Sex & relationships

Incontinence, urinary tract infections (UTIs), prolapse and problems with constipation and diarrhoea can affect women's sexual health and make sex painful. Knowing what to do and manage the effects of these problems on your sex life is important.

Painful sex

Both bladder and bowel health, including incontinence, urinary tract infections (UTIs) and prolapse can affect women's sexual health and make sex painful.

In particular, penetration may be painful for some women because the muscles in the vagina spasm (called vaginismus). This creates a feeling of painful tightness. Frequent UTIs, prolapse and surgery for prolapse can all contribute to vaginismus.

Bladder and bowel health, UTIs and prolapse can make sex painful

Management & treatment

The underlying physical cause must first be treated by a doctor or specialist.

Possible further action might include:

  • pelvic floor physiotherapy
  • biofeedback
  • massage
  • relaxation skills
  • counselling

For more information see our webpages on sex & sexual health.

Last updated 20 July 2017 — Last reviewed 15 January 2014

** Currently under review **

This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at January 2014.

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