Numbness in the genital area can feel like tingling for some. It can occur from activities such as cycling, which compresses the pudendal nerve that runs from your vagina to your anus, or over-stimulation with a vibrator.

It may also be a sign of historic sexual trauma. Psychotherapy and other therapeutic practices can be helpful.

1. Stress

Countless women experience a lack of sensitivity down there. Whether it’s feeling like nothing down there or a slight numbness that doesn’t feel quite right, it can be annoying. Thankfully, it’s almost always temporary and will pass after a little rest.

If you have a lot of sex or spend a lot of time in your vibrator, over-stimulation can cause numbness in the area. Likewise, cycling for long periods of time can compress the pudendal nerve in the perineum (the area between your vagina and anus).

This is also common during pregnancy or childbirth, as the pelvic muscles and the vaginal walls are softened by hormones and stretched to help with birth. Sometimes the nerves can get cut or injured during delivery, so numbness isn’t uncommon. It can also happen after menopause as the body’s estrogen levels drop and this can lead to a lack of sensation in the area. This can be helped with a topical estrogen cream or a dilator to stretch the muscles and increase the flow of blood. It can also be caused by anxiety, which can affect the entire body in many ways including genitals.

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2. Dehydration

When you’re dehydrated, the external skin of your vulva and the internal organs are both affected. This means that your genitals can’t feel the usual sensations that make sexual intercourse pleasurable for you and your partner.

This is why it’s important to drink plenty of water, especially after sex. Any numbness in your vagina following sex is usually temporary, and will return once you’ve given your lady bits a chance to rest.

However, numbness in your vulva and pelvic area can also be caused by excessive use of a vibrator (especially on high vibration settings) and by having too many sexual partners. Both of these can throw off the delicate balance of your vulva and lead to problems like bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, or even post-hysterectomy infection. Talk to a doctor about these issues and consider using a vaginal lubricant to help with sensation.

3. Strained Muscles

Numbness in the vulva can be caused by muscle spasms, which are often triggered by stress and trauma. These can be localized, like in the vulvar vestibule or the clitoris (the small bead-like organ at the top of the vulva). They may also be generalized, in which case you feel pain throughout your vulva. These problems are called vulvodynia. Vulvodynia treatment includes stretching and massage, using lubricants and other products, as well as learning to touch and connect with your vagina and pelvic area in safe ways.

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A numbness in the genitals can also be caused by overstimulation of the nerves in the area. Rigorous sex, a high-powered vibrator, and other activities can all overstimulate the nerves in your penis or vulva. This is temporary, and it is not a cause for concern.

If your numbness is chronic and persistent, it’s best to visit your doctor for an evaluation. Your doctor will assess your vulva and determine what the best course of treatment is for you. Depending on the reason for your numbness, you’ll likely be given medications, like lidocaine ointment, that can reduce the numbness. You may also be given Kegel exercises or a pelvic wand to strengthen the muscles in your pelvic floor, which can improve your sexual pleasure and ability to orgasm.

4. Menopause

From time to time, you might experience the tingly pins-and-needles sensation that tells you your foot has fallen asleep or that you’ve been in one position too long on your bike. However, if it persists in your pelvic area, it could be an indicator of a more serious condition.

Menopause can cause numbness in the vulva because of changes to hormones that can cause the vaginal walls to thin and lose elasticity. This can lead to less natural lubrication and make it harder to reach orgasm during sexual activity. Using a vibrator or having sex with partners who don’t use lubricant correctly can also lead to temporary numbness in the pelvic area, especially for women with a low sperm count.

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If you are experiencing numbness in your vulva, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. They can give you recommendations for treating the numbness and help you find relief. For example, they may recommend doing pelvic floor exercises to improve blood flow and reduce tension. Alternatively, they may suggest that you access psychological support to address any trauma or abuse you’ve experienced in the past.

5. Trauma

Many women experience a feeling of numbness down there during sexual intercourse, whether it’s short-lived or lingering. This is often a result of a past trauma or the use of synthetic lubricants that enable penetration before your body is fully prepared for it.

Numbness in this area may also be a sign of certain sexually transmitted infections. If this is the case, it’s essential to visit a healthcare professional to receive treatment.

A lack of sensation in the genital area can also be caused by compression, inflammation or damage to nerves that exit the spinal cord near the pelvis. This is known as cauda equina syndrome and needs immediate attention.

Trauma, sexual abuse and PTSD can cause a range of issues including numbness down there during sexual intercourse. Seeing a mental health therapist to explore the root cause and address it might be the answer. They can work with you in a safe, supportive and confidential environment to help you find ways to reclaim your sexual pleasure again. They might teach you techniques like de-armouring which can release blockages and stimulate a better flow of energy in this area.