The vagina may become sore during or after sex for several reasons. Causes may include friction, infections, allergies, and trauma. Treatment can depend on the cause.

Treatments vary depending on the cause. If the pain is due to psychological reasons, such as psychologically induced vaginal tightening, counseling may be a good option. However, if the pain is due to a latex allergy, a person may find that switching condoms helps reduce the pain.

This article discusses why a person’s vagina may feel sore after sex and what they can do to alleviate or prevent the pain.

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A person may experience a sore vagina after sex for a variety of reasons.

The following sections will look at some potential causes of vaginal soreness after sex in more detail.

1. A lack of lubrication

A common cause of pain during or after sexual intercourse is a lack of lubrication. The vagina creates lubrication naturally, both to clean itself and when a person is aroused.

However, although vaginal dryness is common following menopause, low estrogen levels can cause it to occur at any age.

Using lubricated condoms and oil-free lubricants can help with reducing pain during and after sex.

2. A general lack of arousal

In some cases, a person may not feel in the mood, or they may not be fully prepared to have sex with their partner.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), engaging in penetration when not aroused or ready can make sex uncomfortable or painful, both during and after intercourse.

3. Low estrogen levels

Estrogen levels fluctuate significantly over the course of a person’s life, such as during puberty, menopause, and pregnancy.

These fluctuations can result in low estrogen, which may cause symptoms such as pain during sex, hot flashes, fatigue, or mood shifts.

Treatment options vary but may include hormonal therapies.

4. Menopause

The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) say that menopause leads to vaginal dryness, a tighter vaginal opening, and the thinning of the vaginal walls. This lack of lubrication and flexibility can cause painful sexual encounters.

A person should talk to their doctor about potential treatment options and use lubricated condoms or a lubricant during sex.

5. Previous injury

Sustaining injuries to the vagina may cause sex to become painful or uncomfortable.

For example, giving birth to a large baby may tear the vagina and cause scar tissue to form, resulting in pain during intercourse. A person should talk to their doctor about possible treatments for scar tissue in the vagina.

6. Latex allergies

A latex allergy can cause burning, itchiness, and pain if a partner uses a latex condom.

If a person has an allergy, they should try to use alternatives to latex condoms, such as polyisoprene condoms, internal condoms, or polyurethane condoms.

7. Skin conditions

According to the ACOG, certain skin conditions — such as contact dermatitis — may cause skin cracking or ulcers near the vulva.

This cracking could result in pain during or after sexual intercourse. A person would need to avoid certain irritants to prevent the skin from reacting.

This may include avoiding certain skin care products, clothing, and even some lubricants.

8. Vulvodynia

Vulvodynia is a condition that causes pain in the vulva. According to the ACOG, the pain tends to be located at the opening of the vagina.

Medications or surgery may be necessary to treat this condition.

9. Ovarian cysts

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that grow on the ovaries. They can cause several symptoms, including pelvic pain, pain during sex, and difficulty urinating.

The Office on Women’s Health (OWH) explain that a doctor may prescribe pain relievers or hormonal birth control to relieve the symptoms of troublesome ovarian cysts.

In more severe cases, wherein the cyst is causing considerable pain and will not go away, surgery may be necessary.

10. Vaginismus

Vaginismus causes the muscle between the vaginal opening and the opening of the anus to spasm involuntarily.

The NAMS explain that vaginismus can make penetration difficult and cause pain during or after sex.

Some treatment options for this condition include:

  • physical therapy
  • biofeedback
  • vaginal dilators
  • cognitive behavioral psychotherapy
  • relaxation exercises
  • certain medications

11. Vaginitis

Vaginitis is a bacterial or fungal infection that causes inflammation in the vagina. Symptoms can include odorous discharge, itchiness, and pain.

For a bacterial infection, a doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics, and for a fungal infection, they may prescribe antifungal medication.

Many women do not present with symptoms of vaginitis. In some cases, they will only find out that they have an infection during a routine gynecological exam.

12. Urinary tract infections

A urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when bacteria from the anus or skin travel up the urethra and into the bladder or kidneys.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UTIs have similar symptoms to some sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Therefore, a person should speak to their doctor if they think they have a UTI or have symptoms such as:

  • frequent urination
  • pain or burning when urinating
  • blood in the urine

A doctor will treat a UTI with antibiotics after conducting a urine test and a physical exam.

13. Bladder inflammation

Bladder inflammation, or interstitial cystitis, is a chronic condition that causes an irritated or inflamed bladder wall.

Some common symptoms include a feeling of pressure or pain around the bladder or pelvis, a frequent need to urinate, and pain during sex.

Treatments do not cure the condition, but they can provide some relief. Some options include medication, bladder training, and surgery.

14. Prolapsed bladder

The pelvic floor muscles and tissues provide support for the bladder. Over time or due to injury, this support can weaken, causing the bladder to push through into the vagina.

Though some people may not experience symptoms, some common ones — according to the Urology Care Foundation — include pain in the vagina, frequent UTIs, and pain during sex.

Treatments may include surgery, therapies to strengthen the pelvic floor, and medication.

15. Chlamydia

Chlamydia is an STI that may go unnoticed for some people. However, the CDC indicate that other people may experience burning during urination, abnormal discharge from the vagina, or pain during sexual intercourse.

Doctors typically treat chlamydia with antibiotics.

16. Herpes

Herpes is an STI that causes open sores to develop on the genitals.

According to the CDC, there is currently no cure for herpes, but medications can help reduce the number and severity of outbreaks a person experiences.

17. Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is also an STI. It does not always present with symptoms, but without treatment, it can cause serious complications, such as infertility.

According to the CDC, some common symptoms of gonorrhea include:

  • an increase in vaginal discharge
  • burning or pain during urination
  • bleeding between periods
  • pain during sex

Doctors can treat gonorrhea with medication, but this cannot correct damage such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can develop if a person does not seek treatment for gonorrhea.

Drug resistant strains of gonorrhea are now more common, so it is getting more difficult to treat this infection. If the infection is not responding well to treatment, or if the person’s symptoms are not improving, it is important to contact a doctor.

18. Lichen sclerosus

Lichen sclerosus is a rare chronic condition that causes inflammation of the skin around the external areas of the genitals. It typically occurs before puberty or after menopause.

According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, lichen sclerosus can cause pain, burning, and itching. It often requires aggressive treatment using topical steroids to help minimize scarring.

There is currently no cure, so treatment will continue for the duration of a person’s life.

19. Endometriosis

Endometriosis occurs when tissue similar to the inner lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus.

The OWH list several possible endometriosis symptoms, including:

  • pain during and after sexual intercourse
  • infertility
  • general pain in the pelvic area
  • digestive issues
  • bleeding or spotting

Treatment may consist of pain medication, hormone therapy, or surgery to remove the growths.

20. Previous sexual abuse

Survivors of sexual abuse may associate sex with pain, which may cause vaginal tightening and tension during sexual intercourse.

If this is the case, a person may wish to speak to their doctor. They may refer them to a psychiatrist or pelvic floor physical therapist, who can help the person relieve any tension in their pelvic floor muscles.

Learn more about trauma here.

A person should talk to their doctor if they experience painful sex or pain after sex that does not get better with lubricant use or another form of treatment.

They should also see their doctor if they experience additional symptoms, such as itchiness, burning, or foul smelling discharge.

There are many potential causes of vaginal soreness after sexual intercourse. The cause can determine how a person prevents future soreness and treats the problem.

A person should talk to their doctor about their options if they experience pain during or after sex, particularly if other symptoms accompany the pain.