Is sex painful the first time?

When a woman has vaginal sex for the first time, it can be a little painful. She may bleed a little, but this isn't always the case and usually occurs because the hymen has been broken during sexual intercourse.

The hymen is a small piece of thin skin (membrane) that can either partially or totally cover the entrance to the vagina. A woman might already have broken her hymen without knowing about it; this can happen when playing sports or using a tampon.

When a man has sex for the first time it shouldn't hurt, but he can make it easier for his partner by using foreplay, making sure there is plenty of lubrication and by being gentle and going slowly.

Anal sex

Anal sex can be painful for both men and women the first time, and there may be a little bleeding. There are things you can do to lessen any pain, such as a slow penetration and using a lot of water-based lubrication. Some people find inserting fingers into the anus before penetration can help.

Pain during sex

Pain during sex is quite common and affects both men and women. It can be caused by a variety of things, such as an illness, infection or a physical or psychological problem.

Sex is likely to be uncomfortable if you're not relaxed and aroused. Make time for foreplay and try not to think of penetrative sex as the main goal, as penetration will be painful if the vagina is not lubricated. You can also try using a lubricating product.

If you're still finding it difficult to have sex, there may be an emotional reason or anxiety that's causing problems. Speaking to a counsellor or sex therapist can help deal with underlying worries. Ask your GP or sexual health (GUM) clinic about a referral.

Common infections such as thrush and cystitis, which can cause pain during sex, can be easily treated with over-the-counter remedies. Check with your GP or visit a GUM clinic if you're not sure what's causing the problem. Sore and itchy symptoms can sometimes be a sign of a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Find your local sexual health clinic.

If you have a pain deep inside the pelvis, this can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as endometriosis, so it's important to see your GP for diagnosis and treatment.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 04/04/2013

Next review due: 04/04/2015