Extreme discomfort or pain while experiencing or attempting intercourse can reduce sexual desire, disrupt relationships, and leave a woman feeling less feminine. Genito-pelvic pain/penetration disorder may involve a number of causes and symptoms, both physical and psychological, and a clinician can help an individual or couple take steps toward restoring a healthy sex life.
The disorder involves difficulty having intercourse and feeling significant pain upon penetration. The severity can range from a total inability to experience vaginal penetration to the ability to experience penetration in one situation but not another. For example, a woman might not feel discomfort when inserting a tampon but might experience intense pain when attempting to have vaginal intercourse.
Genito-pelvic pain/penetration disorder was previously referred to as a sexual pain disorder consisting of dyspareunia (pain in the pelvic area during or after sexual intercourse) or vaginismus (an involuntary spasm of the musculature surrounding the vagina causing it to close, resulting in penetration being difficult, painful, or impossible).
The number of women with genito-pelvic pain/penetration disorder is not known, but it is estimated that 15 percent of women in North America experience recurrent pain during intercourse. The disorder is associated with other challenges, including reduced sexual desire and avoidance of any genital contact that might cause pain. As a result, many women living with the disorder may have problems in their romantic relationships and many report that their symptoms make them feel less feminine.