Why Does My Vagina Burn After Sex?

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A burning feeling during or after sex is known as dyspareunia (painful sex). Common causes of burning include lack of lubrication, allergy and tight muscles around the vaginal area. Whilst dyspareunia itself is not a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI), STIs can cause sex to burn or be painful. Sex is not supposed to be painful, so if you are experiencing pain or burning after sex, there may be a reason.

 

Causes of burning or pain after sex

Not enough lubrication

Your body produces natural lubrication when you are sexually stimulated. If you have engaged in sex without enough lubrication, this can cause vaginal dryness, increasing the chances of friction. Friction causes burning, heat and sensitivity, which can lead to painful sex or pain after sex. Low levels of lubrication can be caused by not being sexually stimulated enough, rushing into sex, not enough foreplay or difficulty relaxing during sex.  

Tip: To avoid this from happening, engaging in foreplay, and massaging the clitoris can help. You can also use lubricants to reduce friction.

 

Allergy to sperm

An allergy to sperm can cause burning, itching, redness and discomfort around the vaginal area. This may be triggered by sex, or the skin coming into contact with sperm. Sperm allergy is usually caused by proteins found in semen, which can cause irritation in and around the vagina. Allergy to sperm does not affect fertility, but it can make intercourse uncomfortable. It is also important to note that an allergy to sperm is rare.

Tip: To avoid an allergic reaction to sperm, your partner should wear a condom. If you are trying to conceive you should speak to your doctor. They may be able to refer you for an allergy test. In mild cases, taking an antihistamine before sex can help to reduce symptoms of allergy.

 

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

A Urinary Tract Infection can cause a burning sensation during and after sex. UTIs cause inflammation around the bladder and urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder during urination). Pressure around these areas during sex can be painful. If your urine is cloudy, you are urinating frequently or feeling the urge to urinate more than usual, you may have a UTI. You should visit your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

Tip: UTIs are treated easily with a short course of antibiotics. If you have not got immediate access to medical care, cranberry juice or capsules can help to relieve symptoms. You should drink plenty of water.

 

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

STIs such as genital herpes and chlamydia can cause painful intercourse.

Genital Herpes
Genital herpes causes sores and blisters which can cause pain when having sex. If you have blisters or sores around the vaginal area and you are unsure what they are, you should visit a sexual health clinic. They may wish to perform a genital herpes test to confirm diagnosis. If you have genital herpes and you are experiencing an outbreak, you should avoid sexual intercourse. Herpes treatment such as aciclovir and valaciclovir can help to reduce the length and severity of an outbreak.

Chlamydia
A symptom of chlamydia is pain during sex. If you are experiencing discharge, vaginal bleeding, pain around the stomach or pelvis, pain when urinating, or you if have recently engaged in unprotected intercourse, you should visit a sexual health clinic to find out if you require chlamydia treatment. They may wish to perform a chlamydia test to find out whether chlamydia is causing your symptoms. If the test is positive, you may be prescribed a course of doxycycline to treat chlamydia. If you are unable to take doxycycline, azithromycin may be prescribed.

Tip: It is important to note that chlamydia does not always display symptoms. If you engage in unprotected sexual activity with different partners, you should test regularly.

 

Vigorous or Prolonged sex

If sexual penetration was rough or longer than usual, you may experience discomfort afterwards. The extra pressure and friction can cause inflammation in the area around the vagina. Some sex toys can also trigger a painful response. You may wish to lubricate toys before use to avoid friction.

Tip: Take a break and use lubrication. Oil-based lubricants can reduce the effectiveness of condoms. In this case, you should look for water-based lubes.  

 

Allergy to condoms, toys or lubricants

Certain materials can cause irritation to the vulva, causing stinging and burning. If any objects have been inserted into the vagina, the pain may reach the canal, causing internal pain. Latex condoms in particular can cause symptoms such as itching, swelling and burning. You may wish to take an antihistamine tablet to treat symptoms of allergy. Severe allergies may require urgent medical attention. Certain lubes may also trigger an allergic reaction. They will cause similar irritating symptoms such as burning and stinging. You should try water-based lubricants which are free from parabens.

Tip: You can try using non-latex condoms if you are experiencing vaginal burning. However, it is important to note that non-latex condoms do not perform as well as latex condoms.

 

Vaginismus

Vaginismus causes vaginal muscles to tighten involuntarily during intercourse when penetration is attempted. This can make intercourse painful and can even prevent intercourse. Pain and discomfort may also be present after sex.

Tip: Vaginismus can be psychological reflex, because of a previous traumatic experience. Psychosexual counselling can help to overcome this. Using vaginal dilators can also help to loosen muscles around the vagina.

 

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

PID is an infection which affects the womb, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. It does not usually cause obvious symptoms, however, some women may experience mild symptoms, including pain or burning during and after sex. This pain usually occurs deep in the pelvis. Other symptoms can include lower stomach pain, bleeding between periods and a green or yellow vaginal discharge. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should visit your doctor.

 

Yeast Infection (vagina)

A yeast infection is a fungal infection that causes irritation, itching and vaginal discharge. Discharge has a “cottage cheese” appearance and does not usually smell. The infection is usually caused by antibiotic use or an imbalance of natural flora in the vagina. Yeast infections can cause sex to be painful and can cause the vagina to burn after sex.

Tip: You should avoid sex if you have a yeast infection as inserting anything into the vagina can bring in new bacteria, delaying recovery time. It is also possible to pass a yeast infection onto your partner (uncircumcised men are more likely to contract the infection). You should wait till the infection has cleared before you have sex again.  

 

Menopause

Around the time of menopause (and after), sex can be painful. This is because the female body is undergoing hormonal changes. The hormone oestrogen (which helps to keep the vagina moist during sexual stimulation), drops when a woman is menopausal. The drop in oestrogen also causes the lining of the vagina to thin. This can cause intercourse to be painful and can bring about vaginal burning after sex.

Tip: Lubricants can help relieve discomfort. You may also wish to visit your doctor about low dose vaginal oestrogen.

 

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is tissue growth around the female reproductive system. This can make sex painful and uncomfortable. Pressure and force on the endometrial tissue can cause intercourse to be painful, especially if tissue growth has occurred around the vagina and uterus.

Tip: If endometriosis is negatively affecting your sex life, you should speak to your doctor about it. The contraceptive pill can be prescribed to help manage symptoms.

 

Anxiety

Anxiety, low self-esteem, fear of being intimate and problems in a relationship can make it difficult to get sexually aroused. This can make intercourse uncomfortable and can cause pain and burning after sex too. A lack of natural lubrication from the vagina, together with tightening of pelvic muscles from anxiety can be contributing factors.

Tip: This is probably more common than you think (people don’t tend to address these issues publicly so you wouldn’t know). You should try to be open and honest with your partner. Often you state of mind will reflect onto them, which can cause problems that extend beyond the bedroom. Counselling and therapy are good options in these situations.  

 

Vulvodynia

Vulvodynia is a prolonged pain around the vulva, for which there is no explanation for. It can flare up due to irritation from certain products such as chlorine or underwear material, infections, physical trauma, and stress. Flare ups can last from months to years. If you think you have vulvodynia, you should visit your doctor for advice.

Tip: You can relieve vulvodynia by using anaesthetic gels, physiotherapy exercises, ice packs and avoiding certain irritants.

 

Cystitis

Cystitis is an infection of the bladder, which can be caused by a bacterial infection, or irritation to the bladder. It can be brought about by friction from sex but can also be caused by irritation from certain ingredients in soap. You are more likely to contract cystitis if you have diabetes, as high blood sugar levels can cause bacteria to grow and multiply. Women going through menopause are also prone to getting cystitis, as the urethra shrinks and can become thinner due to a reduction in oestrogen levels. Intercourse can aggravate cystitis, causing a burning sensation after sex. 

Tip: Drinking water can help to flush bacteria if an infection is present. Cranberry juice can also help to lower the acidity that causes burning when you urinate. You should wipe from front to back, to reduce spreading germs that may be present from the region closest to the anus. 

 

Urethritis

Urethritis is when the urethra (tube that transports urine from the bladder outside the body), becomes irritated and inflamed. It is slightly different to a UTI, as UTIs affect the urinary tract, whilst urethritis infects the urethra. They may require different treatment, even though the symptoms may be similar. The causes of urethritis may also be different to that of a UTI. Urethritis can be caused by viruses such as herpes and HPV, as well as bacteria such as chlamydia. Urethritis can cause pain and burning after sex. If you are also experiencing the need to urinate more frequently, discharge and other abnormal urinary symptoms, you should visit your GP. 

Tip: Urethritis can arise as a result of an undiagnosed STI. Regular testing can help to reduce the chances of getting urethritis. 

 

Douching

Cleaning your vagina after sex can result in developing infections. This is because it disrupts the natural balance of bacteria which helps to protect your vagina from harmful bacteria. Some of the infections that can arise from douching after sex include bacterial vaginosis, pelvic inflammatory disease and STI's. 

Tip: It is best to let your vagina clean itself to avoid developing infections that can cause pain and burning 

 

Contraception

Some contraceptive pills and contraceptive rings can cause vaginal dryness, which can lead to painful sex. This is because these methods of contraception reduce your natural production of hormones which can thin the skin around the genital region. This can cause inflammation and irritation, leading to pain and burning, during and after intercourse. An intrauterine device that has moved can also cause pain during sex. 

Tip: If you are experiencing discomfort during and after sex, you can visit your doctor who may wish to change your method of contraception. 

 

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

BV disrupts the balance of "good" and "bad" bacteria in the vagina, resulting in the growth of harmful bacteria. Symptoms include pain or burning after sex, itchiness inside the vagina, strong smelling discharge that is usually green in colour and pain when urinating. The cause is not known, however, you are more likely to get BV if you have multiple sexual partners, you use scented products around the vaginal area, or you have a new sexual partner.

Tip: You can still have sex if you have BV, but this is not advisable as it can make your symptoms worse, and you may find that intercourse is uncomfortable. You should try and avoid intercourse until the infection has cleared. 

 

Vaginitis

Vaginitis is the inflammation of the vagina resulting in swelling and soreness around the area, often causing pain and burning after sex. It can be caused by other infections, as well as menopause and skin conditions. 

Tip: In order to treat vaginitis, you should see your doctor to find out the route cause of vaginitis. Treating the route cause will alleviate the pain and discomfort that you experience during and after sex.

 

 

How to soothe burning after sex

Cold compress

An icepack or cold compress can help to relieve pain and burning from sex by numbing the area. You should use a towel or cloth as a barrier. Every few minutes, you should remove the pack for a few minutes. Do not insert any cold compresses or ice packs into your vagina.

 

Medication

  • If you have an infection, it can cause pain and burning during or after sex. Antibiotics from your doctor can help to clear the infection which should reduce symptoms.
  • Antihistamines can help to reduce symptoms from mild allergies. You can buy antihistamines from a pharmacy.
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy can help to balance hormonal changes from menopause and reduce vaginal dryness.
  • The contraceptive pill can help to reduce symptoms of endometriosis, which often cause pain when having sex.
  • Certain antidepressants and anti-epilepsy medication can help to reduce pain associated with vulvodynia.
  • Certain muscle relaxants can help to reduce muscle spasms associated with vaginismus. This is usually initiated in by a specialist.

 

Counselling and therapy

For some women, sex can be a traumatic experience. This can be caused by anxiety, depression, feeling self-conscious about your appearance or relationship troubles. You should speak to your doctor who will be able to advise you. You may be advised to try therapy to help you overcome any underlying issues that are preventing you from being able to relax, or psychosexual therapy that can help to restore your confidence in the bedroom.

 

Physiotherapy and exercise

Tight pelvic floor muscles can make penetration difficult, which can cause pain during and after sex. Certain exercises can help to relax these muscles, allowing for easier penetration. This can reduce the pain associated with sex and help to make it a more pleasurable experience.

Certain instruments such as vaginal trainers can also be used. This involves inserting cones into the vagina and gradually increasing the size. The aim of this is to prevent muscles around the vagina from tightening upon penetration.

 

Lubricants

Vaginal dryness can be caused by several factors. Water based lubricants are less irritating and help to reduce friction. This should help to relieve pain.

There are also certain anaesthetic gels which you can apply 10-15 minutes before sex. These gels help to numb pain. You should only use these gels on advice of your doctor. If you are experiencing unexplained pain during or after sex, you should visit your doctor so that this can be investigated. Never use anaesthetic gel to mask unexplained pain.

 

Hypoallergenic products

Certain materials and ingredients in lubes, toys and condoms may cause irritation. You should try to opt for natural, water-based options to reduce the chances of allergy. It may take a while and trying a few different products before you find what works best for you.

 

When to see your doctor

If pain and irritation is persistent, or lasts for longer than one – two days, you should see your doctor. Unexplained pain, bleeding, discharge, and general discomfort should always be investigated.


Whilst all of our content is written and reviewed by healthcare professionals, it is not intended to be substituted for or used as medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please speak to your doctor.