Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

Anonymous on September 29, 2011

I have a burning feeling in my vagina during sex...what could it be?

I have started to have a burning feeling in my vagina when I have sexual intercourse. It hurts so much, I have to stop. My boyfriend and I use condoms...so what could it be?

answered by
Lisa Oldson, MD on September 29, 2011

I’m sorry that you’re experiencing pain. I’ll do my best to help.

Depending on you sexual history and any other symptoms you may be experiencing, the pain you describe could indicate a number of different conditions...so visiting your doctor for a full examination, discussion and diagnosis of what might be causing your discomfort is a good idea.

With that in mind, one possible cause of the burning sensation you describe is vulvovaginitis...a term that means inflammation of the vulva and/or vagina. This condition can be caused by many things, such as infections (both sexually and non-sexually transmitted), or irritation from non-infectious causes like an allergy or other skin condition.

Another possibility is contact dermatitis. This easily treatable condition can be accompanied by a vaginal discharge, and is caused by an irritant (e.g., scented pantyliners, spermicides, douching, soaps or perfumes).

You mentioned that you and your boyfriend use condoms...that’s great, because latex condoms and dental dams are the best way for sexually active people to prevent spreading STDs, and reduce the chances of an unwanted pregnancy. 

However, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that 1-6% of the U.S. population is allergic to latex. Again, your doctor can perform a simple skin test to find out if you’re one of these rare cases. 

Other causes of pain with intercourse include...not taking enough time for foreplay to allow the vagina to open up to accommodate the penis, insufficient lubrication, vaginal muscle spasms and other causes, all of which can and should be evaluated by your physician.

Finally, some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) for example trichomoniasis, chlamydia and gonorrhea may also cause pain with intercourse. If you and your boyfriend haven’t been tested for a common STDs lately, I encourage you to do so. After testing, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing each other’s STD status. And with STD testing, your doctor will better be able to identify the cause of your symptoms.

If it turns out that you have an STD, don’t fret. All STDs are treatable, and some are entirely curable. 

For more information about STD symptoms, what puts you at risk for STDs, and how you can do your part to prevent catching or spreading an STD, see our Expert Guide to STD Basics

I wish you the best of health. 

Related info:

Lisa Oldson, MD

Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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