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It is common to bleed after participating in some sexual activities that involve the vagina. These include being fingered, which is when another person inserts their fingers into the vagina.

When a person becomes sexually aroused, the blood flow to the vagina increases. As a result, the person has a higher risk of bleeding from minor injuries, such as a scratch from a fingernail or irritation of the cervix.

If the bleeding is light, and there are no other symptoms, there is no need to panic.

In this article, we look at some of the reasons why a person might bleed after being fingered. We also explain when someone should see a doctor and what can help prevent this bleeding.

Some of the most common causes of bleeding during or after being fingered include:

Minor injuries

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During sexual activity, the increased blood flow to the vagina causes the tissue to swell and change shape.

Increased blood flow to the vagina when a person becomes aroused causes the tissue to swell and change shape.

This increased blood flow also raises the risk of bleeding from a minor injury or irritation that affects the vagina's delicate tissue.

A woman might feel mild pain or burning ahead of light bleeding.

If the bleeding is heavy or the pain is intense or lasts for more than a few hours, the injury could be more serious.

Cervical irritation

The cervix is the lower part of the uterus, and it forms a narrow passageway between the uterus and the vagina. Its position changes during the menstrual cycle, rising higher or lower in the vagina. During the times when it is lower in the vagina, deep fingering may irritate it, causing light bleeding.

It is also possible for the cervix to become inflamed, which is a condition called cervicitis. Although many conditions may cause cervicitis, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are the most common culprit.

A person with cervicitis may notice the following symptoms:

  • bleeding during or after sex or fingering
  • cervical pain
  • vaginal burning or itching
  • unusual vaginal discharge

During pregnancy, more blood vessels develop in the cervix, which makes it more likely that a person will bleed from irritation. Very light bleeding from fingering during pregnancy is usually due to cervical irritation rather than a serious health issue.

However, it is important to discuss any bleeding during pregnancy with a healthcare professional.

Menstruation and premenstrual spotting

Sometimes, bleeding after fingering or other sexual contact is a coincidence. The cause could be a monthly period or premenstrual spotting.

When a period begins, it takes some time for the blood to travel from the uterus, through the cervix, into the vagina, and out of the body. Sexual activity may lead a person to notice premenstrual spotting or period blood before they otherwise would, as their partner may contact the cervix or the menstrual blood.

Vaginal dryness

Dry vaginal tissue can bleed from irritation after fingering. When this happens, the individual may find that sexual contact feels painful or uncomfortable, and their partner may report that their vagina feels dry.

Some common causes of vaginal dryness include:

a rushed approach to sex that does not allow enough time for the vagina to become lubricated

STIs and vaginal infections

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A person with an STI may experience pelvic pain or unusual vaginal discharge.

Various STIs may cause bleeding by damaging the vaginal tissue. This damage can make the tissue more sensitive, increasing the risk of bleeding after fingering.

STIs do not always cause symptoms. If a person's vaginal bleeding is due to an STI, this may be the only symptom that they experience. However, some people may also have other signs and symptoms, such as:

  • pelvic pain
  • pain during sexual activity
  • pain when urinating
  • unusual vaginal discharge
  • infertility

Other infections, such as yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis, may cause a burning or itching sensation in the vagina or unusual vaginal discharge. Some people also experience bleeding after sexual contact.

A doctor can easily diagnose and treat vaginal infections, so it is best to schedule an appointment if any of these other symptoms occur.

Cervical polyps

Cervical polyps are growths on the cervix. They are usually small, but some grow larger, and a person or their partner may be able to feel them during sexual contact.

Most cervical polyps are not cancerous and cause no symptoms. For some people, irritation of cervical polyps during fingering or other sexual activities may cause them to bleed.

Doctors do not fully understand what causes cervical polyps, but they believe that various factors — including infections, problems with blood vessels, chronic inflammation, and unusual responses to hormones — may play a role. Although a polyp is not an emergency, it is important for a doctor to examine the growth.

Serious trauma

A serious injury to the vagina or cervix may cause severe bleeding. Without treatment, these injuries can lead to infections or chronic pain. In the most serious cases, such injuries can even be fatal.

Fingering alone is very unlikely to cause serious trauma. However, a violent sexual assault may cause severe traumatic injuries. A person should see a doctor following any significant injury to the vagina or for bleeding that does not stop.

Cancer

Very rarely, bleeding after fingering may be a sign of cancer — usually cervical cancer.

People with cervical cancer may experience pelvic pain, or they might notice vaginal bleeding after menopause. Attending regular cervical cancer screenings, including a Pap smear, can reduce a person's risk of developing cervical cancer.

Learn more about cervical cancer screening here.

A person who notices bleeding after being fingered should tell a doctor or another healthcare professional at their next medical appointment.

As long as the bleeding is light, does not get worse with each sex session, and does not accompany other symptoms, it is fine to wait until a regular checkup to discuss it.

However, a person should schedule an appointment with a doctor for any of the following:

  • bleeding that occurs with other symptoms, such as itching, burning, or pain
  • pain during intercourse
  • bleeding and a missed period
  • bleeding during pregnancy
  • bleeding with a new sexual partner or after unprotected sex

If the person experiences any of the following, they should go to the emergency room:

  • very heavy bleeding during pregnancy
  • pain or cramping along with bleeding during pregnancy
  • bleeding following any form of sexual assault
  • bleeding that is very heavy or does not stop after a few minutes
  • bleeding following an injury
  • bleeding along with intense pain
  • a fever or other signs of infection

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If a person has any unusual or painful symptoms, they should talk to a doctor.

To reduce the risk of bleeding during and after sexual contact, a person can try:

  • asking a partner to stop, slow down, or change their touch if fingering feels painful
  • waiting to feel fully aroused before beginning sexual contact, including fingering
  • ensuring that partners keep their nails trimmed
  • monitoring their monthly cycles to know when their period may be imminent and to help them decide whether they want to have sexual contact
  • getting regular STI tests
  • talking to a doctor about any unusual or painful symptoms
  • using a lubricant before fingering if they are experiencing vaginal dryness

People can purchase lubricants in stores or online.

Bleeding during fingering is common for some people, but it is important for a person to know their body and its typical symptoms.

Some people find that they bleed during sex before they get their period or if they are not sufficiently lubricated. For these individuals, this symptom is normal and unlikely to be a sign of a serious illness.

However, a change in this symptom pattern — such as bleeding throughout the cycle — may be an early warning sign of a problem.

It is impossible to determine the cause of bleeding based on this symptom alone. People who worry about bleeding or notice that their usual bleeding pattern has changed should see a doctor.

In many cases, a doctor may offer reassurance that the bleeding is not a cause for concern. However, if the bleeding is indicative of a more serious problem, early diagnosis and treatment are key.