post-coital bleeding

page updated: 26-Oct-2004

Bleeding After Sex Is Not Cool

Vaginal bleeding after sex is, strangely, most commonly due to an infection of some sort. Even rough sex doesn't account for as many bloodied sheets! Infections can inflame the cervix and make it more prone to bleeding (called cervicitis). Most other things that make a vagina or cervix prone to bleeding also require at least consultation with a medical professional, so bleeding after sex is a good reason to see a doctor, unless it is obviously due to menstruation or a minor injury.

Inserting anything (tampon, penis, toy, etc.) into a non-menstrually bleeding vagina can further irritate any wounds and introduce an infection, so it is best to give your vagina a time-out until it stops bleeding. I consider than common sense, but my own libido has over-ridden common sense on several occasions, so I think it is worth making “no penetration while injured” a more official guideline.

For Me, It's Usually an Injury

Vaginal bleeding after intercourse is something that I get a lot of email about, but not something that happens often to me (maybe once a year?). For me, after-sex bleeding has nearly always been obviously caused by rough sex, drunk sex, fingernails that need cutting, or inadequate lubrication.

My bleeding has never continued for more than an hour or so, and usually produces about as much blood as a small scrape. Usually I notice either because my partner is smeared with blood after sex, or when I use the toilet after sex. Larger amounts or gushing blood would concern me immediately. These small amounts just let me know that I've reached a boundary, beyond which my vagina gets hurt. That information gets filed away to keep me safer next time. I've never gone to a doctor because of vaginal bleeding.

Sex injuries often don't hurt me at the time, presumably because pain tolerance is higher during sexual arousal and because the inner parts of the vagina aren't very sensitive. Because of this, keeping my vagina safe can sometimes be a purely intellectual decision (one reason why I try not to have sex when I'm really drunk). It does seem to be possible to hurt the inner, more numb reaches of my vagina without injuring my vulva or other sensitive bits. This is both more and less convenient than injuring the outer reaches— it doesn't hurt to pee, but undetectable injuries scare me more.

Menstrual Kick-Starts

Once or twice, orgasms, especially with penetration, seem to have started my period a little early. I've been using birth control pills for years, and can usually predict the onset of my menstrual periods within a few hours (every fourth Monday around lunchtime!), but having sex the day or night before it is due has on a few occasions resulted in the sudden onset of my period, complete with sudden, dull cramps. I presume that physical jostling and orgasmic spasms convince my uterus to start contracting when it is hormonally prone to doing so.

I find evidence of my body's automatic responsiveness really interesting, so I found these occasions amusing rather than scary. Way to pay attention, uterus!

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See also this comprehensive list of possible causes of bleeding after sex, and information about blood in semen.

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