Is Blood After & During Intercourse Normal? 8 Bloody Sex Questions, Answered

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We at Bustle love giving you tips for how to tap into your sexual potential and troubleshoot when things aren’t going your way in the bedroom. But what about finding solutions to those stressful sexual health situations that inevitably crop up when you’re getting down? Emma Kaywin, a Brooklyn-based sexual health writer and activist, is here to calm your nerves and answer your questions. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions will remain anonymous. Please send your questions to tips@bustle.com. This week’s topic: why you're bleeding after or during sex, and other questions about sex and blood you might have.

Q: I recently started having sex, and I’ve been noticing some weird stuff with my body. First off, my mom told me I’d bleed the first time but I didn’t, and my boyfriend didn’t believe me that it was my first time. But it totally was! We worked that out (luckily) but now I’ve been noticing that I’m bleeding sometimes. Which is weird right? Like if I didn’t bleed the first time, why am I bleeding after sex now? And sometimes I feel like sex makes my period come earlier, is that a real thing? Finally, my friends told me that sex on your period makes you more likely to get an STD, is that true?

A: Usually, when your body bleeds, it’s cause for alarm. This makes sense — our blood is supposed to stay inside, not come out. Add that ingredient to sex, an area where many of us are at least taught to feel stress, and it’s no surprise to feel worried when you notice blood in your panties or on your sheets after a romp. But is every instance of blood cause for alarm and a trip to urgent care? The good news is: nope! However, in some instances it is a good idea to get checked out by your doctor. So here we go — your questions about sex and blood, answered.

Why Would You Bleed After Or During Sex When You’re Not On Your Period?

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I just wrote a whole piece responding to this question in more detail, which you can find here, but the gist is that there are a bunch of reasons why you might bleed during or after you have sex. Many of these aren’t stressful — your vaginal walls and cervix are made of rather tender stuff, and sometimes they might bleed a bit. Some non-stressful reasons why you might bleed during or after a sexy romp include vaginal chafing because you weren’t wet enough or didn’t use enough lube; a chafed cervix, which can happen easily with certain deeper positions; being on your period and just not knowing it yet (hey, it happens); tiny tears due to sex that was a bit rough; vaginitis or cervicitis, which is inflammation of the vagina or cervix; cervical ectropion, which is when your inner cervix cells poke out of your cervical opening; or a benign (aka non-cancerous) growth on your cervix or uterus.

Some more medically intense options include having an STD (more on that later); having low estrogen; having endometriosis; having either cervical dysplasia, which is an indication of precancer in the cervix, or having actual vaginal, cervical, or uterine cancer. Unfortunately, it can be pretty difficult to figure out which of these culprits is causing your vaginal bleeding, so it’s a good idea to go to your doctor to figure out what’s going on.

Can STDs Make You Bleed During Sex?

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Some STDs have the side effect of making you bleed during or after sex. The main ones are Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Trichomoniasis. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are bacterial infections that can mess with your cervix, causing bleeding as well as other unpleasant side effects such as itching, burning, changes to your vaginal discharge, and pelvic pain. However lots of people don’t even know they have these, since only some people get symptoms. Luckily, you can get rid of these with antibiotics.

You may not have heard about trichomoniasis before, but it’s a tiny sexually transmitted parasite. Trichomoniasis infection can cause vaginitis, which is the fancy scientific term for inflammation or infection of the vagina. This can cause your vagina to bleed a little during or after sex — which makes sense, because your vaginal walls are already irritated! This parasitic STD also causes vaginal itching, pain during urination, and discharge that is smelly, frothy, foaming, and either yellow or gray-green in color. If this sounds like what you’re dealing with, don’t fret. Trichomoniasis is easily cleared up with an antibiotic.

Is Sex On Your Period Really OK?

Some people hold the erroneous belief that sex on your period is dangerous. In fact, it’s just the opposite! There are tons of health benefits to getting down when you’re on your monthly flow. For instance, did you know it can help alleviate cramps? Of course, period sex can be pretty messy, so if that squidges you out (or you’re quite partial to your white sheets) you can put down a towel first, or try sex in the shower.

Does Having Period Sex Leave You More Vulnerable To STDs?

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You can only get a sexually transmitted disease (STD) if you have sex with someone else who already has that STD. Being on your period doesn’t give you an STD. However, if you are on your period, are you more likely to get infected with an STD if the opportunity is present?

The answer is yes, due mostly to bodily changes that happen during your menstrual cycle. For instance, your cervix is more open at this time, which research has found might make it easier for you to get STDs that infect your upper cervix or uterus — so basically, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea. Also, it turns out that menstrual blood itself can irritate your vaginal walls, which can in turn make it easier for any STDs to enter your body through chafed or otherwise upset skin.

There are also some STDs that live in your blood (HIV and Hepatitis C are the main ones), and these are likelier to be transmitted during period sex — if your partner isn’t using a condom. That’s because they are just exposed to lots more blood, and therefore more of the STD. However, that’s the risk of you giving a blood-borne STD to them — not you getting one from them.

Overall, the research isn’t all that definitive about how much more likely you are to get (or transmit) an STD during period sex as opposed to non-period sex. However, some studies point to there being a higher chance of transmission (particularly for HIV and Hepatitis C), so it’s probably a good idea to make sure you’re using barrier protection during this time of the month — even though it’s very unlikely that you’ll get pregnant at this time.

Can Sex Make Your Period Come Sooner?

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Yes it can! When you’re having sex, more blood than usual flows to your pelvic area. (This is why your vagina can feel warmer, change color, etc.) After sex, your vagina relaxes, which can trigger your uterine lining to shed. This isn’t a surefire way to get your period to come, and only works when your body is nearly ready to menstruate on its own, but if you’re about to get it anyway, having sex could result in the start of your flow.

For those of you who are fluid bonded (aka you don’t use condoms so when you have sex with a penis, semen gets all up in there), sex can trigger your period in another way. Semen actually softens up your cervix, making it easier for sperm to pass through and get all up and personal with your egg. This can also start your period a bit early.

Can Sex Make Your Period End Earlier?

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Having sex on your period can shorten the length of your period. How does that work? Well, orgasms make your uterus contract, and these contractions expel the blood and uterine lining faster than it would on its own. So if you want to get that part of your cycle over with a bit earlier, call over that cute booty call, schedule a date night with your boyfriend, or power up your Hitachi and settle in for a solo night.

Why Do Some People Bleed The First Time They Have Sex But Others Don’t?

There’s a common misconception that everyone bleeds the first time they have penis-in-vagina (also called penetrative) sex. In fact, this was such “common knowledge” that back in the day, fathers used to take the sheets their daughters had just been devirginized (on the night of their marriage, of course) and hang them out the window to show everyone that they had done a great job keeping their daughters pure and virginal. But there’s a big problem with that, which is that not everyone bleeds the first time they have this type of sex. (Also, stop it dad. You’re really embarrassing me with that patriarchal bullshit.)

The common misconception is that the vagina is sealed over by the thin skin of the hymen, which the penis triumphantly pops/breaks/tears during devirginization. This is not true. Let me repeat that. This is not how the body works! What actually happens is that the hymen, which is a bunch of thin membranes that already comes with a hole (for most people) so that your period blood and discharge can come out, wear away over time in a totally natural manner. This happens because of hormones, years of vaginal discharge and periods flushing through, and physical activity or masturbation. So basically, life. Also, some people are born with very little or no hymen at all!

Why do some people bleed then? If you have penetrative sex for the first time when your hymen hasn’t worn away yet or is in the process of doing so, your hymen can tear — which would cause it to bleed a bit.

When Is Bleeding After Sex Dangerous?

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Bleeding a bit after sex is rarely dangerous, although it can indicate a medically dangerous underlying cause such as cancer. But if after sex you are bleeding a lot, that’s a different story. You could have a serious tear up there, or something else going on. If you are ever still bleeding a day after a sexual encounter, go see your doctor.  

The Bottom Line

We honestly just aren’t taught about all the different ways in which we bleed during, around, or because of sex. I mean, how many births do you see on TV that actually depict how gritty and bloody it often is? I’m going to estimate around zero. Maybe if people told us when we started having sex (or better yet, beforehand) that sometimes blood is a totally normal part of sex, we wouldn’t spend so much time privately flipping out about it. That said, if you are regularly bleeding after or during sex, it is probably a good idea to get checked out, just to make sure everything is healthy.