dyspareunia in females

Last edited 03/2018 and last reviewed 03/2021

Dyspareunia or painful sex is a condition which presents as recurrent or persistent pain with sexual activity (1).

  • this is common but neglected problem causing distress, decreased sexual functioning and enjoyment, relationship difficulties and reduced quality of life (2)
  • it may be associate with or lead to other female sexual dysfunction disorders e.g. - decreased libido, decreased arousal, and anorgasmia (1)
  • population prevalence is estimated to vary from 3 to 18% globally, and lifetime estimates range from 10 to 28% (3)

Dyspareunia may be classified as:

  • superficial (entry) - pain confined to the introitus
  • deep - pain experienced deep in the pelvis during intercourse


  • primary – pain occurring since onset of sexual activity and thereafter
  • secondary – occurring after previous sexual activity that was not painful (1)

Significant risk factors and predictors for dyspareunia include:

  • younger age
  • education level below a college degree
  • urinary tract symptoms
  • poor to fair health
  • emotional problems or stress
  • a decrease in household income greater than 20% (1)
  • peri- or post-menopausal women