We know our own vaginas so well. And our up close (come one, we can’t be the only ones who’ve held a mirror to it) and personal experience with our own vaginas can sometimes leave us wondering if certain post-sex symptoms are or aren’t normal.
There’s nothing worse than when your vagina is not passing the vibe check. Judge our seemingly dramatic claim if you must, (“Kim, there's people that are dying.”), but vaginal irritation, dryness and reactions can be a major health and lifestyle setback.
You already know you can count on LOLA for vaginal health essentials, and today we’re taking it a step further to talk about the primary causes of vaginal irritation after sex and the possible treatment options that exist.
Vaginal Irritation After Sex
Vaginal irritation after sex can easily be triggered due to how sensitive both the vagina and vulva are. Many things can irritate your delicate area, ranging from dryness to external irritants to infections. The importance of addressing this issue for sexual health and comfort is critical, particularly if the irritation requires medical attention and/or treatment.
Common Causes of Vaginal Irritation After Sex
Vaginal irritation can occur for a number of reasons beyond just post-sex discomfort, including dryness, allergic reactions, and even infections. It is important to know the common causes so to plan for your overall comfort and wellbeing, pre and post sex.
Knowing there are major differences between regular post-sex discomfort and significant irritation can 1. validate that no, you don’t have to power through untreated discomfort just because you're “super sensitive” and 2. affirm your health intellect when it comes to bodily changes you’re going through to bring to your doctor’s attention for help to stay healthy.
Our vaginas are meant to be moist, and usually during sexual arousal, vaginas can produce their own natural lubrication. However, if enough natural lubrication is not produced, vaginal dryness makes intercourse uncomfortable, and can lead to discomfort and irritation after sex according to Dr. Celeste A. Green, an OB-GYN at Baylor College of Medicine. On top of itchiness and irritation, you may also experience redness and soreness.
It's possible you have a latex allergy if you use latex condoms with your partner and are experiencing itchiness. Itching, redness, or a rash in the vaginal region can all occur due to a latex allergy according to Dr. Maria Sophocles, an OB-GYN and the medical director of Women's Healthcare of Princeton. It’s also possible that you can have an allergic reaction to your partner’s bodily fluids during sexual intercourse. For example, there are proteins naturally present in sperm that can trigger symptoms.
Sexually transmitted infections can lead to lots of issues. STI stands for “sexually transmitted infection” and STD stands for “sexually transmitted disease,” but no matter which term is used, the reference implies the same thing: infections that get passed from one person to another during sex. Vaginal infections like genital herpes, bacterial vaginosis (BV) and yeast infections can also cause a lot of itching, in addition to painful sex, painful or burning sensation while peeing, discolored vaginal discharge, unusual vaginal discharge pain, and spotting between periods.
How to Prevent Vaginal Irritation
When you’re physically, mentally, and/or emotionally overwhelmed, getting and staying in the mood can feel like a stressful job. Taking prevention measures can help make sex more enjoyable and give you a greater sense of control over your mood and how it impacts your lifestyle.
One way to help keep moisture up is by using a generous amount of lubricant when you're having sex to prevent dryness-related irritation during and after. If you're using condoms, water or silicon-based lubes are ideal to help reduce the risk of possible damage or breakage to the condom. Furthermore, did you know there are some medications, like birth control and antidepressants, and diseases, like diabetes, that increase vaginal dryness? If your vaginal dryness does not respond to lube, please talk to your doctor about your symptoms.
Applying an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to the external area, or taking an oral antihistamine can reduce itching. If you have a latex allergy, try condoms made of other sources to reduce irritation.
Prolonged symptoms and severe discomfort, that indicate when vaginal irritation may require professional medical attention. Mild itching after sex that only lasts a couple of days is usually not serious. If your symptoms persist or are severe, see a healthcare provider. You may have an allergy, infection, or STD that requires testing and treatment.
Based on the type of infection, treatment options can include anti-fungal medication, herpes tablets, probiotic supplements, antibiotics, and more. Speak to your healthcare provider to the find the right option for you."
Remedies for Vaginal Irritation After Sex
Don’t assume your symptoms will disappear or get better without help. The good news for people experiencing vaginal irritation after sex? There are plenty of home remedies to help bring you comfort.
Keep your private parts clean, and do not douce. Instead, opt for products that are safe for sensitive skin, and try external cleansers like our Cleansing Wash or Cleansing Wipes to stay fresh and not disrupt your vagina's natural balance. The vagina is self-cleaning, so there’s no need to “wash it out,” even after sex. Using water and a mild soap to clean your vulva (the outside parts of your genitals) is all that’s needed.
Avoid sex, especially vigorous sex, until your symptoms are gone. This will help reduce pain in your sore vagina and reduce irritation on your vaginal opening and vaginal tissues. A sore vagina after sex is rarely an emergency and is often temporary. If sexual penetration gets a little rough, you may feel some pain or discomfort, both in your vagina and around the vulva. The friction and extra pressure can inflame the sensitive tissue.
Especially avoid latex condoms until you know whether you are or are not allergic.
You can also try an over-the-counter treatment or cream if you’re dealing with a suspected infection like a yeast infection.
Lastly, soothe an irritated vagina by wearing cotton underwear. Cotton is more breathable than other synthetic fabrics, so if your discomfort is caused by an infection, wearing cotton underwear can help during your healing process.
When to Seek Medical Help for Vaginal Irritation
Regardless of the cause of your itchiness, make sure to wait until your vagina is healed up before having sex again to avoid even further irritation. Other underlying causes like weakened pelvic floor muscles, perimenopause or menopause may be the issue, and require PT or a vaginal estrogen cream.
Still have questions?
Vaginal irritation after sex poses a lot of pain and ponder. People also ask “Is it normal to be irritated down there after sex?” and “How long does post sex irritation last?”, and we get it. You want specifics, but the tricky part is that the answers to these questions are unique for each puzzled person, us included.
Most vaginal irritation after sex can be resolved with a combination of at-home remedies. Take your time during trial and error to find what works best for you. Your health and wellness is the priority, so be patient with yourself. Some months, different remedies may work better than others, depending on your lifestyle, changing hormone levels, diet, partner and more.
If the itchiness is persistent and accompanied by other symptoms and you think it could be an infection, see your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment. Even if you get your symptoms to be more mild, and have tried a combination of home remedies and over the counter treatments, you should still see a doctor to be evaluated and review your symptoms and attempted remedies. This will help your doctor start a timeline of events to build from as you begin to receive expert medical help and treatment.
Some people with a vagina may experience anxiety after having painful sexual penetration, preventing them from experiencing sexual pleasure or being able to relax during intercourse. Sex therapy may help them overcome and manage their anxiety.
Lastly, plan to see your PCP/OBGYN regularly. Preventive care appointments (including your annual check-up and well visit) are the perfect time to talk to your doctor about your vaginal health according to Dr. Navya Mysore, a primary care physician, women's health specialist and LOLA expert. Remember, sexual penetration should never be painful, and even if post-sexual vaginal irritation, even if it goes away quickly.
Always talk with your healthcare provider about pain you’re experiencing to treat the issue that’s causing the pain and prevent it from happening in the future.