Vaginal cuts and tears are a common problem in women who are sexually active. Although usually not serious, vaginal cuts can be uncomfortable and irksome. The good news, however, is that vaginal cuts can be prevented.
"Many women notice vaginal cuts and tears after sexual intercourse, and most of the time these tears and abrasions are normal," says Edwin Huang, MD, a gynecologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Vaginal cuts become more noticeable during sex, he says, because semen can sting when it comes in contact with the open cuts.
Even though minor vaginal cuts may not create long-term health issues,, they can negatively affect your experience of sex, and make you uncomfortable. A better course is to learn how to prevent the cuts from occurring in the first place.
Common Causes of Vaginal Dryness and Cuts
So what does cause vaginal cuts? When sexually excited, a woman’s vagina naturally produces fluids that lubricate the area during sexual activity, reducing friction that can irritate or tear the vaginal skin. If the vagina is not sufficiently lubricated, vaginal dryness can result. Dr. Huang says that vaginal dryness is a common cause of vaginal cuts. Other factors that play a role in vaginal dryness include:
- Menopause. Women of childbearing age have higher levels of vaginal moisture, even when they are not sexually aroused, than menopausal women. During menopause, the level of estrogen, the female sex hormone, starts to decline. Huang explains that less hormonal stimulation sometimes leads to vaginal dryness.
- Not enough foreplay. Sexual excitement causes the secretion of vaginal fluids, and an inadequate amount of foreplay before intercourse can lead to vaginal dryness, Huang says. Simply put, if you’re not sufficiently excited before you have penetrative sex, your vagina will be drier than it should be for maximum comfort, and vaginal cuts and tears are more likely to occur.
- History of abuse. Although this is not the most common cause of vaginal dryness, a history of sexual abuse can affect a woman’s relationship to sex. Huang says that survivors of abuse may have a hard time relaxing during sex. Or they may be uncomfortable with foreplay, making it hard for them to become aroused. Sexual arousal causes the vagina to produce additional fluids. If you cannot become aroused, your body will not produce vaginal fluids, leaving you more at risk for vaginal damage.
- Other causes of vaginal cuts. According to Huang, some sexual positions tend to cause more vaginal tears and abrasions than others, and use of sex toys can also be a factor. Sex toys are sometimes made of materials that are irritating to the skin, or they might have sharp or rough edges.
Prevention of Vaginal Cuts
How can vaginal cuts be prevented? Since vaginal dryness is often responsible, increasing wetness in the vagina during sexual activity is often the best way to prevent vaginal cuts. Ways to do this include:
- Lubricants. Commercial water-based lubricants can help with vaginal dryness. "Always use water-based lubricants," Huang says. "K-Y Jelly and Astroglide are popular water-based brands." What’s wrong with oil-based lubes? Products such as petroleum jelly, mineral oils, and massage oils — all oil-based lubricants — damage condoms, which puts you at higher risk for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Additionally, Huang says, many women are allergic to oil-based lubricants and find them irritating to the skin.
- More foreplay. Huang recommends more foreplay and vaginal stimulation before intercourse as a good way to keep vaginal cuts at bay. Increased foreplay gives the vagina the time (and motivation) to naturally lubricate itself.
- Sexual positions. For heterosexual couples, some positions are better than others. "With the woman on top, there’s less risk for vaginal cuts because she has more control," Huang says.
With just a few precautions and some knowledge, vaginal cuts can be avoided, and your sexual experience will be more pleasurable and comfortable.