It’s unpleasant to think about, but making whoopee can cause vaginal bleeding. Between 0.7 percent and 9 percent of menstruating women experience it at some point. The rate soars for postmenopausal ladies — up to 63 percent have vaginal dryness and bleeding. Awesome… not.
Bleeding during or after sex happens for a lot of reasons. Light bleeding now and then may be no big deal. But if you have other risk factors, a visit to your gyno is in order.
The medical name for (non-period-related) sex-induced bleeding is postcoital bleeding (PCB). This condition shows up as vaginal spotting or bleeding, with or without pain, during or after intercourse.
The blood may be coming from any of the organs or tissues near the vagina. Most of the time, the source correlates with a woman’s age. In younger ladies, the bleeding usually traces back to the cervix. For menopausal women, it’s less clear-cut. Bleeding may be coming from the:
What actually causes the bleeding? There are many potential answers. But post-menstrual women need to watch out for PCB because it can be a symptom of cervical cancer.
“Vaginal tearing” refers to everything from slight scratches to cuts. It can be a rather ordinary side effect of having sex, although vaginal dryness increases the likelihood of tears.
Injury can happen as a result of particularly enthusiastic sexual play or outright trauma. Here are common sources:
- Friction or abrasion. When slap-and-tickle gets a bit too frisky, you can hurt your reproductive organs and tissues.
- Sex toys. Overly aggressive use of pleasure-chest goodies can lead to injury.
- Childbirth. Pushing a human out of your body can result in sensitivity and injury to the vulnerable tissues in the vaginal zone.
- Excessive douching. This leads to dryness and irritation, making your vag more susceptible to damage.
- Hymen. It’s quite common for this vagina-covering skin to break or stretch during intercourse, especially in first-timers.
If your southern region feels as parched as a sun-baked desert at high noon, then your bits may be extra-sensitive.
Possibly the most common cause of postcoital bleeding, vaginal dryness happens when your body stops naturally lubricating (the process that keeps you Slip ‘N Slide moist). Without this natural lube, you’re at greater risk for other causes of PCB too.
The top 10 causes of vaginal dryness
- Meds that mess with your hormones or dehydrate you. If you take anti-estrogen meds, cold or flu meds, steroids, sedatives, antidepressants, calcium, or beta channel blockers, beware.
- Chemicals. Irritants used in hot tubs and pools, laundry detergent, soap, feminine products, and flavored or fragranced lubricants and condoms can bother your lady parts.
- Childbirth and breastfeeding. Estrogen levels plummet after having a baby because this hormone can muck with your bod’s ability to make breast milk.
- Douching. This practice may disrupt your body’s cleansing processes and lead to bone-dry genitals.
- Lack of arousal. As you become sexually stimulated, your vagina releases lubrication that eases dryness and chafing. Less arousal means less lubrication.
- Genitourinary syndrome of menopause. GSM is characterized by vaginal tissues becoming thinner, drier, and less stretchy. It most often affects post-menstrual women and those without ovaries.
- Chemo and radiation. These therapies disrupt many of your natural bodily functions, but any issues tend to resolve after treatment.
- Reproductive system surgery. Your ovaries are your biggest source of estrogen — without them, your vag can lose its dewiness.
- Inflammatory and immune conditions. Some disorders, like Sjögren’s syndrome, can interfere with body lubricants.
- Psychological factors. Anxiety, fear of intimacy, and other issues can pump the brakes on moisture production.
Infections are another main trigger for PCB. They can inflame your vaginal tissues, leaving them more delicate and easier to harm.
Some infections to be on the lookout for:
Polyps or fibroids
These small noncancerous growths form on the cervical or uterine lining. Menstruating women commonly get fibroids and polyps. Sometimes these little buggers irritate neighboring tissue and cause postcoital bleeding.
This is when cells from inside your cervix go rogue and grow on the outside of your cervix. This rarely diagnosed condition can cause spotting and bleeding.
Endometriosis occurs when cells that normally form inside the uterus form on the outside instead. This can inflame your pelvic tissues, resulting in pain and bleeding.
Cervical dysplasia is the development of atypical, possibly precancerous cells in the surface layer of the cervix. This condition sometimes causes bleeding, especially if the area is irritated from the bump and grind of sex.
Blood clotting and abnormal bleeding diseases sometimes bring about PCB. Blood thinners can also mess with your system and result in sex-related bleeding.
If reproductive bits are shaped or positioned in non-textbook ways, inserting 🍍 into 🌼 might take some creative maneuvering. In this scenario, sexual encounters may be more likely to lead to tearing or injury.
Cancer can change tissues and hormone levels, leaving you more likely to bleed. Bleeding after sex can be a sign of cervical, uterine, and vaginal cancers.
For 11 percent of women with cervical cancer, bleeding after sex is the symptom that leads them to see a doctor. And up to 39 percent of women with cervical cancer also have PCB.
The hormonal changes that come along with creating a new human can make your vaginal tissues more prone to damage, so it’s pretty normal to experience bleeding during or after sex while you’re pregnant.
The biggest concern in early pregnancy is heavy or continued bleeding, which can be a sign of miscarriage. In late pregnancy, bleeding can signal labor. In either scenario, get immediate medical attention.
All women are at risk for postcoital bleeding. But PCB is a greater threat to women who:
- are dehydrated
- have environmental or personal exposure to chemicals, irritants, or allergens
- have recently given birth or are breastfeeding
- are perimenopausal, menopausal, or postmenopausal
- have personal or family history of vaginal dryness or inflammation, infections, reproductive cancers, high blood pressure, diabetes, or immune conditions
- are sexually inexperienced
- have aggressive intercourse or intercourse before sufficient arousal
- have multiple sexual partners (and don’t use condoms)
- experience anxiety, unease, or hesitancy related to sex or intimacy
Symptoms of postcoital bleeding can vary depending on the root cause. Connect with your doctor if your PCB is heavy, happens often, or lasts a long time or if you have other symptoms, including:
- abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, or appetite changes
- low back pain
- bladder issues or stinging or burning when peeing
- bowel concerns
- unexplained weakness or tiredness
- light-headedness or headaches
- pain, stinging, or burning during sex
- unusually pale skin
- vaginal burning, stinging, or itching
- unusual vaginal discharge
Menopausal ladies should consult their gyno ASAP, regardless of whether their post-sex bleeding comes with other symptoms.
Your healthcare provider needs to gather info to accurately diagnose your case.
Expect to tell your doctor about your bleeding (how much, how often, and for how long) and any other symptoms. Since your visit is for a sex-associated concern, you may be asked about your sexual activity. Your doctor might also ask about other health issues and medications you’re taking.
Your doc will then recommend assessments to pinpoint the source of your bleeding and the underlying cause. They may recommend a physical exam, which might include a pelvic exam, a pap smear, a urine test, or ultrasound imaging. These screen for STIs, cancer, pregnancy, and other PCB-causing conditions.
The short answer: yes. Once you know why you’re bleeding, your doctor can offer treatment options.
If vaginal dryness is the issue, moisturizers or lubricants may bring relief. You can find these products online and at many supermarkets and pharmacies.
With everyday use, vaginal moisturizers restore the fluids and pH balance of your vagina. They’re available as easily absorbed liquids, creams, and gels.
Lubricants are an effective short-term solution to lessen friction during intercourse. Use lubes that are made from water or silicone and are irritant-free.
Caution: Not all lubes are equal
Don’t use oil-based lubricants — like Vaseline, lotion, or baby oil — with condoms. In barely a minute, the oil can weaken a rubber’s latex by up to 90 percent. (Yikes!) Opt for water- or silicone-based lubes instead.
If you’re dealing with wonky hormone levels, your doc may recommend estrogen therapy. There are several forms: topical creams and suppositories, vaginally inserted rings, and pills.
Menopausal women should discuss hormone replacement therapy with their doctors. HRT supplies your body with estrogen and progestogen.
Antibiotics are the probable solution for PCB caused by bacterial infections (like vaginitis, STIs, or PID). Viral infections require antiviral medications.
Cervical ectropion and dysplasia, polyps and fibroids, and endometriosis often don’t require treatment and resolve themselves in time. If the symptoms are severe or interfere with your life, your doctor may recommend surgery, cryotherapy, cauterization, or laser techniques to remove problematic cells.
Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are the typical treatments for cancer. Many people find complementary care like nutrition, supplements, and acupuncture helpful too.
Understanding the origin of your postcoital bleeding is key to prevention efforts. While you may not be able to totally prevent bleeding, there’s a lot you can do to minimize it.
For bleeding related to a medical issue, you’ll need to address the underlying condition. That may resolve your whole sex-bleeding sitch.
Some other helpful tips:
- Stay hydrated.
- Opt for unscented and unflavored personal care products.
- Get medical care for infections and other bothersome symptoms.
- Apply vaginal moisturizers regularly.
- Discuss your sex and intimacy fears, anxieties, and hesitations with any partners.
- Use a barrier method, such as condoms, during intercourse.
- Lube up for sex.
- Aim for full arousal before penetration.
- Ease into sex acts slowly.
- Avoid very rough sex if it causes pain or bleeding.
- Stop intercourse if you start feeling pain.
Eating foods loaded with plant estrogens may give you an extra edge over PCB. Phytoestrogens have many reported health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and reducing symptoms associated with menopause.
Consider including these in your diet:
- lentils and alfalfa
- almonds and walnuts
- apples and grapes
- olive oil
- sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and ground flaxseeds
Some supplements may also help reduce vaginal dryness or menopause symptoms. Black cohosh, red clover, evening primrose oil, vitamin D, and vitamin E can be effective. It’s a good idea to talk to your doc before starting any supplements.
The medical term for bleeding during or after sex is postcoital bleeding. It’s a relatively common issue for women of all ages, especially those who are in their post-menstrual years.
Often, PCB isn’t something to be concerned about. But when it’s paired with other risk factors or other symptoms, it could be a sign of a more serious health issue.
If you’re worried about sex-induced bleeding, get checked by your doctor. This is the only way to accurately determine where the blood’s coming from and why. Once diagnosed, PCB is very treatable.