Sex should be a pleasurable experience for both parties during and after the act. A session with your partner should leave you feeling satisfied, with postcoital endorphins kicking in as you both wind down.

But what happens when you suddenly begin to feel pain down below?

The sensation might be anything from a soft ache to intense burning. Either way, something isn't right. Vaginal burning and/or pain with sex is distressing, especially if it's persistent or recurrent.

This experience can feel isolating or embarrassing, but painful intercourse is more common than we think. "Depending on the age group, around 40 percent of women experience discomfort with sex," stated Maria Sophocles, M.D., FACOG, a board-certified OB-GYN and medical director of Women's Healthcare of Princeton.

Causes of painful sex

Dyspareunia (painful intercourse before, during or after) can happen for a variety of physical or psychological reasons, including friction or dryness, infection, vaginismus, allergies and overactivity of the pelvic floor muscles.