The Sex Injury That No One Talks About

by Emma McGowan
Originally Published: 
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Ever wonder what a bruised cervix feels like? The first time I had a bruised cervix, I thought I was dying. I woke up and felt cramps that were worse than any period cramps I’d experienced in my life, even though I was weeks away from my period. It was like someone was stabbing me with a red-hot fire poker, deep down in my gut, over and over again. I knew that something was wrong — the pain was so bad that I broke out in sweats and threw up — but I had no idea what it could be. Food poisoning? The worst hangover of my life? I didn’t even consider that I could be bruised inside my body. Sound like a horror story? It sure as hell felt like one.

It actually took me a couple more times of having sex with an, ahem, particularly well-endowed man to figure out that the pain I sometimes felt after sex was a bruised cervix, a sex injury that I hadn’t even heard of before. A little internet research opened my eyes to the need to take extra precautions and also revealed some things that I didn’t even know about my body. Now, trust me: If you haven’t had a bruised cervix, you never, ever want to experience it. Let me guide you through what you need to do to protect that tender spot from getting banged up when you're getting it on.

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First of all, the cervix is the opening between your uterus and your vaginal canal. It’s basically what separates where you’re having intercourse and where a fetus grows if you get pregnant. If you’re not on hormonal birth control, your cervix moves during your cycle. When you’re ovulating (which is when you’re most fertile), your cervix is softer and located higher up the vaginal canal. On the opposite end of the spectrum, your cervix is lower and harder on either side of your period and while you’re bleeding. Even if you are on hormonal birth control, however, your vaginal canal grows based on how turned on you are.

Just like a penis gets bigger when a person with penis is turned on, your vagina also gets bigger. So if you’re not super turned on but you have intercourse, your cervix is going to be lower. On the other hand, if you’re hella worked up, you’ll not only be wetter, but your vagina will also be longer. That means there’s more room in there for penetration. Also, just like there are different size penises, vaginas are different sizes, so you might have a particularly long or particularly short vaginal canal.

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The reason I’m getting all technical about how the inside of your body works is because if your cervix is lower and harder, it’s easier to bruise. So, say you go to bed with someone who has a large penis and have particularly vigorous sex. If your partner is not careful with their thrusting — and you’re not turned on enough or it’s the part of your cycle when you’re closer to your period — they could bump right up against the cervix.

"The cervix can sometimes get bumped during sexual activity," Rachel Gelman, the Bay Area Regional Director of the Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center, tells Bustle. "Sometimes changing positions which can alter the depth of penetration can be a way to avoid this from happening. There are also products out on the market that can limit the depth of penetration. One example is the Ohnut and it can be helpful for anyone experiencing pain with sex. "

A bruised cervix isn’t always as bad as what I experienced: a lesser injury may feel like mild cramps or just tenderness in the lower abdomen. However, is that a chance you really want to take? (Even thinking about it is making me hunch over my lap like guys do whenever anyone talks about getting hit in the balls. Ugh!) Luckily, the solution to avoiding a bruised cervix is simple: make sure that you’re sufficiently turned on before you start having intercourse, especially on either end of your cycle.

If your partner has a large penis, though, you’ll have to take extra precautions. Make sure they know that they can’t just go in there cold, thrusting as hard as they'd like and let them know if, during intercourse, they accidentally bump up against it.

You can also track your cycle and let your partner know when your cervix is at its highest, softest point (usually around 12 to 14 days after your period starts) so that they can be a little more vigorous during that time. Just make sure to use protection: that’s also when you’re most likely to get pregnant. Of course, there are other conditions with similar symptoms so if you're unsure, your best bet is always to ask your doctor.

This article was originally published on October 23, 2015. It was updated on March 15, 2018 and August 29, 2019.

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