(from December 22, 2012)
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Question for Matt & Jess:
They say that sex for the first time (as a girl) is painful, is it true ? And if so, is there a way to avoid the pain?
— 15 year-old Teen Guide: Q&A blog visitor
MATT: A girl’s hymen is a tissue that covers the vagina during childhood. An intact hymen — not torn, broken, or removed — has been a common test of virginity worldwide. But this probably should not be so. There are many ways a hymen can be broken or removed besides being penetrated by a penis. It can be torn or broken during athletics. In some cases it can be stretched out of the way to allow the penis to enter the vagina (although this is very unusual). It can definitely be removed by a doctor, probably inside the doctor’s office, in a very minor procedure.
The most likely cause of pain during first sexual intercourse is the breaking of the hymen. But this doesn’t always hurt. For some girls/women, it’s nothing but a pinprick feeling. If you have a very thick hymen, breaking it might hurt some, but once it’s done, it’s done, and if the sexual encounter was a good decision, then the momentary pain won’t be a lingering source of worry.
Another possible source of discomfort can be the fact that your vagina is inexperienced with sex, and lacks the flexibility of a sexual active female’s vagina. In other words, it may be “too tight” and you may get some rubbing feelings or rash. If your partner forces his way in without waiting for your vagina to lubricate properly, this could happen. The rubbing, rash, and tightness go away with more frequent sex.
There are a few rare medical conditions that can cause pain during intercourse, for male or for female, but only a doctor can detect these. If you find that you have pain during sex after the first few times, talk to a gynecologist.
JESS: I’ll always remember how one of my (girl) friends described her first sexual experience. She said that it was really her “first time — with the blood and pain and everything.”
I also remember that some friends described it in a totally different way (one said that she was “prepared beforehand, so it didn’t hurt much” — another said it was great because she waited till she was “ready and comfortable with her boyfriend”).
As Matt says in his answer, sex for the first time (as a girl) can be painful if your hymen is still intact, or if you’re inexperienced and your partner penetrates you without getting your body comfortable and relaxed first [when a female is ready for sexual intercourse, her body is aroused and she gets “wet” (versus a male who gets “hard” when he is aroused)].
There are a couple of general ways to avoid or reduce the pain of first time sex for a female.
(1) By Yourself: You can explore your own body first, by sliding up a finger first, then two. I personally like this option because I’d like to get to know my own body first (before exploring with someone else).
Don’t just “shove your finger right in” because being rough right from the start isn’t going to help. Make sure your fingernails are short and that your fingers/fingernails are clean.
Gently explore as you get more aroused (you can switch between touching your clitoris while the other explores your vagina). It’s okay if only the tip of your finger may enter, at first. You might feel some resistance, but not so much that you feel pain, for a couple seconds, as you continue exploring. Over time, slowly work your way up to three fingers, or an object of equivalent size. This can take a week or less, or several months. It all depends on how elastic your hymen is and how relaxed and flexible your pelvic and vaginal muscles are.
(2) With a Trusted Partner: You can explore with your partner if it’s somebody you trust and who respects you. Good communication is essential, as you need to inform your partner if they are using too much pressure or going too fast.
The guy needs to go slowly and be very gentle, even though they might “feel” they must do it in an eager and rough way. When you are comfortable with your sexual partner, your muscles will be more relaxed, and you’ll be more ready for sex. You and your partner can have a bottle of lube on standby too, as it helps make penetration smoother.
Communication really is essential — if you discuss certain things beforehand (such as type of birth control; which activities you or your partner are not into for the time being), this will help you be more relaxed and less tense during first sexual intercourse. It also helps if you think about why you want to have sex for the first time with this person, so that you are more aware of some of the feelings or situations you might have to deal with later as a result of your first sexual encounter.