Not the kind of burning love you had in mind.

Jazmine Polk
January 02, 2018

So you're enjoying the afterglow of a satisfying sex session when you realize your vagina feels sore and tender. The discomfort lasts at least a few hours or even into the next day. You know the action felt good in the moment, and your partner didn't do anything unusual. So what's going on?

You're not the only one feeling the burn after booty. Post-sex soreness is not uncommon, especially in younger women and newer couples, says Donnica Moore, MD, ob-gyn and president of Sapphire Women’s Health Group in New Jersey. If it lasts longer than 24 hours, it's a good idea to see your doctor to check for an infection. Yeast infections and some STDs are known to cause stinging and burning, she says, and those symptoms will likely feel worse after intercourse.

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But if the discomfort goes away before then, and it's not accompanied by red flags such as bleeding or unusual discharge, you can probably suss out the cause on your own. Read through this checklist of possible reasons for soreness after sex, plus the steps to take to keep it from happening again.

You aren’t aroused enough before sex

Chafing caused by a lack of lubrication during intercourse is the number one cause of post-sex soreness, says Dr. Moore. “Sometimes we get carried away in the heat of the moment and we don't always realize how much friction there may have been,” she tells Health. Even if you know you're in the mood and can't wait to start twisting the sheets, your body might need a little more time to catch up—and there's nothing weird or abnormal about that.

So before intercourse, make sure to indulge in lots of foreplay, enough so that your vagina swells with excitement and becomes sufficiently lubricated. How wet you get can be influenced by pregnancy, breastfeeding, and even where you are in your cycle. So if you need an assist, don't hesitate to use a silicone-based store-bought lube. And if you use condoms, keep the lubricated kind on hand, for extra wetness. 

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The sex is too rough

Part of the thrill of sex is experimenting with different positions. But in the rush and excitement of trying out some flexy and acrobatic moves, says Dr. Moore, it's very possible that you end up in a position that puts extra pressure on your vagina or vulva. That in turn can leave you feeling sore afterward.

While every woman's body is different, Dr. Moore suggests avoiding having sex from behind, which she says can create that extra pressure and friction at the vaginal entrance. And always let your partner know if he's going to fast or penetrating you at an angle that just doesn't quite work for your body.

It’s an allergic reaction

It's not a sex myth: You really can be allergic to your partner’s semen. The condition is medically known as "human seminal plasma protein hypersensitivity," and though it's rare, it happens, says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of ob-gyn at Yale School of Medicine. “There’s no way to test for a semen allergy, so I typically tell my patients to experiment with condoms to see if the symptoms disappear,” she tells Health.

Some women experience an allergic reaction to sex-related products, such as latex condoms, scented or flavored lubricants, and spermicides. If you suspect an allergy from one of these items, Dr. Minkin suggests immediately rinsing your vagina to cleanse away the allergens and see if that helps. Then stop using the product that you think is triggering your symptoms, she advises.

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You have a cyst

In extreme cases, post-sex soreness could be due to a Bartholin's cyst—a benign, fluid-filled growth that blocks one of the two Bartholin's glands situated on either side of the vagina. These twin glands secrete fluid to help lubricate the vagina before intercourse. If a Bartholin's cyst is the culprit, you'll only feel the burn on one side, and you might see a small, ball-shaped growth just inside the vaginal opening. “If a Bartholin's gland gets blocked, there can be swelling," says Dr. Moore. "But it would be unlikely that would happen uniformly on both sides.”

If you think you have a Bartholin's cyst, Dr. Minkin recommends sitting in a warm tub, which will help drain the fluid. If that doesn't work, check in with your ob-gyn, who can send it packing by surgically draining the cyst—so you can get back in the saddle again, soreness-free.