Bleeding after sex can be scary but, in most cases, it’s not connected to anything serious. It can be a sign of changes or conditions that need treatment, so never ignore it – get it checked out by your GP or your local sexual health or genitourinary medicine clinic. Read on for five of the most common reasons for bleeding after intercourse.
The cervix is the neck of the womb that sits at the top of your vagina. Hormonal changes can make the surface inflamed, a condition known as cervical erosion, so that the cells bleed easily on contact with the tip of a penis during penetration. It can also cause bleeding between periods. It’s common in young women, and those taking the contraceptive pill, or during pregnancy. It often goes away without treatment, but can be treated with cryotherapy (freezing the area under local anaesthetic). See your GP if you’re concerned that your cervix may be inflamed.
Sometimes, bleeding can be a symptom of a sexually-transmitted infection, such as chlamydia. Although chlamydia is often symptomless, you may notice a yellowish vaginal discharge, painful or frequent urination, and redness, swelling, burning or itching of the vaginal area. You’re at risk if you’ve had unprotected sex with a new partner or several partners. Treatment is a course of antibiotics. Chlamydia is diagnosed with a urine test. If you’re under 25, you can get a free confidential test through the National Chlamydia Screening Programme. If you’re over 25, see your GP for a test, or contact your local sexual health or GUM clinic.
Bleeding can, in rare cases, be a sign of pre-cancerous changes to the cervix, known as cervical dysplasia. Your GP can check this with a smear test, and it’s treatable if found early enough. In rare cases, bleeding after sex can be a sign that cancer is already present, either in the cervix or the uterus. Other symptoms include pain during sex and bleeding between periods. It’s important to attend cervical screening tests – between 25 and 49 you should be tested at least every three years, and between 50 and 64 you should be tested at least every five years.
Small, soft, purple growths called polyps can emerge from the cervix but don’t worry, these are almost always benign. They can be easily removed, often under local anaesthetic. Endometriosis of the cervix occurs when the tissue that usually lines the uterus gets displaced, and may form scar tissue. This condition may also cause pain during sex. There is no cure for endometriosis, but the contraceptive pill may help.
You can bleed if there’s a decrease in vaginal secretions, which can lead to a condition a called atrophic vaginitis. It usually happens after the menopause when levels of the sex hormone oestrogen drop. But in some cases, psychological factors can cause dryness. Lubricating gels can help. Read more on vaginal dryness.