Why Does My Vagina Burn When I Have Sex?

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The good news is that burning in the vulva after sex is rarely a cause for concern. But it’s always worth consulting a doctor if the problem persists.

The female body produces a natural lubricant when aroused, which can help avoid pain and burning during sex. But if this lubrication isn’t present, there are other reasons your vagina may burn during and after sex.

Dryness

A dry vaginal area is a common cause of pain during sex. Your body produces a natural lubricant to reduce friction in the vulva, but sometimes it doesn’t make enough. Using a water-based lubricant can help.

Your vulva can also feel dry due to medications (including some birth control pills and some cancer treatments) and conditions like sjogren’s syndrome. Other causes of dryness include having a urinary tract infection, a vaginal yeast infection and certain types of vaginal discharge.

Ob-gyns also say that allergies can cause vaginal burning. For example, if you’re allergic to latex or the spermicidal lubricant in condoms, that could cause pain and burning during and after sexual intercourse. You can try switching brands or lubricants to see if that helps. Or you may have a reaction to a perfumed soap or spray that you use inside your vagina. You can also have an allergy to a detergent or fabric softener that you wash your underwear with.

Irritation

Itching in the genital area can be caused by many different things. It can be a reaction to chemical irritants in perfumed soaps or body sprays, sanitary products or condoms. Itching can also be a sign of vaginitis. This is when there are organisms (usually bacteria) that are causing the itching. It can also be a result of inflammation in the area or it can be due to an allergy to something in the environment such as pollen, dust or chemicals.

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It can also be a sign of an imbalance or overgrowth of ‘bad’ bacteria in the vulva called thrush or bacterial vaginosis. Other causes include friction from rough sex or not using a barrier method during sex.

If you are experiencing itching in the vulva, speak to your doctor as they can help you diagnose the cause and recommend suitable treatment. They may ask to check your vulva and/or take a sample of discharge.

Infections

Sometimes a problem with the vaginal area like bacterial vaginosis or a urinary tract infection can lead to burning during sex. Other infections can also cause this sensation, such as trichomoniasis, which is an STI caused by a fungus called Trichomonas vaginalis. It usually causes a white or yellow, foul-smelling discharge and itching around the vulva and pain when you pee.

Sexually transmitted diseases like herpes, chlamydia and gonorrhoea can cause burning during sex, too. If you’re experiencing this sensation, speak to a doctor or sexual health clinic for advice and treatment.

Allergies can also cause vaginal burning, particularly if you’re allergic to the lubrication you use during intercourse or a latex condom. You can try switching to a different type of lube or a water-based condom. You can also try using gentle soaps and intimate feminine hygiene products that are fragrance-free. In more extreme cases, sperm allergies can also cause vaginal burning.

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Allergies

On a daily basis, your vulva and vaginal skin come into contact with a lot of allergens that can cause irritation and sensitivity. The most common allergens to affect the vulva include latex, lubricants and spermicides, sex toys made from certain materials and fragranced soaps and wash products. In rare cases, an allergy to sperm can also occur.

The vaginal area is a very porous body part, so it absorbs a lot of these allergens quickly and easily. A reaction to these allergens can cause inflammation, redness and burning.

If you notice any of these symptoms, try switching to a natural, unscented lubricant like glycerin or something with no added chemicals. If you’re still experiencing pain, talk to your doctor or pelvic floor physical therapist about it. Your doctor can recommend ways to treat your symptoms and help you find the allergy triggers that are causing them.

Fissures

Rough sex or inserting a foreign object (like a dildo) into the vagina or anus can cause tiny cuts that lead to burning and pain. This is called fissures, and it’s more common in women who are premenopausal or postmenopausal. It can also be caused by a lack of lubrication or by certain skin conditions, like lichen sclerosus.

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If you’re experiencing burning during or after sex and it’s occurring often enough that it is impacting your life, make an appointment with your doctor. They can help you figure out the cause and provide treatment options, such as a prescription for lubricant or pelvic floor physical therapy to relieve tension in your muscles.

It’s important to note that while a burning sensation during sex is annoying, it should not be painful. If it is, you should seek medical help to determine a diagnosis and treat the problem as soon as possible.

Lack of Arousal

It’s probably no surprise to hear that pain and burning sensations during sex can be caused by a lack of natural lubrication. This can be the result of tight pelvic muscles, medication or even a STI such as herpes, gonorrhea or chlamydia. Luckily, most STIs are easily treated with antibiotics and can be prevented by using a condom and practicing abstinence until you’ve been cleared.

Alternatively, if you’re in the middle of menopause or are post-menopausal and experiencing painful sex, it could be a sign of endometriosis (tissue growth around the vulva). Again, a trip to your GP is the best route to take here.

Vaginal burning and itchiness may also be caused by certain fabrics, soaps or lotions you use on your vulva. Try eliminating these products for a few days to see if this helps. You can also switch to a different brand or type of condom as latex allergies are common.

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