Try new positions
Position during intercourse can be crucial. Lying on your side, with your partner entering from behind, is considered the least stressful to the vagina (with the least degree of penetration compared to other positions). It also de-emphasizes the breasts, a plus for some women.
Keep your vagina in shape
If you want to stay sexually active or you hope to become active, you'll need to keep your vagina lubricated and in condition. That means stretching the vaginal canal, stimulating the membranes to produce natural lubricants, and increasing overall elasticity and resilience. Actual intercourse will then be more comfortable and pleasurable. (It also makes medical pelvic examination more tolerable.) Use it or lose it: If you don't have a partner to keep your vagina stretched and supple, it's up to you.
Practice without a partner
If intercourse continues to be painful, give it up for a while and practice with a dildo, a rubber instrument with the size, shape, and consistency of an erect penis. Don't be surprised at how realistic—veins and all—it may look. (Different sizes, shapes, and colors are available.) It will be more gentle, less emotionally burdensome, and perhaps fun, too. (Be sure to use a lubricant with it.)
You can also purchase a box of small, medium, and large hard, straight plastic vaginal dilators, available through special-order medical supply companies. (Ask your doctor or nurse.) Most women don't like this medical product, though, because it's unnaturally hard, straight, and uncomfortable, and they end up not using it.
Many stores, such as Good Vibrations in San Francisco, California, provide mail-order catalogs and ship in a plain brown wrapper. Started by a sex therapist determined to make vibrators more generally accessible and available, Good Vibrations has a toll-free telephone number and well-trained representatives who are happy to answer questions in a straightforward, discreet, and helpful fashion (800-289-8423).
You don't have to buy any gadgets. You can improvise with a lubricant and an object like a candle or a suitably shaped vegetable, wrapped in a clean plastic bag. But buying a commercial device is often a step in the right direction because it means you're taking this advice seriously. So find a large hat and dark glasses and go shopping!
"I provide my patients with actual prescriptions for dildos for vaginal conditioning. It helps them overcome their embarrassment when they go to sex shops or feminist stores to purchase these items."-- Marisa Weiss, M.D., president and founder, Breastcancer.org