Q: Will it hurt the first time I have sex?

A: Many women experience some pain or discomfort the first time they have intercourse. Most of the time, this is due to stretching or tearing of the hymen, a thin piece of skin that partially covers the entrance to the vagina in most (but not all) women. If you have a hymen, it might hurt or bleed a little the first time you have intercourse, or it might not. Some women don’t experience any pain, and not all women bleed when their hymens break. In fact, some women don’t have hymens at all. Others break their hymens before they have intercourse, often with vigorous exercise, tampon use, accidents, or masturbation.

The other very common cause of pain or discomfort during intercourse is vaginal tightness or too much friction. When a woman becomes sexually aroused, she will usually produce lubrication (“get wet”) , but this does not always happen or may not be enough to ensure comfortable intercourse. The first time you have intercourse, make sure you are very aroused and feel ready to go ahead. You may want to use a water-based, glycerin-free lubricant from the drugstore (they are next to the condoms)to reduce friction.

Also, having an orgasm first may make your vagina more relaxed and ready for penetration. If it hurts deep inside your vagina when you have sex, especially if the pain is very intense, there may be something else going on. Painful intercourse, even the first time, can be a sign of infection or some other medical condition. More often, it can be a way for your vagina to say “no” to intercourse by refusing to relax and allow penetration. You may not be ready for intercourse or you may need to learn more about what feels good to you. If you consistently experience pain during intercourse, talk to your doctor.

For More Information…

The following books may be useful:

  • Our Bodies, Ourselves: A New Edition for a New Era by Boston Women’s Health Collective, published by Touchstone [Buy]
    An excellent introduction to sexuality for women and girls, and discusses physical as well as behavioral aspects of sex.
  • Changing Bodies, Changing Lives: A Book for Teens on Sex and Relationships by Ruth Bell [Buy]
    This book, from the original authors of Our Bodies, Ourselves, provides information on the physical and emotional aspects of puberty, sexuality, healthcare, sexually transmitted diseases, safer sex and birth control, living with violence, mental health, and eating disorders.