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Painful sex

Learn more about our painful sex workshop held in May 2023.

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Too many women and birthing people may find sex painful, often associated with their pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain (PGP) or pelvic floor problems. If you have previously found sex painful, you may be more fearful of it happening again which can also affect your libido, along with the impact of chronic pain and managing pregnancy/young children. 

While we know that this issue can affect a lot of women, we also recognise it’s not always easy to talk about.

We held a workshop for the Pelvic Partnership team in May 2023 to explore issues related to painful sex, facilitated by qualified sex therapist and Pelvic Partnership clinical supervisor, Maxine O’Brien. As well as raising any issues that affected us, we also asked our service users what issues affected them to shape our conversation.

Scroll down to learn more about what we discussed at our workshop or click on the link below to find out more about how sex and relationships are affected by PGP:

Sex and relationships

PGP and painful sex

We had some questions from women with PGP who find it hard to be intimate with their partners. Firstly we discussed how sex doesn’t have to mean penetration and how important it is to communicate with your partner and explore with them what can work for you, especially when you are in pain or are worried about aggravating your PGP.

Finding a good position is also really important; what has worked for you in the past may no longer be the best position if you are experiencing PGP. Try to find a position that reduces pressure on your hips and pelvis, such as:

  • lying on your side if comfortable for your hips,
  • you on top so you can manage the speed and depth,
  • from behind, possibly when lying on your side, or
  • standing (if you have something to hold on to).

Remember that it is never too late to seek treatment for PGP, find out more here:

Getting treatment

Pelvic floor and painful sex

Many women who find sex painful may also be experiencing pelvic floor problems, especially a tight, overactive or hypertonic pelvic floor which can make penetrative sex painful. This is where your pelvic floor muscles are too tight and cause your vagina to stay tense or tight. For example, the symptoms for pelvic floor problems are similar to vaginismus (often what women with painful sex are diagnosed with so it is often worth getting a second opinion if you’re in this position).

You can find more information about pelvic floor problems here:

Pelvic floor and PGP

Getting treatment for an overactive pelvic floor can make a big difference to your sexual experiences. Finding the right position can also make a big difference, e.g. you being on top in penetrative sex can help ensure you are more in control. 


Seeing an experienced manual therapist for PGP treatment and a specialist pelvic floor physiotherapist for pelvic floor issues can make a big difference to your physical symptoms and your sex life.

Pelvic floor physiotherapists also highly recommend different tools, including:

  • Water or oil based lubricants (such as YES lube)
  • Silicone dilators or sex toys to help you train your pelvic floor muscles

Further support

Although it’s often not easy to talk about, we know many women may find sex painful, especially after having PGP.

If you are experiencing painful sex, we would encourage you to contact a representative from the College of Relationship and Sex Therapists (COSRT) to find out more about sex and relationship therapy.

College of Relationship and Sex Therapists

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