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Ask Dr. Craig: Having Painful Sex

The pleasure never came; instead the pain grew worse and worse until all of a sudden I felt like a knife was cutting through my vagina. I couldn’t bear it any longer and I screamed out in pain, only to look down and see a pool of bright red blood soaking our bedsheet. I know that women bleed when they lose their virginity but this was different. No matter what we did, the bleeding didn’t stop. By the time I began to feel dizzy, my husband decided that it was best we go to the hospital.



Dr. Craig is a BellaNaija columnist and one of the doctors who writes for BN Doctors’ Lounge {Get familiar here}. The idea behind ‘Ask Dr. Craig!‘ is for BN readers to get quick sharp answers to niggling medical issues that they have. This does not in anyway mean that readers should not go to their doctors. However, sometimes you just need a human face to give answers to those fast, burning medical concerns our readers have.

Send your questions for Dr. Craig to features(at)bellanaija(dot)com stating your full name and where you are writing from. (Your name will never be published) The editor reserves the right to edit submissions for content brevity and clarity. We regret that we cannot provide individual answers to questions sent in and cannot state at which exact date answers would be published.


Dear Dr. Craig,
I got married in January; and since we were both virgins I and my husband decided to wait until we after our wedding to have sex. As you can imagine we were looking forward to our wedding night, but when the time came to do it we were unable to. Maybe I should say, I was unable to. It was just too painful. We tried several times, but as soon as he started to enter I would feel a sharp pain that made it literally impossible to continue.

After about three weeks of trying unsuccessfully I decided that my pain was no excuse to deny my husband the pleasure he had graciously waited all these years for. So, I braced myself to bear it. I had spoken to other married friends who assured me that the pain was temporary and that if I only endured for a short while I would see that the pain turns to pleasure. When he started to enter me I felt the sharp pain as usual, but I closed my eyes and tried to ignore it, hoping that as I was promised, pleasure would soon overtake it.

The pleasure never came; instead the pain grew worse and worse until all of a sudden I felt like a knife was cutting through my vagina. I couldn’t bear it any longer and I screamed out in pain, only to look down and see a pool of bright red blood soaking our bedsheet. I know that women bleed when they lose their virginity but this was different. No matter what we did, the bleeding didn’t stop. By the time I began to feel dizzy, my husband decided that it was best we go to the hospital.

The night doctor confirmed that I had sustained a tear down there and I had to get stitches to stop the bleeding. After getting treatment, the doctor prescribed Sitz baths and advised that we abstain from sex for two weeks to allow the wound heal. I don’t think I have ever been so frightened or embarrassed in my entire life!

Fast-foward two weeks. My husband had not tried to touch me after the hospital incident but I saw Valentine’s day as an opportunity to make it up to him and was determined to try and get us past this. We tried again on Valentine’s morning and twice again in the evening but nothing we did seemed to work. I felt like I was going to die from the pain.

What am I doing wrong? Why can’t I have sex with my husband? Could it be that the wound hasn’t healed? Or is there something wrong with me? Why can’t I be like normal women? Maybe if I had experimented with previous boyfriends like all my other friends I would not have this problem now. I feel like a failure, like my husband is going to leave. I feel like I’m constantly letting him down.
Help me, please, I don’t know what else to do.
Unhappy Bride,
Yaba Lagos


Dear Unhappy Bride,

First of all let me say how sorry I am that you have had to go through such a terrible ordeal. I myself am a strong advocate of celibacy and I applaud you and your husband’s decision to wait till you were married, to have sex.

Sex should not be painful. Even the first time!
Unfortunately, excruciatingly painful first sex has been accepted as a normal rite of passage into womanhood. I am of the opinion that it should not be so. There may be some slight discomfort, yes, but if done correctly a woman’s first sexual experience should never be so painful that it becomes unbearable.

After two weeks it is very likely that your wound has healed. I cannot give you a definitive answer as to why you have had this difficulty, because I am unable to ask you further questions or to properly examine you. However, the most common cases of Post Coital lacerations occur because the couple have had one or more of the issues I will briefly discuss below.

Click here to view image illustration.

1. Improper approach
The vagina may seem like a fairly long slit nestled between a woman’s legs when viewed in conventional diagrams, but in reality the opening that allows for penetration is less than 1/5 of the apparent extent of the vulva.

Attempting to enter the vagina anywhere other than at the opening (ie at the perineum, labia, urethra etc) will not yield much success, and is sure to cause you pain. It is, therefore, important that your husband can see where he is going and what he is doing. I suggest that you keep the lights on and explore, until you both are familiar with the terrain.

Many first timers may also not know that the vagina is not perpendicular to a woman’s spine; and since the missionary position is the most common choice for first timers, it is not uncommon to have men trying to push straight down instead of going at a slight 45° angle.

CDR609924-750If he visualises the vagina as though it were a tunnel starting from between your legs and pointing down to your back stopping just under the belly button then the angle of penetration will be less askew and less likely to cause abrasions.

Lying flat on your back is also very likely to cause the pelvic muscles to tighten and close off the opening of your vagina. Propping a pillow under your hips will create a slight tilt that puts the pelvis in a more neutral angle and opens up the vaginal entrance for easy acess.

2. Hymen
The hymen is a thin membrane that partially covers the enterance to vagina but has openings to allow for menstural flow. Some women have horizontal slits, others have a small round (annular) hole. Some others have many small (cribiform) holes spread across the membrane. In rare cases there may be no opening at all in the hymen (Imperforate Hymen) or the hymenal tissue may have become thickned by fibrosis. Click here to view image illustration.

It is important that in cases where the hymenal opening is too small to accomodate the penis, the couple employ other means of gently and gradually widening the opening before attempting intercourse. This can be done using the partner’s fingers – starting from the smallest and gradually adding one after another.This is because forcing the penis through a relatively small hymenal opening will definitely cause pain and may cause bleeding. Alternatively your doctor can perform a hymenectomy which is the surgical removal of the hymen.

3. Penovaginal disproportion (PVD)
This occurs when the muscular walls of the woman’s vagina, at their current most relaxed state, are unable to accomodate the size of her partner’s penis. This is often seen in child/early marriage or in couples where a larger than average man pairs with a petite woman. As alarming as this may sound, it is quite often temporary. This is because the vagina is able to adapt and stretch to accomodate sizes as large as a baby’s head.

The treatment of this employs the use of a medical devices known Amielle Trainers. These are available in a pack of five graduated dome tipped dilators that the woman inserts into her vagina starting with the smallest to the largest over a period of days or weeks to help maintain at least a 1/2 inch clearance at full relaxation. Click here to view image illustration.

It is also important that you learn how to consciously tighten and relax the vaginal muscles so that during penetration you are able to relax and let your husband in. If you alternate squeezing and relaxing as your partner introduces his penis, then you are able to control the penetration and let it progress at your pace. Kegel exercises are very helpful in learning how to voluntarily control the vaginal muscles and have the added benefit of increasing the chances of orgasm.

perdidas-orina-mujer-L-f0Zsg0BenWa balls and other such devices are available that can help women practice their kegel exercises and develop the pelvic floor muscles

4. Lubrication
Even where there is no PVD, it is still possible to tear the lining of a woman’s vagina if the man attempts to penetrate without adequate lubrication. The vagina produces a natural lubricant when a woman is aroused. The quantity of production, however, varies from woman to woman. On one hand, some may only feel a slight wetness; and on the other hand, a few women report a more pronounced flow ranging from a trickle to a gush.

A good tip to prevent dryness is to avoid directly facing the fan during intercourse as this can dry natural vaginal lubrication very quickly. Supplement natural wetness with water based lubricants, if you are using a latex condom or other barrier forms of child spacing. If you have an implantable or injectable, then oil based lubricants like Coconut oil can be used. If you are trying for a baby and need the extra lubrication, then rapseed oil is preferred, because it does not interfere with sperm motility.

It is also important to mention that if a woman’s partner is not gentle and patient even with adequate lubrication she will most likely feel more pain than is necessary.

5. Vaginismus
Most cases of Vaginismus occur after a traumatic experience related to sex (i.e attempted rape) and in a bid to protect herself, a woman’s subconscious mind can control the muscles of the vagina and clamp it tightly shut. In severe cases of Vaginismus even a cotton bud is unable to pass through and if not treated agressively with psychotherapy, traumatic post coital lacerations like the one you had can lead to Vaginismus.


Was there some other sexual experience in your past that could have already caused you to clamp shut? Or has this experience made it even more impossible for you to relax and enjoy sex with your husband? I would suggest that you speak with a Sex Therapist or relationship counsellor to help with whatever feelings of fear that may still be lingering in your subconscious.

6. Vulvodynia
This is the medical term for pain in the vulva and its cause may range from conditions like thrush, pelvic inflammatory disease, urinary tract infection to scarring from female genital mutilation. It is important to treat any medical cases that may be responsible for pain. If you have experienced any of these it is important to see your doctor.

So, in a nutshell:
Put on the lights. Explore. Lots of lube. Slow and steady.
Hymen is too tight, coax it open first before going all in.
Too small? Partner too big? Train your vaginal muscles.
Emotionally scarred? Talk to a counsellor.
Infection? Get it treated.

Sex is beautiful and is part of the special bond that married couples share. Follow the tips outlined above and with some patience and lots of practice I am confident that you both will be on your way to a happy and fulfilling sex life.
I hope this helps.

Disclaimer: This column is written for patient education. It is not intended to diagnose or prescribe treatment and does not replace the advice of your physician. It in no means attempts to cover the full medical scope of this condition.

Photo CreditVulva Anatomy | Pelvic Exam | Hymen types | Amielle Comfort | Kegel exercises | Vaginismus


  1. pinkie

    February 18, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    OH WAIT A MIN BN!! is that dr. Craig? oh dayumm!! I would really like to be your patient.

  2. Ignoramus virgins

    February 18, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    You both should be given 40 strokes
    Being a virgin doesn’t mean you should be ignorant

    Hubby didn’t do what he is supposed to do and you didn’t as well

    Tell hubby to send you to me for just 1 day. He will appreciate me for a job well done when you return to him tomorrow.

    • Blessmyheart

      February 18, 2015 at 8:22 pm

      I’m sorry but you’re the one who sounds ignorant. I was so pleased with how detailed and helpful Dr Craig’s response was only to come to the comments section and see this. I don’t understand why many people think anyone that marries as a virgin is sexually ignorant, like those who didn’t came from heaven with their sexual prowess. Please we learn all the time, even if you marry as a non-virgin that doesn’t mean you know everything about sex.

  3. Nma

    February 18, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    Nice @dr Craig . Another thing is that if the woman is not sexually active at the moment then is so impossible for her husband to penetrate according to my microbiology lecturer

    • anwuli

      February 19, 2015 at 1:08 pm

      can you hear yourself? if she is not sexually active, her husband cannot penetrate. so when she became sexually active the first time, how did the man penetrate?

  4. Adaeze Writes

    February 18, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    Very helpful article. Thanks Dr. Craig and BN!

  5. Funmi

    February 18, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    Just loosen up. You’ll be fine. Relax and fantasize about the moment, get yourself in the mood.

  6. mrs.

    February 18, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    thanks doc……very insightful read.
    I can relate with unhappy bride….my marriage is barely 2wks and i had similar challenges. it may help if u have sex “in ur head” first as the brain is your biggest sex organ. also relax n communicate with ur hubby….u guys wld get beta with time……all the best.!

  7. cletus

    February 18, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Well done Dr Craig. Apart from vaginismus the other conditions listed are just lack of information. That you are a virgin does not mean you should not know what your body is made up of.
    I have met many adult females that do not know what is ovulation. The feel they can only get pregnant immediately before & after their period. Some have no idea, they feel pregnancy happens by chance, and this is so sad. Let me not even start on the men that dont even know what fertile period is that will say, “i slept with you only once how come you are pregnant”
    About to marry couple should be encouraged to read books that wil help them especially if they are virgins. There is every woman. So educative another by Tim Lahaye and many more.

    • Blessmyheart

      February 18, 2015 at 8:24 pm

      I agree. Just to chip in that knowledge does not help in all cases. It may even worsen the situation e.g, overthinking certain things

  8. NewlyMarriedVirginHusband

    February 18, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    Read!! Read!!! REad!!!! “The act of Marriage” by Tim and Beverly Lahaye

  9. Dexter

    February 18, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    Very incisive and educational Dr.Craig.Even for those who may not be directly involved or affected, I appreciate the educational aspect to it.Thank you sir.

  10. Oluseyi

    February 18, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    Got married few months ago as virgins and experienced the same thing. My husband is a bit big and it was really difficult for him to penetrate. It was really frustrating as he couldn’t penetrate for over a week until someone advised we use female condoms as it has lots of lubricant. I didn’t feel pain while he penetrated, we repeated it several times before we did it naturally with lots of KY Jelly on both privates

  11. Tunmi

    February 18, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    Wow, poor woman. Thanks Dr. Craig.

  12. Jagbajantis - Dr. Greenthumb

    February 18, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    It is likely that you may have a medical condition, which seeing a doctor should be able to help. However for all other issues, this is my 5 kobo:

    1. Virginity is overrated. Yes it is a virtue, but in reality it requires patience, understanding, control of aggro and konji-patience. My friend said disvirgining his wife on their wedding day was like banging his head against a brick wall. My advice to him was two words “Vase-line”. Okay sorry, that was one word. Lube that penis up like you are greasing suya. People say KY-Jelly is better but I find that it can dry up quite quickly if the air is humid. You need Vaseline for those SU type virgins.

    2. Five-play : Notice that I didnt say foreplay. This is for both fellas and ladies. Stimulate your partner mentally and physically. Watch porn together. Flirt with each other. Face-time or Skype while naked. Do role-playing – she can pretend to be Dencia while you pretend like you are Jim Iyke. Slap her like Jim would, but gently o. Dont go and brutalize because you are trying to act like Samanja. Many Nigerian girls hate experimenting as their moralistic posture prevents them from acting out their desires, Put ice cubes on her boobies and watch her body tingle, Do not be afraid to chop snail (real dudes know what I mean). Guys compliment your wife throughout the day, and not just when its time for smashing. Be patient with her. Buy her lingerie, and set the mood.

    3. Stay in your own lane – Sex is different for every couple. Do not listen to other wives or couples boasting of their immaculate sex lives and saying how often they tear down walls in the bedroom. Focus on your own sexual strategy with your spouse. Most times people lie about their sex life. I know a chick whose husband would mount like a bull frog every morning while she was still sleeping. His libido was very high then. But that was when she preferred to sleep as she was a light sleeper who only entered deep sleep around 3am. So the husband would climb her and sex her from the back as she lay on her tummy. She would barely feel it or acknowledge it because she was too tired anyway, so she let him do his thing. Would you want that for yourself? Ewwww……

    4. Dont leave your husband hanging – See what i did there with “hanging’? While you sort out yourself medically, there are other ways you can “satisfy” (Gosh, I hate that word) your spouse. Dont leave him with konji-litis o. You can give him head or a hand job or allow him smash your thighs.

    Good luck! Let us know how you get on, and let us know when Junior comes o, so we can come and eat puff puff.

    • serene

      February 18, 2015 at 8:41 pm

      OMG!!! What a lover you would be!

    • paloma

      February 19, 2015 at 10:26 am

      lmao oooo she don dey trip! u guys wont kill me

    • Abby Scuito

      February 24, 2015 at 5:29 am

      See what she did there? She said “lover” not “husband” lol

    • maria

      February 18, 2015 at 9:27 pm

      This guy is my guy. the truth is bitter but it is true. see brutal truth. where were you when i was single ehn

    • Anon

      February 18, 2015 at 11:07 pm

      Vaseline as a lubricant? No way. It is petroleum/oil based and used internally is a gateway to bacterial and yeast infections. Don’t use them with condoms as well as it will cause the condoms to break. Always use a water or silicone based lubricant.

      “For the record, the manufacturers of Vaseline told the Reuters news agency that the product is intended for external use only (and says so on the package) and that the company doesn’t recommend use of Vaseline as a vaginal lubricant and has “not performed any testing to support this use.”

    • Are you single?

      February 19, 2015 at 2:00 am

      I need a patient brother, Are you patient? your advice!

  13. WomanLikeMe

    February 18, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    I have noticed from talking to my friends, that not enough women make the annual visit to their Ob/Gyn. Women once they hit the age of 21, sexually active or not, should be visiting the Doctor to get educated about their bodies. Even if once a year. If she had been for a pap smear, I believe any good Doctor would have advised her about preparing her body for sex. (especially seeing as she was getting married and that was inevitable)
    This was a very helpful article, but women please, make the annual visits to the ob/gyn.

    • Dr. Lash

      February 19, 2015 at 8:11 pm

      You don’t need to do a pap smear if you have not had set at least once.

  14. fun baby

    February 18, 2015 at 6:55 pm

    please new vigil brides read read and read about sex before marriage, that cannot be overemphasised. there are helpful blogs like, i was a virgin when i married so i can understand your plight, use a lot of KY GEL it will help and relax.

  15. SEEN ALL

    February 18, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    Nice illustrations Doctor good to see Bella commentators grow up no more Dr. Craig. fineee this- that thank God for maturity sha!

  16. kikky

    February 18, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    Doc u so fine! u can marry me anytime!

    • Marry me

      February 18, 2015 at 9:30 pm

      Kikky, marry you anytime?
      He ll marry you when you are 97years old
      please wait till then

    • Jen

      February 18, 2015 at 11:51 pm

      Marry me, that was a joke. Let her be, your comment was silly and unnecessary.

    • cindy

      May 20, 2015 at 2:39 am

      Lol I found him on twitter and on his blog. He is engaged already. One lucky lady chai! ??? *singing Kirk Franklin’s “it could have been me”* #stalkeralert?

  17. Drknite

    February 18, 2015 at 10:41 pm

    LOL Sucks to be this dude. He has a lifetime with this chick and will get no cookie. She better learn how to use her mouth for other things besides eating.

  18. inibokun

    February 18, 2015 at 10:51 pm

    All I hear is penetration, penetration,penetration.. Haba the word sounds painful in itself. As if the woman is just a object to give pleasure. I believe dat could be part of the problem. Love making is beautiful and natural. If you are In love your body will naturally respond to the touch of your mate. .i think ignorance is also to blame becos I remember my village aunties saying dat good girls cry during sex so dat their husbands pamper them. Nonsense. Also some men are just beasts thry don’t even understand foreplay or even were to stick their thing. I have a friend whose husband kept poking her urethra. After several years of childlessness and recurrent UTI infection they finally discover thry have been doing it wrong. Imagine the nonsense.

    • bluebell

      February 19, 2015 at 9:51 pm

      Loooooooool yes o !!imagine the nonsense. LMAO.

  19. obi

    February 19, 2015 at 6:59 am

    Thank you I think people still hold very primitive views on their sexuality. Women having this notion that their bodies are for pleasuring men. Why marry someone you are not sexually attracted to. Abi is marriage the ultimate goal. The same myths been retold over and over again. The vagina can expand to deliver a baby’s head and shoulders , torso, 2legs. how much more a straight P. It’s all in the head. If I was forced to have sex with someone I did not love, my body will tense up automatically sex will be joyless and excruciating. Sex is natural you don’t need doctoring in it and you don’t need to be ashawo grade one. If you are ill through previous traumatic events seek counselling it helps. Virginity is not a curse.

  20. Mandy

    February 19, 2015 at 7:44 am

    I got married a virgin too so I can totally relate to what she’s going through ! It felt like hell omg tot I was gonna die from it but dear please give it time and no matter how painful don’t stop cause the pain gets worse after abstinence , we tried staying away from it but that sure made it worse ! No style makes it comfortable sorry to disappoint you its just that way until ur open enough, pray about it also Good luck

  21. paloma

    February 19, 2015 at 10:29 am

    Well the doc is cute so is my BF 😀 nice Article

  22. tonia

    February 19, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    I was a virgin when I got married. I married my best friend. We understood each other even till this day. First time was beautiful ill never forget. Very caring patient. Sorry to be explicit but he started first by pleasuring me and then other tinzs. Reading comments here I must say I am a very lucky women. My advise is marry a man who really cares for your feelings. Some men are selfish. Your first time should be a good experience. Pele

    • kina

      February 19, 2015 at 8:29 pm

      Thstss one of the first positive stories regarding virginity I have heard. Thanks for sharing.

    • passingby

      February 20, 2015 at 2:03 pm

      If you are a young healthy lady and your psrtner knows what he is doing. you do not need any extra lubricant. If you are hitting menopause yes you will need extra extra lubricant .if you have been forced to marry someone you do not like yes will need plenty lubricant. If you are afraid of having sex marriage is not by force. Join sisterhood or remain a spinster.

  23. Bobby woodson

    March 3, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    I have question Dr Craig I like for you to answer. I had sex last night with a lady and I used a condom an added ky lubricant to the condom. Upon inserting my penis inside of the vaginal area I felt a hot sensation on the shaft of my penis. Now I had a condom on but this feeling cause me to pull a lot quicker because I couldn’t why I had a burning feeling. Once the condom was removed the sensation was gone. Any reason to that feeling?

  24. Mermarh

    November 17, 2022 at 10:35 am

    Thank you so much dr craig , even though am not married i have learn lots of things

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