Postcoital Bleeding: Why You May Bleed After Sex

The "glow" that many people experience after sex can fade fast if you discover that you're bleeding.

Postcoital bleeding, or bleeding after sex, is not related to your menstrual cycle. And the amount of blood can range from a scant amount to a heavy, sheet-soaking puddle.

Your vagina and your cervix are the two parts of your body that can bleed from the natural friction of vaginal sex.

Knowing that postcoital bleeding is fairly common should put your mind at ease. But there's nothing like understanding this type of bleeding and why it may be happening to you.

This article explains the two primary locations of after-sex bleeding—vaginal and cervical—and the four causes of cervical bleeding.

Causes of cervical bleeding after sex
Verywell / JR Bee

Symptoms

Postcoital bleeding refers to bleeding that happens after sex that involves vaginal penetration. This means postcoital bleeding can happen after vaginal penetration by a penis, dildo, or a partner’s finger.

If you're having postcoital bleeding, you may also be experiencing abnormal uterine bleeding that isn't related to sex. About 30% of women who bleed during sex have other episodes of abnormal bleeding outside of their regular monthly period. 

Postcoital bleeding is usually painless. Only about 15% of women with bleeding after sex report feeling pain with sex, called dyspareunia.

See your healthcare provider if you're experiencing postcoital bleeding.

Vaginal Causes of Bleeding

When your vagina bleeds after sex, it's most likely the result of direct trauma to the wall of your vagina.

This is called a "vaginal laceration." The blood is usually bright red and can be quite heavy. Vaginal laceration often happens during childbirth, too. And the vagina heals.

Typically, the vagina doesn’t tear with intercourse. But it can happen if the vagina is not well lubricated beforehand, either from natural secretions or a store-bought lubricant.

The vaginal wall may also tear if:

  • Your estrogen levels are low. This happens during breastfeeding and with menopause.
  • You've had unusually rough sex.
  • A foreign object was used for vaginal penetration. This includes genital piercings or implants.

In minor cases, a vagina laceration may bleed for a short time and then stop, though a the pain may last for up to two weeks.

In more severe cases, stitches may be required. After six weeks, the tear should be fully healed—just like after childbirth.

A vaginal tear that doesn't require stiches heals in about two weeks. A tear that does call for stitches should be back to normal in about six weeks.

Cervical Causes of Bleeding

Unlike bleeding from the vagina, bleeding from the cervix after sex usually results in a small amount of blood. In fact, it can be so scant that you may notice it only after wiping yourself during a bathroom break.

There are four reasons why your cervix may bleed after sex:

Cervical Ectropion

The cervix is the passageway between the vagina and uterus. The outside of the cervix has the same type of cells as the vagina, but the inside (or canal) of the cervix has a different type of cell.

The cells that cover the cervix act as a barrier and are resistant to the vaginal environment, including the friction of intercourse. However, the cells that line the canal of the cervix are much more fragile.

Cervical ectropion describes a condition in which the canal of the cervix is turned inside out, exposing the more fragile cells. Pregnancy and birth control pill use can be associated with these changes.

These cells bleed very easily when touched, even lightly. If you have this variation of your cervix, it is more likely you will have postcoital bleeding at some point.

Cervical Polyps

The cells that line the canal of the cervix can make polyps, or growths. These are called endocervical polyps, and they are generally benign. But they have a rich blood supply and can bleed easily.

These polyps develop in the canal of your cervix. As they grow, they stick out of the end of your cervix, where they can be irritated and bleed during sex.

Cervicitis

Inflammation of the cervix, called cervicitis, can also cause bleeding after sex. The sexually transmitted infection chlamydia is the most common cause of acute cervicitis.

In the early stages, a chlamydia infection has no real symptoms. But it is a serious infection that can affect your fertility. Fortunately, it can be treated with antibiotics.

Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is by far the most serious cause of postcoital bleeding. However, it's also the least likely cause. This is especially true if you've been seeing your healthcare provider for regular cervical cancer screenings.

Cervical cancer may be one of the first things you'll come across while doing an internet search for postcoital bleeding. And this finding tends to set off alarm bells in many women.

Remember that there are other potential causes of postcoital bleeding. This is why it's important to see your healthcare provider as soon as you can. The provider holds the key to treatment and putting your mind at ease.

Diagnosis

To help your healthcare provider determine the cause of your bleeding, think about how you would answer the following questions:

  • Do you have a new sex partner?
  • When did the bleeding start?
  • Do you practice safe sex?
  • Do you use any sex toys or other foreign objects during sex?
  • Do you have pain with sex?
  • Do you always bleed after sex or only at certain times of the month or in certain positions?
  • Do you have bleeding outside of your regular period that is not related to sex?

It can be awkward to discuss bleeding after sex with a healthcare provider you don't know well. Your experience with postcoital bleeding may point to the need to find a provider who puts you at ease, welcomes your questions, and calms your worries.

Summary

Blood that flows after sex comes from one of two places: the vagina or the cervix. You can trace cervical bleeding to either cervical ectropion, polyps, cervicitis, or cervical cancer.

The amount of blood can vary—from a large amount of vaginal blood to a scant amount from the cervix. Either way, make an appointment with your healthcare provider instead of letting fear get the better of you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does postcoital bleeding last?

    Bleeding after sex can be so brief that you barely notice it. Or it can last for a few days.

  • Can you use a tampon for after-sex bleeding?

    Bleeding after sex should not be heavy enough to require a tampon. If you are bleeding that heavily, it could be one of two things: Your period may have started or you may have an injury that requires medical attention.

  • How do you stop bleeding after sex?

    Postcoital bleeding typically stops on its own, unless it's due to an injury that may require stitches. Bleeding after sex should be evaluated by your healthcare provider, who can recommend the right course of treatment.

  • Is there anything that can be done at home to ease vaginal tear discomfort?

    Take an over-the-counter pain reliever as needed, take a sitz bath at least once a day, and avoid touching the torn area while it heals.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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