There’s a myth out there that if you have a vagina, it’s normal for there to be pain the first time you have penetrative sex. So, you might be surprised to know that it’s actually completely avoidable.
Pain during first-time sex is often attributed to the hymen, a thin layer of tissue partially covering the vagina — but this attribution is usually incorrect. Most people with vulvas don’t actually bleed the first time they have sex.
Pain during sex, like any kind of pain, indicates an underlying problem. This problem can be a number of things. Often, nerves or lack of arousal during first-time sex can contribute. Sometimes, there’s restriction in the pelvic floor muscles, says pelvic floor physical therapist Amanda Olson, DPT, PRPC.
Here are some ways to make sure your first-time intercourse experience is a pleasurable one, not a painful one.
Masturbation helps you get to know your body and can even stimulate blood flow to your vagina and help it self-lubricate, says Megwyn White, certified clinical sexologist and director of education for Satisfyer.
Once you know what kind of touch turns you on, you can teach your partner how to touch you — and the more turned on you get, the less likely you are to experience physical discomfort.
2. Try a Toy in Your Vagina
If you want to get used to the feeling of penetration, you can start off by using a bullet vibrator, says White. The vibrations will help arouse you and make things more comfortable, and you can go at your own pace when you’re by yourself. Use the vibrator on your clitoris first so that you’re turned on before you start penetration.
3. Make Sure You’re Relaxed
“Stress can cause people to clench the pelvic floor in a subconscious protection-like manner, leading to trigger points, or knots, in the pelvic floor muscles, or hyperactivity of the muscles,” says Olson.
You can prevent this by waiting until you’re truly ready, planning it out, talking through any anxieties you might have with your partner, engaging in lots of foreplay, using a position that’s comfortable to you, and stopping if you ever feel uncomfortable, physically or emotionally.
4. Engage in Lots of Foreplay
Don’t feel bad about asking your partner to stimulate you using their hands or mouth. “Oral sex is an incredible way to get you in the mood for sex,” says White. “It’s a great way to support relaxation and get you into your breathing.”
During manual stimulation, it can help for your partner to insert a finger or two in to get you used to penetration, says White. But also make sure you’re getting clitoral stimulation — most people with vulvas need that in order to orgasm. “The more your clitoris activates, the easier initial entry will be,” says White.
Take the Quiz: Test Your Knowledge About Foreplay
5. Breathe Deeply
“Breathing helps your body relax and will allow you to connect with your own body, as well as get more intimate with your partner,” says White. “When you breathe deeply, it helps to support your brain-body connection to your sexual center and also will stimulate more blood flow and lubrication.”
Practice deep breathing while you’re masturbating so that it will come naturally during sex with a partner.
6. Stimulate Your Clitoris During Intercourse
Whether it’s with your own hand, your partner’s hand, or a vibrator, clitoral stimulation during intercourse will increase pleasure and prevent pain.
“Clitoris stimulation will help to support orgasm and blood flow and will enhance the pleasure of vaginal penetration,” says White. “The clitoris is responsible for the majority of pleasure you experience during sex. Self-stimulation of your clitoris will help to activate the internal clitoris, which is located around 2 to 2.5 inches inside your vagina.”
7. Use Lube
The more lubricated you are, the more smoothly things will glide, and the more comfortable sex will be. White recommends using water-based lube, if you’re using a condom. Otherwise, oil-based lubricants are also OK.
“Avoid using petroleum jelly or lotions, as they are not safe for your vagina and can throw off PH balance, and often contain added chemicals which will negatively impact your body,” says White.
8. Do “Sexercises”
Stretches that release tension in your pelvis can help you feel more comfortable during sex. Yoga (especially hip opening positions like warrior stance or pigeon pose) and pilates (particularly leg lifts) are good for this, says White. You can also do squats and bridge poses to strengthen your pelvic floor.
9. See a Doctor If You Need To
If sex is painful for you despite taking these steps, talk to a doctor, who might refer you to a pelvic floor physical therapist. They can loosen your muscles, teach you pelvic floor stretches, and potentially prescribe you a dilator if necessary.
Check in with your partner throughout the experience, and let them know what you are and aren’t ready for. Don’t be afraid to tell them to slow down, change positions, or stop. And don’t do anything just because they seem to want it; check in with what you want.
You are in control of your own body.
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