was wondering, CinnamonSticks, how long it took you to get over it, or if you know averagely what the therapy time is for this non-assault related vaginismus?

  10. Unfortunately it took quite a long time for me. I didn’t have a resource like this to get support from and I had no idea what I was doing. I think it my circumstances had been different, that the first few years would have been different.
    So, I would say that by the end of the first year there was nearly no pain at all, but it wasn’t until giving birth to our firstborn that there was never, ever any pain from beginning to end. Again, though, if I had been better educated I think the situation would have been different.
    And remember that when you are fighting a spiritual battle, your focus needs to be on the Lord. He will take care of the enemy. Invite Him to speak truth and give you the strength you need. 🙂
    Let us know how things go.

  11. I don’t know if anyone else has heard of or tried taking gingko biloba, but it worked for me. When I was 16, I was in the hospital and the dr. had to examine my vagina – I remember almost sqeezing the nurse’s hand off, screaming in pain and trying not to cry. I was there because they thought I had appendicitis, and so I pretty much forgot about that physical exam for years. Then, last June, my husband and I got married, and not remembering and not having a clue what to expect, I cried and cried in pain on our wedding night. For the next few days, we would try to ML and it was a huge blow to me not to be able to please him as a newly wed. He was super patient with me, prayed with me sometimes hourly, and I did a little internet research to see if there was anything I could do because I was really not interested in interrupting our honeymoon. I came across a few articles on gingko biloba – it increases blood flow and helped my vaginal muscles relax… in a few days, while there was still pain, it was no where near the original intensity. I continued taking it for a couple months, gradually decreasing the amount. I got it from our local health food store. I also did finger stretches to help, and we went on an incredibly relaxing honeymoon. We’re a month and a half away from our first anniversary and enjoying each other more every day. And our first baby is on the way, due in October.

  12. YLY–

    Just a note to you–no matter what (I did not have vaginismus) the first time is going to be a bit butterflies in the stomach scary/exciting! I did some finger stretching ahead of time, as suggested in the old stand-by book “Intended for Pleasure”. The first night, he did some foreplay, and some finger stretching, before entering. I think the “scariest” moment of the evening was allowing him to remove my underwear.

    Don’t rush the first time! And I think that if you did some of the “Hot Dog and Buns” position, you might have a chance to get extremely aroused, if not actually climax. (Of course, he might climax right away/before penetration. If that is going to bother him, maybe he wants to climax in you.) If you did that before penetration, and possible tearing of membranes/soreness, at least you would *know* experientially that sex is really fun and feels really great. I think that some of the frustration with women not climaxing easily without oral or fingering can be helped with sliding past the clitoris and vaginal opening. Not everyone will want to have oral the first time they are intimate. And you can use your legs to get a nice tight feeling for him, even without him being inside of you yet. And it can feel great for both of you at once. Fingering and Oral can take a while. It is exciting to explore someone’s body for the first time, but it is fun to both be receiving/giving pubic pleasure at the same time! Not only that, but sex and kissing at the same time is awesome. Just don’t bite his tongue off!

  13. I have an addendum to my previous post. I think I mainly wanted to point out that it is possible for both of you to enjoy some incredible outercourse, with clitoral stimulation, and without penetration. Kissing at the same time is fun, but not an item on some perfect honeymoon night sex checklist–especially since I was describing doing it in from a rear-entry position!

    The Hot Dog and Buns position (#57) describes how to slide past the clit from a “rear-entry” sort of position. And, while it is possible to kiss in this position (and we HAVE), it is a bit more work than using a face to face position, such as a more traditional Man on Top, or even Cupid’s Arrow, a Woman on Top position (#55).

    P.S.: There is no Perfect Honeymoon Night Sex Checklist. Just an encouragement to wait patiently and expectantly, then enjoy, enjoy, enjoy the privilege of entering into the knowledge of each other–and that is a life-long learning, not a one-time pass/fail exam.

  14. Thank you, ladies =) I really am feeling better about this. I’ve realized that I am 1000000 times more comfortable with my beloved than I was with that cold doctor, and I think that, with a bit of preparatory stretching, we’ll do just fine. It’s just good to know that I’m not the only one, and to have the reminder to just let things be as they are… and not build up some idealistic goals for the wedding night.

  15. hello ladies….so i sort of feel like a baby because i haven’t even been married a week yet but i’m already close to giving up vaginal intercourse because sex is so painful. Today after his first attempt i even started crying when i had to tell him to get out cuz it was so painful. We readjusted and tried something new so he could get in and it not be so bad but it still hurt. I really want to please him and give him an awesome time in this way but i’m afraid if it continues like this i will be too scared to even try it anymore. I can bring him to climax through non vaginal means and he can do the same for me but I have been saving myself for 23 years so I can enjoy my husband the way God planned it and I can’t. I don’t even know how to express how disappointed i feel in myself. I am so glad I found this site and found this topic. I’m sure my husband is too haha i have been like “Oh maybe we can try this” and making him read like all of it even though he is trying to read about something else on his computer haha. Sorry this is so rambling but I don’t have anyone else to really share this with. My best friend is unmarried and I have been attending his church since I just moved up here a year ago for school so I haven’t connected with any of the women on this level especially because they find it weird for him to be married. I don’t even really know why i’m posting, there was great advice and suggestions that I am going to try….maybe just because i’m thankful this is here. Maybe also because if I post this i know someone will pray for us. anyway i’m glad to know i’m not alone, i kept thinking that the world glorifies sex so much and yet now that i experience it i cant imagine why. So that makes me think that there must be something terribly wrong with me. then i read this and now i know i’m not alone…ok sorry rambling again. thank you all for posting and giving me ideas. maybe it will just take time and exploration, I thank the lord so much for what he has given me and I know in his time I will get to enjoy sex also 🙂

  16. I’m glad you posted. Rambling or not 🙂

    Although it may take time, it will get better. Just don’t give up. Keep trying. Do consider trying the dilators if other things aren’t working. Also, you might want to try a small bullet vibe if the two of you are comfortable with the idea. He can use it on you so you can get used him putting something inside you. You can look at the resources in our blogroll for safe sites to find one on.

  17. I know exactly how you feel. I got married in early August, and I hadn’t got around to posting on here yet, but I had the exact same experience.

    In my case, I know I have vaginismus, and not only did it hurt, but there was no hole– I had just closed up. In some ways, the honeymoon was heartbreaking, but we also had a very special time bonding and growing closer together.

    Since we’ve returned, I have been stretching myself occasionally (inserting a finger and pushing in all four directions), and have a specialist appointment with a female gynecologist. But that’s not until October. So for now… we are still enjoying each other very much, and we’ve come to terms with being intimate without intercourse.

    Don’t feel alone. Don’t feel like it’s your fault. Don’t feel like you are not living up to your wifely role. Delight in your husband, and find peace and understanding in the Lord. Try a bunch of things, and if possible, get an appointment with your doctor.

  18. Ladies, If possible for you and this applies to your situation, try to get off hormonal birth control.
    Yes, it’s 99.9% effective at pregnancy prevention, but….. it works by negative feedbacking your hormones and basically turning them off (that’s how it stops you from ovulating). This kills the libido in many women (fact), and since your natural hormones are not rising and falling like normal, it can affect your sensitivity and responsiveness down there (my personal experience, I’ve heard of it in others too).
    It might be worth a try? Even for 2 or 3 cycles, just to see if it helps? When I got off the oral BC, that was part of my road to recovery. Just a suggestion.

  19. Thank you. So now I feel even more silly because two days ago we had a breakthrough, A few days after I posted this I started my period and since we were having problems anyway on top of the messiness and such we just decided to not have sex until after I got done. So I finished three days ago and knew that we should try again but I was so scared I kind of melted down and my husband was very comforting and we really bonded, well the next morning I decided we should try something I saw here-i think it was called the hot dog position?-he was able to enter me with less pain and I noticed some blood, I guess he had just not been able to tear the hymen (or however u spell it) but now we are doing pretty good. I’m actually sort of enjoying it…

    a note for LadyLove, thats rough!!! wow, I will pray for you for sure! I’m glad you and your husband are growing closer in spite of this bump in the road. Something my mom shared with me after I told her I was having problems was that we have the rest of our lives to work on this…thats like a lot of years (hopefully) compared to this short time of having to grow closer in other ways. I know God will bless you and when the time is right you will be able to enjoy each other this way….

    a note for mrsdk, I have to be on hormonal b.c. due to the nature of my period, I have been playing with different kinds for years. I’m now on NuvaRing and I really like it. Its very low does hormonal stuff and I think my problem was that I was producing too much estrogen so with this doing its thing it makes my hormones more regular, or at least thats what my doctor told me. So I think staying on b.c. is prolly a good idea for me but for ladies who dont have to be on it I say don’t. It does kind of mess with your body a little. Some would give me migranes and some just yuckyness and others a never ending period! I stopped that one haha but anyway thanx for your comment.

  20. I just wanted to follow up with a status report, and I am so grateful to all the ladies here who have offered me words of support these past months.

    I have currently been married now for 10 months, and we have still not been able to have intercourse. My gynecologist examined me under anesthesia, and found a vaginal septum. Basically, my vagina was divided in two, with a wall leaning to one side. Because of that un-natural divider, my body responded by clenching muscles anytime I tried to insert anything inside, so as not to tear anything. Great defense mechanism… she removed the septum, and after 6 weeks I was allowed to start using the vaginal inserts, to get over my vaginismus.

    But the journey still continues. My GYN wanted me to get an MRI to make sure I had a normal uterus, to see if I could have kids. I just got the results back. I have 2 cervices, and my uterus also has a septum. I need to see her in two weeks to discuss the results, but from what I’ve gleaned online, a uterine septum is not a good thing and should be removed to decrease the risk of miscarrying. So my journey to overcome vaginismus is still a long road, and having internal “good” parts is even farther down the road. Please keep me in your prayers, this whole journey has really shattered my communication with God. I feel so overwhelmed and broken. My hearts go out to all you other wives who are struggling with these issues.

  21. YoungLadyLove – I am so sorry for the tremendous struggles you are having so early in your marriage. I will be praying for you.

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