Bleeding After Sex? Here’s What To Do
The Debrief: Bleeding after sex is totally common and often not serious. But here's what to do if you experience it...
Imagine if, when you have sex, there’s always the possibility you could start bleeding. Like, so much that you have to change the sheets afterwards. Bleeding after sex is not as rare as you think.
‘I’m sort of seeing a guy at the moment, and it took a few times to have sex because I have this thing where I bleed everywhere,’ says Hayley, 26. ‘At one point he wiped his hand across his forehead and covered himself with my blood. We’re still going out, though – it’s a good barometer for whether someone is a nice person or not.’
What does it mean if I'm bleeding after sex?
What Hayley has is a sensitive cervix – not a technical medical term, and actually not really a disorder in and of itself. But it definitely affects her sex life, and means she can’t be in certain positions – as well as having to be constantly on the look-out. ‘It doesn't happen all the time, so I don’t usually tell people, in case we’re fine, but when it was happening a lot with my ex - who was about seven and a half inches – I went to the doctor,’ says Hayley.
Post-coital bleeding, or PCB, can mean a whole host of things. And some a lot more concerning than just the annoyance/embarrassment Hayley has to deal with after sex. Depending on the age group, some underlying causes may be more common than others. ‘Sexually transmitted infections are a common culprit, and chlamydia is the most common STI in sexually active women through age 24,’ says Dr. Rebecca Downey. It could also, however, be something as simple as just being on the pill. ‘Common side effects of the use of contraceptive pills/patches/rings and shots can result in PCB and breakthrough bleeding. The changes in the hormonal profile can thin out the uterine lining, making it more unstable, and thus prone to bleeding with sex,’ adds Rebecca.
Confused? Yeah, it is confusing, but here are the possible causes of post-coital vaginal bleeding:
1. You have an infection
If you do take a trip to your GP it’s most likely they’ll assume you have an infection. Whether it’s PID (pelvic inflammatory disease) or a STI like chlamydia, it’s best to suffer through the awkwardness and get some antibiotics before it gets worse.
2. You have a dry vagina
I apologise for being so blunt, but sometimes we all need to grease the pipes for an easier ride, and pretending you’re ready to go when you’re not will cause pain and, yes, bleeding. Obviously reduced vaginal secretions (fancy terms for 'you can’t get as wet as you used to') after menopause is common, but just because you’re a few decades off doesn’t need you don’t need a bit of help now and then.
3. You’re experiencing a bit of friction
Another delightful side effect of the above point is getting small tears to your vagina (some people get the same around their anus after having a big dump, so don’t feel too bad). This study discusses how it could also be related to other things like position during sex, or even genital piercings. Friction is more common after childbirth where the vagina is pulled more vigorously than a tear and share garlic bread, but the main reason again is dryness.
4. You have cervical erosion
The most common cause is also known as ‘cervical ectropion’, where the surface of the cervix has become inflamed and probably doesn’t appreciate a massive, hard cock slamming away at it.
Thankfully, though, there are a few things that can be done if you’re bleeding loads after sex because your cervix is acting up. ‘If the bleeding is persistent or quite severe, this cause of PCB [from a sensitive cervix] can be treated with cryotherapy – freezing – or electrocautery – heat-based treatment,’ says Rebecca. ‘There are potential side effects of the treatment, though, so you should probably discuss it with your gynaecologist.'
5. You have a few non-cancerous growths
While the body is an amazing thing, most of the time it just does stuff to scare the shit out of us. Case in point: benign cervical or endometrial polyps on the lining of the cervix or in the womb just living there for the sake of it. It could also be a sign of cervical endrometriosis, which is worth getting checked for.
6. You have cancer
That is the most terrifying thing a doctor can say to anyone, but in rare cases bleeding after sex is a sign of cervical or vaginal cancer. Emphasis on the rare here, but if you're at all worried, do yourself a favour and get checked. ‘Cancers that can result in PCB are cancers of the vulva and vagina itself, or within the uterus. Uterine (endometrial) cancer, is the most common gynecological cancer,’ explains Rebecca. ‘PCB is regarded as an important potential symptom of cervical cancer, however the majority of women with cervical cancer do not have PCB.’ Many people wouldn't jump to this conclusion, so it's worth knowing in order to get checked.
And one thing that definitely doesn’t cause bleeding after sex...
7. You’re having sex with a penis too large for you
The average vagina is only 4 inches deep, so a lot of the time the cervix gets banged (pun intended) up. A guy doesn’t have to be huge to cause bleeding and seeing as the vagina can stretch enough to get baby shoulders out of it, he isn’t too big no matter how much he says he is.
What should I do if I'm bleeding after sex?
The main thing to take away from this is that if you bleed at any point that isn't your period, you should go get checked out. Stat. Even if it has happened just a couple of times. Because while it could be an STI, or something as simple as hormonal changes from the pill, there are some fairly serious problems that cite PCB as a symptom.
Will I be bleeding after sex forever?
It's not all scaremongering, though; if you get yourself checked, according to Rebecca, over half of women will have a spontaneous resolution of symptoms after six months’. So you might not be stuck with it for the rest of your life. In the meantime, probably invest in a load of sheets and be prepared to load up the washing machine way more than usual.
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