It is not uncommon to bleed after intercourse. It can happen for many reasons, such as vaginal dryness, an injury, or polyps. Bleeding can also indicate a more serious condition, however, such as endometriosis or cancer.

An estimated 0.7 to 9% of menstruating women experience postcoital bleeding, primarily from the cervix.

Postcoital bleeding refers to genital bleeding after intercourse. The medical community typically uses this term to describe bleeding from the vagina

The source of this bleeding tends to be more varied in women who are no longer menstruating.

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Common causes of bleeding after sex include:


The friction and abrasion of intercourse can cause small tears and cuts in sensitive genital tissues.

Childbirth can also cause vaginal tissues to stretch and tear, sometimes making them more vulnerable to injury.

On the first occurrence of sexual intercourse, a small flap of vaginal skin called the hymen is often stretched and broken. The minor bleeding this causes can last from a couple to around 10 days.

However, while some people experience bleeding and pain, others do not.

Vaginal dryness

Vaginal dryness is among the most common causes of postcoital bleeding. When the skin is dry it becomes extremely vulnerable to damage. Mucus-producing tissues, such as those in the vagina, are especially vulnerable.

Common causes of vaginal dryness include:

  • Genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM): Once called vaginal atrophy, GSM refers to reduced lubrication, thickness, and elasticity of vaginal tissue.
  • Childbirth and breast-feeding: During pregnancy, estrogen levels are very high. However, they drop almost immediately after childbirth, because estrogen can interfere with the production of breast milk.
  • Medications that interfere with estrogen or dehydrate the body: Vaginal dryness can result from taking anti-estrogen medications, cold or flu medications, steroids, sedatives, several antidepressants, and calcium or beta channel blockers.
  • Ovary damage or removal: Severe accidents that damage the ovaries, or conditions that lead to their removal, destroy the body’s biggest source of estrogen.
  • Chemicals and other irritants: Allergens and chemicals in hot tubs, pools, products such as laundry detergents, scented lubricants, and condoms can all cause dryness.
  • Douching: Douching can irritate and dry vaginal tissues.
  • Engaging in intercourse before arousal: During sexual arousal, vaginal tissues secrete natural lubricants, which help to prevent dryness and damaging friction during intercourse.


Any type of infection can cause inflammation of vaginal tissues, making them more vulnerable to damage. These commonly include:

Cervical or endometrial polyps or fibroids

Polyps and fibroids are tiny noncancerous growths. They commonly grow on the lining of the cervix or uterus, especially in menstruating people, and can cause pain and bleeding.

Cervical ectropion

Glandular cells from the inside of the cervical canal can abnormally grow on the outside of the cervix. This condition is called cervical ectropion and usually clears up without treatment, but it can cause spotting and vaginal bleeding.


Endometriosis causes endometrial tissues, the tissues that line the uterus, to grow outside of the uterus. This can cause inflammation, usually in the pelvic region and lower abdomen.

Cervical dysplasia

Cervical dysplasia occurs when abnormal, precancerous cells grow in the lining of the cervical canal, which is the opening separating the vagina and uterus. These growths can irritate and eventually damage surrounding tissues, especially during intercourse.

Anatomical abnormalities

Some people have differently shaped reproductive organs, which may increase the likelihood of painful friction and tearing.

Bleeding disorders

Diseases that cause abnormal bleeding or clotting can increase the risk of postcoital bleeding. Blood-thinning medications may also have this effect.


Cancers that impact the reproductive system or urogenital tract can alter vaginal tissues and hormone levels, making them more vulnerable to damage. Postcoital bleeding is considered a common symptom of both cervical and uterine cancers.

Common risk factors for postcoital bleeding include:

  • tears from childbirth
  • vulvar and vaginal cancers
  • trauma to the vulvar
  • vulvar skin conditions
  • vaginal dryness
  • dehydration
  • aggressive intercourse
  • anxiety or reluctance around intercourse and intimacy
  • lack of sexual experience
  • vaginal or uterine infections
  • douching

There are no national or international guidelines doctors use to diagnose or manage postcoital bleeding.

Many medical professionals will ask questions about individual and family medical histories and perform a full physical exam.

Additional tests may include:

If a doctor can not determine the cause of problematic bleeding, they may refer a woman to a gynecologist.

Talk with a doctor any time postcoital bleeding is severe, frequent, or continues for more than a few hours after intercourse.

Also speak with a doctor if postcoital bleeding is accompanied by additional symptoms, including:

In many cases, there is no single clear cause of postcoital bleeding, so there is no direct course of treatment.

Potential treatment options include:

  • vaginal moisturizers
  • antibiotics for infections caused by bacteria, such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia
  • medications for viral infections
  • surgical removal, cryotherapy, or electrocautery in cases of cervical ectropion
  • removal of polyps, especially those that cause significant bleeding or appear abnormal
  • surgery or therapy for cancer
  • low-dose vaginal estrogen therapy, in the form of creams, suppositories, or rings, for vaginal dryness

Pregnancy, childbirth, and breast-feeding all cause major hormonal changes, most of which can make vaginal tissues more prone to damage. During pregnancy, minor bleeding during or after intercourse is common.

Talk with a doctor about any form of heavy or prolonged bleeding during early pregnancy. Seek immediate medical care for bleeding during the late pregnancy, as it can be a sign of preterm labor.

Minor postcoital bleeding can often not be prevented. However, the following actions tend to greatly reduce the severity and frequency of bleeding.

Prevention will depend on its cause, but tips include:

  • staying hydrated
  • using water- or silicon-based lubricants during foreplay and intercourse.
  • avoiding aggressive sexual acts
  • using vaginal moisturizers on a daily basis
  • avoiding scented or flavored feminine products
  • always using condoms, especially when engaging with different sexual partners
  • talking with sexual partners about anxieties and reluctance surrounding intercourse
  • trying to become aroused before engaging in intercourse
  • seeking medical advice and treatment for suspected infections
  • using natural remedies that have been scientifically shown to help reduce vaginal dryness

It may also be beneficial to consume foods rich in plant estrogens or phytoestrogens.

Foods rich in phytoestrogens include:

Below are some commonly asked questions about bleeding after sex.

Is it normal to bleed a little after sex?

An estimated 0.7 to 9% of menstruating women experience bleeding after sex. Common reasons for this include the friction of intercourse and vaginal dryness.

Can sex trigger a period?

No, having sex does not induce a person’s period. However, a person may experience bleeding after sex unrelated to their menstrual cycle. This may be due to an infection, the friction of intercourse, or vaginal dryness.

Is it normal to bleed after sex postpartum?

A person’s vagina may be drier and more sensitive in the first few weeks following childbirth. In turn, it is possible a person who is postpartum and experiencing vaginal dryness may bleed after sex.

Bleeding after sexual intercourse is a common occurrence, especially in people who are no longer menstruating or who have ovarian conditions.

In people who are menstruating, postcoital bleeding normally stops on its own. However, severe, chronic, or complicated cases require medical attention.

People who experience postcoital bleeding during periods of hormonal changes, such as menopause, pregnancy, or breast-feeding, should also talk with a doctor.