Originally Published: April 18, 1995 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: March 9, 2015
I have never had sex, but I have tried now twice with my boyfriend, and it has been incredibly painful. It felt like there was a barrier inside me, and the second time I bled. I feel like I am relaxed, and my boyfriend is very gentle and slow, but it still really hurts — more than I think it should. I am able to use tampons — I'm not that small — but I don't know what the problem is. Is it supposed to hurt this much? Could there be something wrong?
This barrier you describe may very well be your hymen. An unstretched hymen may cause you some pain or discomfort. However, you mention that there was some blood during your second attempt. This could mean you have partially or fully stretched your hymen by now.
Being relaxed is an important part of having comfortable sex, and so is being sufficiently aroused and well-lubricated before trying to put your partner's penis inside of you. One way to remedy this situation is to spend a long time touching each other, kissing, and caressing before you try to have intercourse. Intercourse then becomes an extension of other touching, and your body may be more physically ready for it. Your partner may place his finger(s) inside your vagina while touching and/or kissing your clitoris till you are comfortable, and even feel pleasure.
If you find that the pain with intercourse, or attempted intercourse, does not diminish at all over time, then seeing a health care provider is your next step. S/he can help determine whether or not you might have a local infection, such as a yeast infection; or from a reaction to a birth control product, like foam, spermicidal jelly, or lube; or vaginismus, a strong, involuntary tightening of the vaginal muscles, which does not allow a penis in (or sometimes a finger, or even a tampon). For vaginismus, a referral to a sex therapist may be your next step. Contact the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) for the name of a therapist near you. You can read more about vaginismus by checking out Painful penetration? from the Go Ask Alice! archives
As you are just becoming sexually active, now would be a good time to have an annual exam and discuss contraceptive options and safer sex, so make an appointment to check in with a health care provider in any case.
Enjoying sex takes practice — and with a little patience, information, and relaxation, it should start to feel better.