What Are Vaginal Cuts?

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Vaginal cuts are injuries of the vaginal tissues, including the vagina or the vulva, which is the external genitals. Severe vaginal tears (called lacerations) are often caused by childbirth; some may need stitches. But smaller vaginal cuts, sometimes referred to as micro-cuts, are very common and usually heal on their own.

This article covers the most common causes of vaginal cuts, how they are treated, and when you should see your healthcare provider.

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Vaginal Cut Symptoms

Cuts or splits to the external genitalia are sometimes visible to the naked eye. But smaller injuries, especially those to the internal vaginal tissue, may not be obvious. Symptoms of vaginal cuts may include:

  • Mild pain
  • Stinging when urinating (peeing) or after contact with water or semen
  • Discomfort when inserting a tampon or during sexual intercourse
  • Slight bleeding or spotting
  • Itching, burning, or a tearing sensation

If you think you have a vaginal cut, do a self-exam and keep an eye on the area to see if the injury gets worse or may be infected.

When to Call Your Healthcare Provider

Most vaginal cuts should heal on their own in a few days. However, some may need medical care. For example, a tear in the V-shaped fold of skin at the bottom of the entrance to the vagina (posterior fourchette fissure) can develop into a deeper tear. It requires prompt medical attention.

If you have a vaginal injury, consult your healthcare provider if you experience:

  • Symptoms that get worse
  • Symptoms that aren't getting better after a few days
  • Any symptoms you're worried about
  • Any discolored drainage or foul-smelling discharge
  • Excessive bleeding that does not stop
  • Recurring vaginal cuts
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Fever or chills
  • Dizziness, weakness, or fainting

Talk to your healthcare provider right away if you have large, deep, or numerous vaginal cuts, or if you think you have an infection. Signs of an infection may include foul-smelling discharge, fever, and pain that doesn't improve with medication.

Anyone who has been sexually assaulted, raped, or sexually abused should seek emergency medical attention immediately. Any time an unexplained vaginal tear or cut is found in a child or infant, adult caregivers should consult with a healthcare provider right away.

Causes

Vaginal cuts can occur from a wide range of underlying causes, but the most common cause of vaginal cuts is having sex, usually without proper lubrication.

Shaving and waxing pubic hair are other common causes of vaginal cuts. In fact, a 2017 study found that 25.6% of all people who groomed their pubic hair reported injuries.

The most common injury was vaginal cuts in women. A small percentage of people in the study needed antibiotics or surgery to treat them.

Some other causes of vaginal tears include:

  • Sexual intercourse or foreplay (particularly involving rough sex)
  • Putting a foreign object into the vagina
  • Improper insertion and removal of tampons
  • Vaginal dryness (making the skin more prone to vaginal tears)
  • Thinning of the vaginal tissue due to aging
  • Taking steroids (which makes the skin tissue more prone to tearing)
  • Yeast infections
  • Other causes

If you have any of the following skin conditions, you may be more likely to experience vaginal cuts:

  • Eczema, a skin condition involving red patches that become inflamed, crack, and itch. Depending on what part of the genitals it affects, symptoms can also include leaking fluid, crust formation, and a burning sensation.
  • Lichen planus, an inflammatory disorder that can cause soreness, burning, or rawness (when it affects vulva skin), as well as sticky yellow discharge and tissue erosions (when it affects the vagina)
  • Psoriasis, a skin condition involving itchy, scaly, dry patches. On the vulva, where the skin is too moist to be dry and scaly, psoriasis usually appears as pink patches with defined edges.
  • Lichen sclerosus, a chronic (long-term) inflammatory skin condition that commonly affects the external genital skin and the skin around the anus. The inflamed skin is more vulnerable to tears or fissures (breaks in the skin).
  • Vulvovaginal atrophy (atrophic vaginitis), a condition that causes the vaginal tissue to become drier, thinner, and less elastic. This makes it more prone to vaginal tears.
  • Vaginal scarring or tissue damage may occur from surgery or radiation therapy in the pelvic area.
  • Vulvovaginitis, an infection resulting from Candida albicans, commonly referred to as thrush
  • Genital herpes (herpes simplex infection), which can cause clusters of blisters that may leak fluid, then tear open. Herpes can appear as a small straight cut in the vaginal area.

Recap

Vaginal cuts are common and often result from everyday activities such as sex and hair removal. Most are minor and heal on their own.  Contact a healthcare provider if cuts are numerous, do not heal, or you experience other symptoms such as pain, fever, or unusual discharge.

Diagnosis

To diagnose a vaginal cut, your healthcare provider will need to perform a physical examination and take your medical history. This helps them understand your symptoms, as well as any other medical conditions or other factors that could be the reason for the injury. The healthcare provider will also ask if the symptoms are new or recurring to find out if you have a history of vaginal cuts. 

When vaginal cuts are small, the healthcare provider may need to use a surgical instrument with a bright light (a colposcope) to magnify the injured area during the examination.

Diagnostic Tests

Usually, tests aren't needed to diagnose and treat vaginal cuts when the history is known (e.g., happened after shaving) and the cuts appear minor and infection-free.

Sometimes, though, tests are helpful to check for any conditions that contributed to the injury. These tests could include:

  • Culture: Vaginal discharge is sampled by swab and sent to the lab. This is done to identify any vaginal infections, such as bacterial vaginosis or Candida albicans (yeast infection), so the proper medication can then be prescribed. Other swabs could test for infections that are sexually transmitted (such as herpes).
  • Biopsy: A sample of tissue is taken and sent to the lab in order to diagnose underlying causes of recurring vaginal tears (such as lichen sclerosus).

Treatment

Vaginal cuts usually heal up quickly with no scarring and only slight bleeding.

If bleeding or pain does not clear up within a few days after the injury occurs, call your healthcare provider.

Treating vaginal cuts will involve self-care but may also require medical treatment.

Self-Treatment

Most minor vaginal cuts are treatable at home. Self-care for simple cuts focuses on keeping the injury clean and dry, avoiding products that could irritate the area, and avoiding activity that could make your injury worse.

Self-care tips include:

  • Avoid sex and any type of foreplay while the cut heals.
  • Wear only comfortable cotton underwear (or none if possible).
  • Keep the area clean and dry.
  • Be sure the vaginal area is completely dry before getting dressed.
  • Avoid touching the affected area.
  • Bathe or shower daily.
  • Do not use tampons; use pads or period underwear until the area has healed.
  • Observe the area to make sure it is not getting worse (such as an increase in redness, drainage, or other symptoms).
  • Avoid any type of fragrant soap, spermicide, or lubricant that may be irritating.
  • Soak in a bath with a few inches of warm water for 10 to 15 minutes a few times per day.
  • Use gentle cleansers without harsh chemicals, such as Cetaphil Ultra Gentle Body Wash.
  • To reduce stinging when you pee, pour warm water over the vaginal opening while urinating and increase the amount of water you drink to make your urine less acidic.

In many instances, and with proper self care, vaginal cuts can be left to heal on their own, provided there are no signs or symptoms of infection. 

Medical Treatment

If your vaginal cuts are caused by underlying conditions, or if they are not healing well or get infected, they may need to be treated by a medical professional.

In some cases, your provider may recommend treatments such as:

  • Antibiotic creams or gels to treat infection
  • Anti-fungal cream if a yeast infection is present
  • Antiviral medications for those with a herpes outbreak
  • Vaginal estrogen cream for atrophic vaginitis
  • Steroid cream for dermatitis, psoriasis or other conditions that cause local inflammation
  • Pain medication for severe pain

If a vaginal cut results in a severe infection, it could lead to an abscess that might need to be drained.

Large or severe cuts may need stitches. Deep tears and cuts that reoccur or leave scars may need to be repaired surgically.

Prevention

Prevention measures for recurrence of vaginal cuts depend on several factors:

  • The cause: Prevention involves avoiding the underlying cause (such as shaving or trimming pubic hair) or using caution when a person plans to continue the action that caused the vaginal cuts (such as sexual activity or using tampons).
  • The severity of the condition: Mild tears may be avoided by taking simple measures like being careful when grooming pubic hair and using lubricant during sex. More severe tears may require require ongoing medical treatment (e.g., estrogen therapy) or care modifications (e.g., C-section after a vaginal birth) to keep from coming back.
  • Underlying conditions: It's important to diagnose and treat any underlying conditions that are contributing to vaginal cuts.

Sexual Activity

Prevention tips for simple vaginal cuts caused by sexual activity include:

  • Use plenty of lubrication during sexual activity. Choose water-based lubricants, as those that are oil-based can damage condoms, resulting in ineffective birth control and protection from sexually transmitted diseases. Oil-based lubricants are also more likely to be irritating to the skin.
  • Avoid the use of sex toys.
  • Try different sexual positions, such as the person with vagina on top.
  • Take time to allow for lubrication from sexual arousal before intercourse.
  • Take a bath before sexual intercourse to allow for the vaginal muscles to relax.

Sexual activity should not normally be painful and it should not result in injuries or bleeding.  Be sure to learn how to communicate with your partner if sex is causing any type of discomfort, even if it’s awkward to talk about.

Shaving

The best way to prevent vaginal cuts from shaving or waxing is to avoid grooming your pubic hair. However, if you decide to shave or wax, here are some tips to avoid vaginal cuts:

  • Avoid using dull or dirty razors.
  • Wet the skin and use shaving gel or cream before shaving.
  • When shaving, rinse the razor after each stroke.
  • Take special caution, and shave very gently when shaving around any bumps, such as acne.
  • Shave the hair in the direction of hair growth, downward
  • Avoid shaving while lying down—a standing position is best for shaving or trimming.
  • Don't allow others to do the shaving—cuts are more likely when another person does the shaving.
  • Avoid waxing or shaving when your skin is irritated or injured.
  • Make sure the skin is clean and dry before waxing.
  • Apply the wax in the same direction that the hair grows and remove it in the opposite direction that the hair grows.
  • Hold the skin tight when applying and removing wax.

Tampons

Be gentle when pulling out tampons and make sure that they have been left in long enough to absorb moisture (usually a couple of hours) and are not dry when removing them. Never yank a tampon out suddenly; rather, remove it slowly.

A common cause of damage to the vaginal tissue is removing a tampon that has not been adequately moistened, then immediately putting another one in. After you remove a dry tampon, consider using a pad or period underwear instead.

Recap

Pubic hair grooming (by shaving or waxing), can cause damage to the sensitive genital tissue, as can some sexual activities or tampon use. To avoid vaginal cuts from these activities, be sure that you have plenty of lubrication (for both sex and for tampon use) and if you groom your public area, do so carefully.

Summary

Skin in the genital region is delicate, sensitive, and can be prone to injuries. In some cases, underlying medical conditions may make your skin even more fragile. If you have a vaginal cut or injury to your vaginal tissue, understanding what caused it is important so that you can prevent it from happening again.

A Word From Verywell

Vaginal cuts are never pleasant. While some can be serious, rest assured that most are not.

Keep the area clean and have some patience—it's very likely that a minor cut will be a thing of the past in a few days. Don't hesitate to contact your healthcare provider if you experience odd discharge, persistent pain, or other symptoms of a significant tear or infection.

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Article Sources
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