Vaginal and vulvar cuts and tears are not unusual after sex, but they can be really painful. Generally, cuts and tears from sex will heal on their own, though you can definitely help them along by caring for them properly. Some women will be more susceptible to cuts and tears around the vagina, for example women entering or past menopause.
Symptoms of vaginal tears and cuts
- Discomfort around the vagina
- Visible cuts or tears
- Bleeding (usually very minor)
- Pain or burning during urination
Vaginal cut or tear, or something else?
You’ll know if it’s a vaginal or vulvar cut or tear inside your vagina or on your labia generally because it’ll be straight after sex, and the symptoms get better, not worse, and they do not stay the same, over time. You can think of a vaginal tear or cut the same way you would a cut anywhere else on your body. It’s a bit sore, maybe bleeds a bit, and then starts to heal.
If your symptoms seem different to this, then you may have a deeper vaginal cut or tear. If your vagina and labia seem fine after sex, and then a day or two later you get symptoms, you have something else, possibly an infection or STI.
Treating vaginal tears
You need to determine how bad you’ve hurt yourself in order to figure out how to properly treat your vaginal tear or cuts. First, you need to see how bad it is, which you can generally do by seeing how much blood there is. A lot of blood means you’ve cut deeper, and split open more blood vessels. The thing with your vagina and vulva is that they are very vascular – hefty blood supply – so a smaller cut can bleed a lot more than on another part of your body.
Your clotting mechanism will kick in soon enough, and the blood will stop. The little covering of clotted blood that initially keeps the blood flow stemmed may get knocked off by underwear or movement, so it’s normal for the blood to stop and start, maybe even for a few days.
The other indicator of how bad your vaginal tear is can be how much pain you are in, but remember that your vulva and vaginal entrance have tonnes of nerve endings, whereas your vaginal canal has far fewer. This is why penetrative sex without clitoral action can seem a bit boring and also why squeezing out a baby is even remotely possible pain-wise. It is also why you can’t feel a tampon. This means that internal vaginal tears and sores will feel sore if you touch them (or try to have sex), but you can’t really feel them otherwise.
Tears on your labia, however, are another story. First, lots of nerve endings, so you’ll feel everything. Stinging when you pee, uncomfortable in clothes, dull aches and pains… It will also likely bleed more than the inside. To check out tears, get a hand mirror, or even better, take a closeup with your phone, so that you can examine it without breaking your neck. Checking yourself out can be a labour.
It can be really hard to see tears on your vaginal lips (labia) because they don’t look like cuts or tears. These tears can look like pink smudges of raw skin. This way you can just go by feel.
USA note about photos: it’s best if you delete these if you are under 18, since there have been some weird court cases where people have been accused of having child pornography on their phones, when it’s photos of themselves… Better safe than on the sex offenders registry. Also, don’t send them to anyone!
Tips for treating vaginal tears
- Don’t cause further damage or irritation – don’t touch it! No sex, fingers, toys
- Try to skip bike and horse riding if it irritates your vulva
- Don’t have unprotected sex with strangers, should you ignore the first tip – cuts make it easier to pick up STIs
- Tampons and menstrual cups may hurt to use, but that’s up to you
- Avoid using soap – warm water is fine
- Pat dry gently but ensure area is dry before you dress
- Use a barrier ointment – Vaseline, paw paw, Aquaphor – dry skin areas only, not inside your vagina
- For deep cuts with skin flaps, cuts that bleed a lot or hurt a lot, see your doctor or emergency room for fast treatment – you may need stitches or medication
- For childbirth-related vaginal tears, see your obstetrician for advice
- For cuts without a known origin, you need to dig deeper to find out the cause and treatments
- Wear a pantyliner if you are worried about bleeding
- Cut should heal over the coming days/week without scarring
- More tips on healing vaginal tears from fingering or rough sex
When to make a doctor’s appointment
- Bleeding won’t stop
- Pain is severe and/or doesn’t get better
- Your vagina or vulva starts to smell bad
- Discharge changes
- Yellow pus is present
- You have been sexually assaulted