Noticing blood on the sheets or when using the restroom after sexual intercourse can be alarming. There are plenty of reasons why this can occur – everything from hormonal changes to infections. In this edition of our blog series, “What’s Up, Down There?” we explore why bleeding after sex can occur, when it’s normal, and when it’s time to call your provider.
What Causes Bleeding After Sex?
Postcoital bleeding (as it’s medically known) or bleeding after sex can be caused by a host of reasons – some are completely harmless and others may require medical attention. We’ll cover possible common causes below.
- You’re experiencing vaginal dryness. A lack of foreplay or even taking certain medications such as antidepressants or birth control pills can contribute to vaginal dryness. As you enter menopause, vaginal dryness can be more common as well as you produce less lubrication, and your vaginal tissue becomes thinner and more fragile. When this occurs, it’s possible to experience small tears in your vagina after sex. Most often these tears will heal on their own. Using lubricant can help reduce the risk of bleeding and make having sex more comfortable.
- You’re about to start or just finished your period. If it’s close to the time of your period, it’s not uncommon to experience light bleeding after sex. The movement and contraction of your uterus during sex can sometimes trigger your period to start a day or two early or expel blood that’s still lingering from your period. In either case, it’s nothing to be worried about.
- You’re pregnant. Changes to your cervix or hormonal changes can contribute to light spotting during pregnancy. It’s often nothing to worry about. If the bleeding is heavy or accompanied with other symptoms, don’t hesitate to contact your OB.
- You have a cervical polyp. Cervical polyps are often non-cancerous growths that can grow from 1-2 centimeters. You may not even know you have them as they don’t typically present with symptoms. While they aren’t cause for alarm, they can be a cause of irregular bleeding. If it’s causing unwanted symptoms, it can be removed through a minor surgery.
- You have a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Bleeding after sex can be a sign of certain STIs like chlamydia or gonorrhea. Because STIs cause inflammation of the cervix they may make you more prone to bleeding after intercourse. Other symptoms of these STIs can include pelvic pain, unusual vaginal discharge and odor. While less likely, other vaginal infections such as a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis could cause light bleeding. If you suspect you may have been exposed to a STI, it’s important to contact your provider right away to get tested.
- You have another underlying health condition. There are other women’s health conditions like endometriosis or fibroids that can be associated with unusual vaginal bleeding. Conditions like endometriosis or fibroids can cause persistent pain with periods and are treatable with surgery. While rare, unexpected bleeding can sometimes be an early warning sign of cervical cancer. A regular check-in with your provider and Pap exam can help to prevent cervical cancer.
When Is Bleeding After Sex Normal?
Light spotting immediately following intercourse can occur for a variety of benign reasons, such as around your period or as a result of vaginal dryness. The most important thing to take note of is the amount of blood and how frequently it occurs. If the bleeding is light and only occurs occasionally then it’s likely nothing to worry about.
When Should You Contact Your Provider?
If the bleeding persists or happens frequently, it’s best to contact your Axia Women’s Health provider. They can perform an exam and rule out any underlying medical issues that may be causing the bleeding. It’s especially important to contact your provider if you experience any other symptoms such as pain during intercourse, unusual vaginal discharge, fever, painful urination, lower abdominal pain/cramping or itching around the genital area. These are all signs that something more serious may be going on and should never be ignored.
Bleeding after sex can sometimes be completely normal due to changes in hormone levels or friction caused by sex, but it can also be a sign of something more serious. If the bleeding lasts more than a day or occurs frequently after sex, it’s important to contact your Axia Women’s Health provider right away. Your provider can help identify any underlying medical conditions that may be causing the issue before it becomes worse. Early diagnosis and treatment are key for preventing further complications down the line, so don’t hesitate to seek help if needed! And as always, you know your body best. If something feels off, don’t be afraid to speak up.