Vaginal burning is a common symptom that can occur after sexual intercourse. It sometimes happens along with other uncomfortable symptoms.

Most causes of vaginal burning after sex are easily treatable.

This article will look at the possible causes of vaginal burning and some ways to prevent this unpleasant sensation.

A couple cuddles after sex and the woman experiences vaginal burning, which she will address with her partner.Share on Pinterest
Although some cases of vaginal burning will resolve by themselves, many cases require medical treatment.
Image credit: Lena Mirisola/Getty Images

There are a few possible causes of vaginal burning after sex. The sections below will discuss these in more detail.

Friction

Excess friction can occur during rough sex or when people have sex for an extended period of time.

The vagina will usually lubricate itself following sexual arousal. This will increase comfort during sex and should minimize the risk of any friction that could result in a burning sensation.

However, vaginal dryness is a very common sexual issue.

Allergies

Some people may have allergies to condoms. The allergy may be due to spermicidal lube on the condom or latex.

People can also have allergies to a variety of personal care products, including feminine hygiene products.

Another allergy that can cause vaginal irritation is a sperm allergy.

Yeast infection

Yeast infections are also known as vaginal candidiasis. When there is an overgrowth of yeast in the vagina, people may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • vaginal soreness and itching
  • painful sex
  • painful urinating
  • vaginal discharge

Those who are more likely to develop a yeast infection include people who:

Urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common. UTIs occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract. This can happen for several reasons.

UTIs are more common in females than in males. Some other risk factors for developing UTIs include:

  • sexual activity
  • age
  • pregnancy
  • previous UTIs
  • irregular urinary tract anatomy
  • poor hygiene
  • menopause

Symptoms of a UTI may include:

  • burning or pain when urinating
  • a strong urge to urinate but producing little or no urine
  • frequent urination
  • blood in the urine

Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) occurs when there is a change in the vagina’s environment. It commonly occurs in females aged 15–44 years.

There is no known cause for BV, but there are a few known risk factors, including:

  • having a new sexual partner
  • having multiple sexual partners
  • douching

Symptoms of BV include:

  • vaginal discharge that is white or gray
  • vaginal itching, pain, or burning
  • a strong odor that may smell fishy, especially after sex
  • burning while urinating

Sexually transmitted infections

There are several sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that may cause vaginal burning after sex.

Some of these include:

STIs spread when a person has condomless sex with someone who already has an infection.

Menopause

As females enter menopause, hormone changes can affect the vagina. This shift can cause the vagina to become drier and thinner and lose elasticity.

This is known as vulvovaginal atrophy. Since there is less lubrication and the vaginal tissues are more fragile, tearing can occur. This tearing can potentially lead to a burning sensation after sex.

Vulvodynia

Vulvodynia is a painful condition that affects the vulva. Symptoms include:

  • burning
  • stinging
  • irritation
  • throbbing
  • swelling

It can occur for a few reasons, including:

  • damage or irritation of the nerves of the vulva
  • infection
  • genetic conditions
  • inflammation of the vulva
  • food sensitivities
  • weak pelvic floor muscles

Skin conditions

Certain skin conditions, such as lichen sclerosus and lichen planus, can affect the skin outside the vagina. If the skin becomes raw, it can cause a painful burning sensation.

Vulvar cancer

Most of the time, vaginal burning is not a cause for alarm. Many of the potential causes are easy to treat and unlikely to cause complications.

In very rare cases, however, the burning sensation may be due to vulvar cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, vulvar cancers account for around 0.7% of all cancers in women in the United States.

Symptoms of this cancer include:

  • itching
  • pain or burning
  • bleeding or discharge that is not due to menstruation
  • skin changes around the vulva, including discoloration or thickening
  • sores that do not heal

The treatments for vaginal burning will vary depending on the underlying cause.

Infections such as STIs, UTIs, BV, and yeast infections will usually require a course of antibiotics, antiprotozoals, antifungals, or another medication.

It is important for people to take the entire dosage of a medication, even if they start to feel better.

Also, unnecessarily taking antibiotics may actually result in a yeast infection, so it is essential to get a proper diagnosis and only take the medication a doctor has prescribed.

Because the exact cause of vulvodynia is unknown, treatment aims to alleviate the symptoms. Treatment may include antidepressants, such as serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, and anticonvulsants. Other solutions include creams, lotions, and anesthetic gel for applying to the vulval area.

For vulvar cancer, treatments may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and biologic therapy.

To alleviate the symptoms of lichen sclerosus or lichen planus, people may need to apply a steroid cream or ointment directly to the affected area. This may help reduce itching, soreness, and scarring, and it can also prevent the condition from getting worse.

A person should visit a doctor if they experience vaginal burning that does not go away. Some conditions that cause this symptom may require medical treatment.

Prevention strategies for vaginal burning after sex will also depend on the underlying cause.

In general, to prevent or provide immediate relief from vaginal burning associated with sex, people can try:

  • using a lubricant before sex
  • participating in non-penetrative sex
  • taking over-the-counter pain relievers
  • applying ice packs to the genital area

People can lower their risk of getting infections that may result in vaginal burning by:

  • not douching
  • using barrier methods of contraception
  • talking openly with partners about any infections they have
  • wearing breathable, cotton underwear
  • not using scented feminine hygiene and bath products
  • wiping the genitals and anus from front to back

Although it is not possible to prevent vulvovaginal atrophy that occurs with menopause, having regular vaginal sex can help reduce discomfort.

People with allergies to certain substances, such as latex condoms, can switch to other brands or types of condoms to prevent burning and irritation.

If someone is allergic to sperm, they can use a condom to avoid coming into contact with the substance.

Sometimes, vaginal burning will go away on its own. However, most causes of vaginal burning require some form of medical treatment.

A person should see a doctor if they experience a symptom such as vaginal burning that does not go away, gets worse, or starts to cause worry.

A doctor can provide a diagnosis and select the right course of treatment for the symptom. In many cases, treatment alleviates painful burning within a few days.

People should ensure that they test for STIs before engaging in any form of sexual activity.

Vaginal burning after sex can have many causes.

Often, this symptom is the result of something benign, such as vigorous sex or a lack of lubrication. Many causes of vaginal burning are highly treatable.

However, it is important for a person experiencing painful burning in the vagina to get a correct diagnosis. Burning can sometimes be a symptom of a more serious condition.