What Are Vaginal Cuts?

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Vaginal cuts, also referred to as “vaginal tears” describes an injury of the vaginal tissue, including the vagina or the vulva (the external genitals). Severe vaginal tears (called lacerations) are often caused by childbirth; but smaller vaginal cuts (sometimes referred to as micro-cuts) are very common. 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.

Vaginal Cut Symptoms

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
  • Stinging (particularly when urinating)
  • A cut, split or damage to the vaginal tissue
  • A cut or split to the vulva (the outer genitalia)
  • A cut that often comes from an unknown cause (such as sex, a scratch or other causes)

When to See the Physician

Under most circumstances, vaginal cuts should heal on their own in several days after they occur. More severe vaginal cuts may require medical care, particularly if there is excessive bleeding, if cuts are very deep or numerous or when infection occurs. When the symptoms do not resolve themselves or in other circumstances, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider. These circumstances include:

  • Any discolored drainage or foul-smelling discharge
  • Excessive bleeding that does not stop
  • Large, deep or numerous vaginal cuts
  • Worsening of symptoms
  • Symptoms that have not healed after a few days (the deeper the cut, the longer it will take to heal, deeper cuts may take longer than a few days).
  • Symptoms that cause concern
  • Recurring vaginal cuts
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Fever or chills
  • Dizziness, weakness, or fainting 
  • When the injury is due to a posterior fourchette fissure (a tear at the area of the V-shaped fold of skin located at the bottom of the entrance of the vagina), which has the potential to develop into a deeper tear, requiring prompt medical attention

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

Causes

There are many possible causes of vaginal tears, which may 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)
  • Removal of pubic hair (shaving, waxing or other hair removal methods)
  • Yeast infections
  • Other causes

Specific skin conditions that may increase the risk of vaginal cuts include:

  1. Eczema—a skin condition involving red patches that become inflamed, crack and itch
  2. Lichen planus—an inflammatory disorder that affects the skin
  3. Psoriasis—a skin condition involving itchy, scaly dry patches, note, on the vulvar area, the skin is too moist to be dry and scaly so psoriasis usually appears “in the form of pink patches with defined edges,” says Harvard Health.
  4. Lichen sclerosus—a chronic (long-term) inflammatory skin condition which commonly affects the genital skin (vulva) and the skin around the anus, the inflamed, skin becomes more vulnerable to tears or fissures
  5. Vulvovaginal atrophy—a condition that causes the vaginal tissue to become drier, thinner and less elastic, as well as more prone to vaginal tears
  6. Vaginal scarring or tissue damage—such as scarring that occurs from surgery or radiation therapy in the pelvic area
  7. Certain hormonal conditions—such as atrophic vaginitis, an inflammation of the vagina as a result of thinning vaginal tissue due to not enough estrogen
  8. Vulvovaginitis—an infection resulting from Candida albicans, commonly referred to as thrush
  9. Genital herpes—herpes simplex infection which can cause clusters of blisters that may weep fluid, then tear open, herpes can appear as a small linear cut in the vaginal area

Study

Removal of pubic hair (by shaving or waxing) is a very common cause of vaginal cuts. In fact, a 2017 study found that 25.6% of all pubic hair groomers reported injuries, and the most common type of injury was lacerations (vaginal cuts) in women. The study also showed that severe injuries that required antibiotics or surgical intervention were experienced in a small percentage of study participants as a result of grooming pubic hair.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of vaginal cuts usually is done through a physical examination. It also involves a and patient history to collect information about the symptoms, as well as gathering facts on any predisposing factors that could be the potential cause of the condition. The healthcare provider will also ask if the symptoms are new or recurring to find out if there is a history of vaginal cuts. Upon physical examination the healthcare provider may find:

  • A tiny split located on the external genitalia (vulva)
  • A small tear in the vaginal tissue
  • Notable tenderness
  • Redness of the tissue
  • Swelling
  • Light bleeding
  • Signs of infection (such as drainage or pus)
  • Signs and symptoms of underlying conditions (such as lichen sclerosus)
  • Other symptoms

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 are not necessary to diagnose and treat vaginal cuts when a person has a typical history and the appearance of the cuts are characteristic. However, there are exceptions, for example:

  • A culture may be taken—the healthcare provider uses a swab to remove some of the vaginal discharge and it is sent to the lab for diagnosis. Vaginal infections such as bacterial vaginosis or Candida albicans (yeast infection) can be identified and the proper medication can then be prescribed by the physician. Other swabs could test for infections that are sexually transmitted (such as herpes).
  • A biopsy may be performed—to diagnose underlying causes of recurring vaginal tears (such as lichen sclerosus)

Treatment

Self-Treatment

For minor vaginal cuts that don’t involve any complications (such as those on the "when to see the physician" list) there are some self-care tips to follow until the area has healed, these include:

  • Avoid sex and any type of foreplay
  • 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 as much as possible
  • Bathe or shower daily
  • Do not use tampons (consider using pads until the area has healed)
  • Observe the area to ensure it is not getting worse (such as an increase in redness, drainage or other symptoms)
  • Avoid any type of fragrant soap, spermicide or lubricants (that may be irritating)
  • Take warm baths, soaking in a bath with a few inches of warm water) for at least 10 to 15 minutes, a few times per day 
  • Use gentle cleansers without harsh chemicals
  • To decrease painful urination (and a burning sensation while urinating), pour warm water over the vaginal opening while urinating and increase the amount of water you drink to make your urine less acid.

Note, when symptoms are first noticed, it's important to do a self examination of the affected area, and to keep an eye on the area to ensure that it doesn't get infected or otherwise worsen.

Professional Treatment

In many instances, vaginal cuts are left to heal on their own, provided there are no signs or symptoms of infection. But medication or treatment may be prescribed for vaginal cuts that don’t heal readily, those that become infected, or that are caused by underlying conditions. Examples of treatment modalities for vaginal cuts may include:

  • Antibiotic cream or gel 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)

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, it’s advisable to consult with your healthcare provider.

Vaginal cuts could result in infection; if the infection is severe, surgical intervention such as incision and drainage of an abscess or suture closure of lacerations (cuts) may be needed.

Severe recurring vaginal cuts that leave scars or deep tears that cause heavy bleeding and severe pain may need to be repaired surgically. 

Prevention

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

  1. 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).
  2. The severity of the condition—with mild symptoms, prevention measures may be different than when a person experiences deep vaginal cuts (that become infected) or those that are recurrent.
  3. Predisposing conditions—prevention involves diagnosis and treatment of underlying conditions that predispose a person to getting vaginal cuts.

Prevention of Simple Vaginal Tears

Sexual Activity

If vaginal cuts are caused by rough sex, using tampons, or other identifiable circumstances, they will usually heal between three to seven days, sometimes up to 10 days for those that are more severe. The deeper the vaginal cut, the longer it will take to heal. Prevention tips for simple vaginal cuts include:

  • Use plenty of lubrication during sexual activity. Use water-based lubricant. Oil-based lubricants can damage condoms, resulting in ineffective birth-control and/or ineffective protection from sexually transmitted diseases. As well, oil-based lubricants are more likely to be irritating to the skin.
  • Avoid the use of sex toys
  • Try different sexual positions (such as female on top or male behind position).
  •  Taking 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 the pubic hair. But if you are determined to shave, 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, shaving very gently when shaving around any bumps (such as acne).
  • Shave the hair in the direction of hair growth.
  • 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 cuts (or other types of wounds) are present.
  • 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, but rather, remove them slowly. If you remove a tampon that has not been adequately moistened, then immediately put another one in, this can be a common cause of damage to vaginal tissue. Consider using a pad when a dry tampon has been removed (instead of replacing it right away with another tampon).

A Word From Verywell

Vaginal cuts are common; they occur as a result from many different underlying causes. Identifying the cause and then implementing prevention measures is the primary mode of defense. For simple vaginal cuts that heal on their own within a few days, palliative treatment (treatment that increases comfort) is encouraged. It’s important to be able to communicate openly with your sexual partner when vaginal cuts are caused by sexual activity. Contact your healthcare provider when they are severe, won’t stop bleeding, worsen in pain or other symptoms, become infected, or are recurring.

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Article Sources
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  2. Fairview.org. Vaginal tear (non-obstetric). Updated 2019.

  3. Oakley, A.DermNet NZ.org. Recurrent fissuring of posterior fourchette. Updated 2011.

  4. Pi W, Ryu JS, Roh J. Lactobacillus acidophilus contributes to a healthy environment for vaginal epithelial cells. Korean J Parasitol. 2011;49(3):295-8.

  5. Harvard Health. Managing common vulvar skin conditions. Updated 2020

  6. Truesdale MD, Osterberg EC, Gaither TW, et al. Prevalence of pubic hair grooming-related injuries and identification of high-risk individuals in the United States. JAMA Dermatol. 2017;153(11):1114-1121. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.2815

  7. Young Women's Health.org. Center for young women’s health. Updated June 4, 2019