You’ve just finished having sex with your partner, when you look down and see blood on the sheets. You don’t have your period and aren’t supposed to get it anytime soon, so what gives?
While vaginal bleeding after sex can be scary, it’s also fairly common. It affects up to 9% of menstruating women. There’s probably no cause for concern. But it can also result from an infection. In rare cases, it’s a sign of cervical cancer.
Causes of Bleeding After Sex
The most common causes for vaginal bleeding after sex both start in the cervix, which is the narrow, tube-like end of your uterus that opens into the vagina.
One of those causes is cervical inflammation, or cervicitis. It can be ongoing and totally harmless, or it can happen because of a sexually transmitted infection that you need to get treated, like chlamydia or gonorrhea. Both types of cervical inflammation can cause bleeding after sex.
A second common reason for bleeding after sex are cervical polyps. These growths are usually small — about 1 to 2 centimeters. They often appear on your cervix where it connects to the vagina. Most aren’t cancerous. Your doctor can remove them during an appointment.
Other causes of vaginal bleeding after sex include:
- Friction during sex or not enough lubrication
- Normal uterine bleeding if you’re just beginning your period or if it’s just ended
- A cervical or vaginal infection
- Genital sores caused by herpes or another condition
- A precancerous cervical spot
- Cervical ectropion (when the inner lining of the cervix pokes through the cervical opening and grows on the vaginal side of the cervix)
- Pelvic organ prolapse (when pelvic organs, like the bladder or uterus, jut beyond the vaginal walls)
- Cancer of the cervix, vagina, or uterus
Dryness caused by these things can also lead to vaginal bleeding:
- Some cold, allergy, and anti-estrogen medications
- Cancer therapy and its effect on your ovaries
- Sjögren’s syndrome
While many of these causes don’t need treatment and are harmless, sometimes vaginal bleeding after sex can be a sign of a more serious problem.