Why Does My Vagina Hurt After Sex?

A sore vulva after sex isn’t a sign of poor sexual health, but there are a few reasons you could be feeling pain down there. Usually, it’s just because there wasn’t enough lubrication, but it can also be caused by an infection or STI.

Yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis and STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis can cause vulva pain, but they are treatable.

1. Too Much Friction

Sex is supposed to feel good, and if it doesn’t, there could be a serious reason behind it. One potential culprit: friction. If you and your partner use a lot of pressure (think: fingering, stroking), use too much force during penetration, or have a dildo that’s too big, it can cause some discomfort.

A lack of lubrication can also lead to pain after sex, particularly if you’re not feeling fully aroused or rush into things without warming up first. This creates more friction that can lead to small, microscopic tears in the vagina.

Another reason for pain in the vulva: an infection, like thrush or a sexually transmitted disease, such as chlamydia, genital herpes, or gonorrhea. These infections can be especially painful during sexual activity and can also lead to pain in the vulva after sex, a condition known as vestibulodynia.

If you think your pain is caused by an infection, it’s best to see a gynecologist for a diagnosis and treatment. But if your pain is just from too much friction, try some simple solutions: ice packs on the vulva, a warm bath, and a dose of an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen, Dr. Chavez says. It might also help to switch up the type of lubricant you use—water-based ones tend to be less irritating for the skin, and are safe for latex condoms.

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2. Hormonal Changes

Whenever you get aroused, your body releases natural lubrication to make sexual penetration smoother. Sometimes, however, that lubrication isn’t enough to prevent friction or pressure in the vulva. This is particularly common if you have more vigorous sex or you use fingers, a dildo, or other objects during penetration.

It’s also possible that you have an underlying condition like vaginitis, which causes pain in the area and can be caused by infection or irritants. If you have a sore vulva that isn’t letting up, talk to your doctor, as it could be an indicator of a more serious issue, such as vulvodynia, which involves chronic pain in the vulva and genital areas.

Estrogen levels fluctuate over the course of your life, and that can cause pain after sex, too. Low estrogen can lead to vaginal dryness and thinning, which can also cause painful intercourse. This can happen if you’re postpartum, breastfeeding, or going through menopause. It can also be a side effect of certain birth control pills.

If you’re feeling persistent pain in your vulva, it could be because you have scar tissue from an old injury. Scar tissue can be triggered by repeated pressure and friction, such as from sex or rubbing your vulva. You can soothe this pain with a warm bath or using an ice pack. You can also try a herbal remedy, such as epsom salts, which can help heal the skin and reduce inflammation.

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3. Pregnancy

If you’re a woman, you may have a condition called dyspareunia. This is a pain that occurs in the vulva area before, during or after sexual intercourse. It’s one of the most common gynecological issues healthcare providers treat. It can affect both men and women (and people of all ages). Dyspareunia is most commonly felt at the opening of the vagina during initial penetration, but it can also be experienced in other areas of the vulva and uterus. It can cause a decrease in intimacy between couples and affect feelings of arousal during sex.

Another possible reason why you’re feeling sore down there is that you have scar tissue from a previous injury or surgery. This can happen after a cut, burn or other injury. Scar tissue can lead to inflammation and can make sex painful.

A final possibility is that you have an infection down there, like a yeast infection or UTI, or even an STI, such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea or herpes. It’s always a good idea to get screened for these infections with your OB-GYN or local sexual health clinic.

To prevent soreness during and after sex, try using foreplay to open up the vagina before penetration begins. Adding lubrication can also help. And, try to avoid positions that maximize penetration (like doggy style). Placing an ice pack on your vulva for about 10 minutes at a time can also soothe the area.

4. Overworking

If you’re rushing through sex without foreplay or sex toys, you may be tightening muscles in your vulva and pelvic area before penetration. That tightness, along with the friction from your partner or the sex toy, can cause a sore vulva after sex. For this reason, it’s important to focus on foreplay, which will help get your vulva and pelvic floor muscles ready for penetration.

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During foreplay, your vulva will expand and become more lubricated, making it easier to have penetrative sex, Dr. Abdur-Rahman explains. This will allow you to have a better experience and feel less pain afterward. You should also avoid positions that maximize penetration, like doggy style, as these are more likely to hurt down there.

Another possibility is that you’re allergic or sensitive to the ingredients in lube or semen, which can cause a sore vulva, Dr. Greves explains. This is why it’s important to use only a water-based lube and to try different brands of lube until you find one that works for you.

If you’re sexing frequently and experiencing soreness in your vulva or pelvic region afterward, it’s time to make an appointment with your doctor. The symptom could be a sign of something serious, like a yeast infection or STI. Soreness that lasts more than a day is definitely not normal and shouldn’t be ignored.

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