Sex is supposed to feel good, so it can be really frustrating if your vulva is sore after an intense romp. It’s worth knowing what the likely causes of your pain are so that you can get it treated as soon as possible.

The most common cause of vulva pain after sex is friction inside the vagina. This can be helped by using lots of lube and trying different positions during sex.

1. Yeast Infection

Yeast infections are a common reason for vaginal pain. You get them when yeast germs – called Candida albicans – take over the mucous membranes lining your vulva. When they do, it can lead to a whitish-yellowish discharge that looks like cottage cheese. They may also smell bad. You can get them from sexual contact, even without sex, but men and women who use barrier methods, such as condoms, are less likely to get them.

You can get an antifungal cream or suppository to treat your yeast infection and make the area feel better. Your health care provider will explain the different options and help you choose one.

If you have a yeast infection, be sure to tell your partner so they can use barrier methods when having sex. You can also try a natural remedy, such as applying a cold compress to the area. Wrap a cloth or paper towel around ice and sit or lay on it for 10 minutes to tamp down the inflammation and swelling.

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Another reason your vulva might hurt after sex is if you have a pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID. This happens when bacteria in your vagina infect other reproductive organs, such as the uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries. This can cause pain and other symptoms, such as diarrhea, constipation and a sore vulva.

2. STIs

A sore vulva can be the sign of an infection or an STD, which can make having sex painful and potentially dangerous. STDs are infections that can be spread through vaginal, oral and anal sex. They can cause stinging, burning and pain, and can also lead to serious health problems if not treated.

STDs can be caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites. They can cause different symptoms, including a sore vulva, bleeding during sex and painful intercourse. Some STDs are easier to get than others, and they can be contracted from a single partner or multiple partners. Some risk factors for getting an STI include having sex with many partners, using unprotected sex and consuming drugs or alcohol.

If you have a bacterial infection or yeast infection, taking antibiotics should help. But if the soreness is severe or doesn’t go away after 24 hours, talk to your doctor.

If you have a viral infection, a sex virus like HPV or herpes, it may take longer for you to recover and can be more painful during sex. Getting tested and treating an STI is always important, so be sure to ask your partner to get screened, too. You can also protect yourself by avoiding sex that’s too rough, using plenty of lube and avoiding positions that maximize penetration (like doggy style).

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3. Pelvic Inflammation

A sore vagina after sex could be the result of pelvic inflammation (PID). Having sex with an unprotected partner lets bacteria from the vagina enter your reproductive organs and cause infection. It’s common for this bacteria to spread to your uterus, fallopian tubes and/or ovaries, which can cause pain, stinging and itching. This can also lead to heavy periods or spotting, and pain during intercourse. Other symptoms of PID include a painful urination, burning when urinating, pain or pressure at the vaginal opening, unusual vaginal discharge, pelvic or abdominal pain and cramping throughout the month.

Rough sex causes friction, which can hurt your vulva if there’s not enough lubrication. Using a thicker lubricant can help prevent this pain.

Another reason your vulva might be sore after sex is if you’re dealing with vaginismus, a condition where the muscles that open and close the vagina tighten involuntarily. It can make penetration painful, especially if you have a hard cervix. Vaginismus can be caused by anxiety disorders, childbirth injuries, a medical condition or prior surgery.

If your vulva is sore after sex, Idries Abdur-Rahman, MD, an ob-gyn with Vista Physician Group, recommends trying putting some lubricant in the area. Just make sure it doesn’t have alcohol in it, as that can irritate your vulva even more. You can also soak your vulva in a warm bath with Epsom salts, which will soothe the discomfort and reduce inflammation.

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4. Irritation

Often, pain after sex is simply a sign of friction caused by the vagina and the vulva (the external part of your genitalia). This can be due to a lack of lubrication or a session that was a little rougher than normal. It can also be a sign of anal irritation.

Lubrication is important for both preventing painful sex and tissue tearing, which can be common after deep penetration. However, a lot of things can affect the level of lubrication in your body — from hormone changes to taking birth control or going through menopause. Things like these can decrease the oestrogen in your body, making it harder to lubricate naturally.

If you are using a condom that is latex or that has scents, lube, or spermicides in it, these can be irritating and may cause your vulva to hurt. If you are having these symptoms, try switching to a polyurethane condom or an internal condom, which is nonlatex and helps prevent both disease and pregnancy, and see if that makes the difference.

Most importantly, if your vulva hurts after sex, don’t ignore it! Intercourse should be comfortable and pleasurable, not abrasive or uncomfortable. If your vulva continues to hurt, work with your gynecologist to figure out what’s going on and how to fix it. It’s never normal for sex to hurt and it shouldn’t make you feel embarrassed or dysfunctional, so always talk to your doctor about what’s going on.