Dear Dr. Vanessa, Will Intercourse After a Dry Spell Hurt?

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Every few weeks, Dr. Vanessa Cullins, a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist and vice president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood® Federation of America, will be answering your questions here. To ask her your own question, click here.

Dear Dr. Vanessa,

I haven’t had sex in over 8 months. When I finally do have intercourse again, will it hurt like when I lost my virginity?

— Cross-legged

Dear C.L.,

Most likely not. It’s common for a woman to feel pain the first time she has intercourse. Often, this is from the stretching of her hymen, which is tissue that blocks part of the opening of the vagina. All girls are born with a hymen. Some girls have a lot of hymenal tissue, and their first intercourse can be painful unless their partners are patient about slowly stretching the hymen open. Some girls and women have so little hymenal tissue it may appear that they have none. In any case, once the hymen is stretched open by vaginal intercourse or by various kinds of exercise, it does not grow back again, no matter how long a woman goes without sex. So you should not worry about sex being painful because of your hymen.

Having a hymen is not the only cause of painful intercourse, though. Your next intercourse could be painful if you are not sexually aroused enough to be sufficiently lubricated for comfortable penetration. Many women find using lubricant makes sex more comfortable and pleasurable.

It could also be painful if you are fearful or anxious about having intercourse. Fear and anxiety can cause vaginismus, the medical name for painful intercourse that has emotional causes. Talking with your partner about what you would like to do and what feels good to you may help you relax and enjoy yourself.

There are some other less common causes of painful intercourse, but if you were enjoying sex without pain before you stopped having it eight months ago, it is very likely that will still be the case for you if and when you decide to have sex again. If you decide to have sex and do find it to be consistently painful, I recommend you talk with your health care provider, who can help you figure out the cause and get the best treatment.

In the meantime, best wishes for your good sexual health,

Planned Parenthood

Vanessa Cullins, MD, MPH, MBA, is a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist and vice president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood® Federation of America.

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