What Does It Mean If You Bleed After Sex?

Sep 14, 2017 at 3:00 p.m. ET
Image: Mimi Haddon/Getty Images

In most cases, seeing blood is distressing, and bleeding after sex is no exception. So how do you know what’s normal and when it might be time to see the doctor? We checked in with a few OB-GYNs to find out.

To start with, bleeding that’s unrelated to menstruation and occurs during or after sexual intercourse is called post-coital bleeding, Dr. Gerardo Bustillo, an OB-GYN at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, says. It’s more common than you probably think. He added that it can occur in up to 10 percent of women, and in about 50 percent of cases, the symptoms resolve spontaneously.

More: Do You Really Need to Pee Before Sex?

But if the bleeding doesn’t go away on its own, it’s time to make an appointment with your doctor. This will involve sorting out the possible causes and offering effective treatment based on a careful history and physical examination with appropriate laboratory testing, Bustillo says.

While in the majority of cases there is no serious underlying condition, it is important to consult a physician to try to pinpoint the cause because while it could be nothing, it could also range from a minor infection to cervical cancer.

According to Bustillo and Dr. Linda Chung, an OB-GYN at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California, some of the possible reasons you bleed after sex include:

  • Cervical infection, both sexually transmitted and not
  • Cervical polyp (benign growth from cervix)
  • Uterine polyp or fibroids
  • Cervical ectropion (benign surface tissue on cervix that can bleed with touch or pressure)
  • Vaginal fissure or tear, especially in postmenopausal women who have vaginal atrophy (thinned skin)
  • Genital prolapse (when the pelvic organs have dropped)
  • Benign blood vessel tumors in the genital tract
  • Cancer of cervix or vagina (which is rare) 

The risk of cervical cancer in women with post-coital bleeding rises with age, with a risk of 1 in 44,000 women aged 20 to 24 years, increasing to as high as 1 in 2,400 women aged 45 to 54 years, Bustillo says.

More: What You Need to Know About Cervical Cancer

Both Bustillo and Chung note that in order to prevent recurrent bleeding after sex, it’s important to diagnose and treat the underlying condition.

Additionally, Chung recommends using lubricant or vaginal estrogen therapy in postmenopausal women to help prevent bleeding.

So unless you’re having sex on your period (which is another topic for another day), blood after intercourse isn’t something to ignore.

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