A burning sensation after sex is a type of dyspareunia, which is also known as painful sex. Someone may typically experience this due to a lack of lubrication, or with severe friction. However, other causes may require medical attention.
It is more prevalent in females than in males, and is common after menopause and in the postpartum period. Many medical conditions can trigger it, while doctors are not always able to find a direct cause.
In this article, we discuss the causes of burning after sex, preventative measures, and when to see a doctor.
- Anatomical differences: The shape of a partner’s genitals could irritate someone’s skin, and cause a burning sensation.
- Allergies and skin irritation: Allergies to latex, lubricants, lotions, and perfumes may irritate the genitals. Friction may also be a factor, especially when there is not enough lubrication.
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs): Certain STIs, such as gonorrhea or trichomoniasis, may cause burning during or after intercourse.
- Lack of lubrication: When there is inadequate lubrication, sex can be painful for either partner. The pain tends to be worse in the female and may cause burning after sex.
- Psychological and relationship factors: Some people experience pain during or after sex, because of anxiety or distress about sex, the relationship, or past sexual experiences. Sometimes psychological stress may cause a person to unconsciously tense up, and make sex uncomfortable.
- Rough sex: Rough sex, especially without enough lubrication, can irritate the skin.
- Sexual position: Some positions may irritate the skin or cause pain. Others may intensify the pain of other conditions. For example, positions that allow deep penetration that stimulates the cervix can be painful. In a female who has cervicitis, the pain may be worse after sex.
- Infections: Various infections can cause burning or pain. These include prostatitis in males, urinary tract infections, urethritis, or yeast infections that can occur in both males and females. Females may also experience bacterial vaginosis.
It is not always possible to prevent pain during sex, but some strategies that may help include:
- Switching positions: People can track what types of sex and positions seem to cause burning. Some may notice that the burning is worse after long sex sessions without lubrication, or friction from a specific position. If intercourse is painful, people may prefer to focus on oral sex.
- Using more lubrication: Dryness increases friction, which can irritate the skin. If burning occurs after using a specific lubricant, a person can try switching products. Beware of those with perfumes or flavoring agents.
- Communicating: Some people feel uncomfortable expressing their sexual wishes, or talking about sexual pain. Open communication makes it easier to experiment and find what works. Some couples find help from sex or couples counseling.
- Practicing safer sex: Practicing safer sex may reduce the risk of getting sexually-transmitted diseases and STIs.
- Switching to latex-free condoms: People may wish to use condoms that do not contain spermicide, as someone could have a spermicide allergy.
- Considering physical therapy: Some injuries to the genitals, especially vaginal tears from giving birth, may cause chronic pain. Pelvic floor exercises may ease this pain.
- Using a cold compress or ice pack: While not preventive, using a cold compress or ice pack may help to relieve burning symptoms.
Several reasons can cause males to experience a burning sensation during or after sex. These include:
Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate. The acute form of this condition usually appears suddenly, due to an infection. Some males with prostatitis experience burning during or after sex, or burning when they ejaculate or urinate.
The chronic form of prostatitis develops slowly over time. It may come and go or get steadily worse. Males with this condition can find it painful or difficult to urinate, and may experience erectile dysfunction.
Both types of prostatitis are treatable. Acute prostatitis usually responds to antibiotics, though chronic prostatitis can be more tricky to manage. It often requires a comprehensive treatment approach.
It is also possible for a yeast infection to affect males. They may experience an itching and burning feeling on the penis. Antifungal medication usually helps resolve this infection.
Injuries to the penis
An injury to the penis may make sex painful. For example, friction from sex may irritate a cut or scrape, and cause burning on the skin’s surface. Bruising and internal injuries may also hurt more after sex.
A female may experience a burning sensation during or after sex for the following reasons:
Various vaginal infections may cause pain during and after sex. Sometimes, they might not notice the pain during sex, even if it is there.
Vaginal yeast infections can cause itching and burning, a cottage cheese-like discharge, and vaginal pain. Sex may make them worse, though antifungal treatments can usually clear up this infection.
Bacterial vaginosis, a bacterial infection of the vagina, may also cause pain during or after sex, plus itching or burning. Some may even notice a fishy odor during or after sex. While the infection sometimes resolves on its own, it can return. Antibiotics can help treat it.
Vulvodynia is a chronic pain condition that causes pain in the vagina or vulva, usually near the vagina’s opening. The type of pain and its triggers vary from person to person. Sex is a common trigger. Because of this, people may need to treat the condition with a combination of medications.
Without sufficient lubrication, sex may feel painful. After sex, a person may notice burning. In some cases, the lack of lubrication may cause vaginal injuries. This can happen for several reasons, including:
- prolonged sex that causes a female’s body to stop producing lubrication
- hormonal changes linked to giving birth
- anxiety about sex or the relationship
- certain medications, including some antidepressants
A vaginal injury can cause intense pain during and after sex. Giving birth is a common factor. In the immediate postpartum period, females commonly report vaginal pain, including pain related to sex. This pain may present in many forms, such as burning during or after sex.
Sometimes the pain persists for months or even years. A consultation with a pelvic pain specialist or physical therapist may help.
Some females find that sexual acts that make contact with their cervix are painful. There may be burning that feels like it is deep in the vagina or stomach, which can sometimes continue after sex. Some STDs, such as gonorrhea, can cause inflammation of the cervix, which is called cervicitis.
Pain after sex can be alarming, but it does not always indicate a serious problem. If it happens once, or if someone can recognize an obvious cause, such as lubricant allergy, it is safe to manage symptoms at home.
However, people should see a doctor if:
- they experience chronic pain, not just after sex
- their pain gets worse over several days
- their pain is unbearable
- they have other symptoms, such as a fever, or burning when they urinate
- home remedies do not relieve the pain
Sex does not have to be painful, and no-one should have to live with post-sex pain.
There are many potential causes of a burning sensation after sex. People may treat some of these at home, while other issues need medical attention.
If symptoms do not go away, a person can seek help from a doctor who specializes in sexual pain.