I recently had an infection in my vagina that caused sex to be painful. The infection was diagnosed and fixed but sex still seems to hurt. I think I may have got stuck with the thought that sex hurts. How can I move past this and enjoy sex again?
It is always worthwhile to double check that everything is okay physically and the infection has cleared up completely. If that is the case, it definitely sounds like you got stuck with the thought that sex hurts.
What happens is that you tense up and the muscles around the entrance of the vagina close as you are tensing them. This means it can become painful for the penis to enter.
Sex is very much a learned behaviour and you have now learned that sex is painful. The good thing though is that you can unlearn this, and teach yourself something different. As we all know the brain is very powerful and it is actually the main sexual organ.
So we need to reprogram your brain and tell it something different. You could start with visualising pleasurable sexual scenarios, where you really enjoy the encounter and there is no pain.
Additionally, you could work on relaxing your muscle and getting control over it. Do some pelvic floor exercises where you tense and relax the pelvic muscle, and start noticing the difference between a tense and relaxed state.
Then insert your finger whenever you have a relaxed state of the muscle and make sure you breathe out as you insert it. Remember, as you practise this, try not to feel pain as you are sending your brain the wrong message again. So take it slow and at your own pace.
Once you have had a couple of good encounters introduce the penis again. Make sure you are very aroused though, as this is needed for it to not feel painful. I would also suggest you use a water-based lubricant.
For more information please visit the Sexual Health Australia website.