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We’ve been answering your questions for Sexual Health Awareness Month. If you missed some, catch up here.

Q: Why is vaginal penetration so painful for me? I feel like I’m always dry down there. How can I get my lubrication back? It’s so painful that I don’t even want to have sex anymore, and I don’t know how to overcome my fear.

If you’re experiencing unwanted sexual pain, it’s completely understandable that you aren’t particularly inclined to have sex.

If this happens often, it could be a sign of genito-pelvic pain/penetration disorder (GPPPD).

GPPPD is a combination of painful sex (dyspareunia) and involuntary vaginal muscle spasms (vaginismus).

Symptoms often include:

  • involuntary vaginal muscle contractions
  • pain or burning when vaginal penetration is attempted
  • low or no desire to have penetrative vaginal sex
  • avoiding sexual activity out of fear of unwanted sexual pain

If you’re ready to seek out medical care

If these symptoms sound familiar, I recommend making an appointment with a gynecologist. They can advise you on treatment and other next steps.

If your gynecologist diagnoses GPPPD, they may refer you to a physical therapist who specializes in the pelvic floor and a sex therapist.

Sex therapy can help you learn how to manage and overcome the emotional symptoms of GPPPD, while physical therapy can teach you how to use vaginal dilators to help your pelvic floor muscles relax.

If you’re experiencing vaginal dryness

If you haven’t already, add a vaginal lubricant to your routine. Lube can help reduce friction and other irritation so you can start to enjoy sexual activities again.

I recommend investing in a lube that’s hypoallergenic, long lasting, and that you could use in water.

Überlube, for example, is a silicone-based lube made from only four ingredients. Unlike water-based lubes, it won’t evaporate, so you won’t need to reapply.

Janet Brito is an AASECT-certified sex therapist and supervisor who also has a license in clinical psychology and social work. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Minnesota, one of only a few programs in the world dedicated to sexuality training. Currently, she’s based in Honolulu, Hawaii, and is the founder of the Center for Sexual and Reproductive Health. Dr. Brito has been featured on many outlets, including O: The Oprah Magazine, HuffPost, Playboy, Women’s Health, Thrive Global, and Midweek Publications. Reach out to her through her website or on Instagram.