Is she supposed to be that red? That plump? That...irritated?
As you've probably guessed, the answer is heck no. But (keyword here!) there's no reason to spiral into a tizzy over a swollen vagina because, although you and your friends might not talk about it on the reg, it's actually pretty common and usually easily manageable. (Phew.)
Curious about what's going on with your vag? One gyno answers all:
So what does a swollen vagina after mean? Turns out, there are a handful of reasons for that post-coital puffiness-here, the possible culprits, plus how to treat:
1. Rough sex
Here's the thing: Every time you get turned on, your vulva and vagina begin to swell because of all the amped up blood flow down there, according to the Cleveland Clinic .
But if you notice other symptoms, such as thin cuts around the vaginal opening-that might mean the swelling et. al. is actually due to a rougher-than-usual sex sesh. If this is the case, you might also experience a bit of bleeding and find that the area is a little black and blue, explains Alyssa Dweck , MD, ob-gyn in Westchester, New York, and coauthor of V Is for Vagina.
There's no reason to call it quits if rough sex is your thing, but you don't want to leave an unhappy vagina, well, unhappy.
To ease the swollen sitch, take an OTC pain reliever, or soak your genital area in a sitz bath (a shallow bath that fits over the toilet made for treating down-there probs). Or sit in a regular bath filled with warm water for about 15 to 20 minutes, Dr. Dweck recommends.
2. Allergic reaction
Upon further examination, you notice that your red, swollen vagina has a...rash.
It's very possible your vagina is having an allergic reaction or has a sensitivity to a product, such as a latex condom, or even sperm, Dr. Dweck says. (A semen allergy , a.k.a. seminal plasma hypersensitivity, is a rare allergic reaction to the proteins found in semen that can cause redness, swelling, pain, itching, and burning in the genital area, according to the International Society for Sexual Medicine .)
More often than not, however, after-sex swelling is the result of your body's sensitivity or allergy to common irritants, such as products with spermicide (nonoxynol 9), fragrances, latex, and vaginal medications.
To figure out what's going on, Dr. Dweck recommends first eliminating any of these items that you've been using and observe how your body responds.
3. Yeast infection
Two words nearly every women dreads hearing. But sorry, girl, but if you're swollen down under, yeast might be to blame.
First, a quick refresher: Caused by an overgrowth of the fungus candida (which is naturally found in your vagina, btw), a vaginal yeast infection is best known for its common symptom of, to put it lightly, extreme itchiness in and around the vagina, according to the Office of Women's Health .
Other symptoms include:
- Pain when urinating or during sex
- Soreness and/or burning
- Redness and swelling that, per Dr. Dweck, can make your vagina look "beefy, inflamed, and blistered." (Eek.)
- A minor rash
- Thick, white discharge with no foul odor
If you suspect this is your first time with a yeast infection , it's best to consult your doc, who can screen you for other problems to be sure. If it's truly a yeast infection, they can prescribe strong, fast-acting anti-fungal meds.
But if you've been here before and are positive your swelling (and other circumstances) are because yet another yeast infection, skip the office visit and try an OTC anti-fungal treatment, like Monistat.
4. Bacterial vaginosis
This condition happens when there is too much of a certain bacteria in your vagina, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While similar in symptoms to yeast infections (pain, itching, burning, and, yup, inflammation and swelling), bacterial vaginosis (BV) typically causes a discharge that is gray, thin, and fishy-smelling, says Dr. Dweck. That being said, BV can also be asymptomatic, meaning it doesn't produce any symptoms (aside from the swelling you already noticed).
BV can technically go away without any treatment, per the CDC . But if you're experiencing any of the above symptoms, get checked by a doc, who can prescribe antibiotics to treat the issue.
5. Vaginal dryness or atrophy
Having sex when you're dealing with a Sahara situation down there (no shame!) can leave your vagina red and painfully swollen.
The issue could be the result of not enough foreplay, but low estrogen levels due to menopause, perimenopause, lactation, or birth control can also cause vaginal dryness and atrophy [thinning, drying, inflammation of the vaginal wall], says Dr. Dweck.
If it's the latter, your vag may also feel somewhat thin, abraded, and inelastic, she adds.
To fix, start by bringing lube into the bedroom, simply to increase moisture and decrease swelling-causing friction. If that doesn't help, consider visiting your doctor-if low estrogen is truly to blame, they may recommend treatment, such as taking additional estrogen.
6. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
While chlamydia frequently doesn't cause symptoms, trichomoniasis is a common offender of a reddened, swollen vulva that can also lead to bleeding after sex, irritation, odor, and, per the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), a yellow-gray or green discharge that may also smell fishy.
All you need to treat, per ACOG , is a single dose of an oral antibiotic, so if anything of these symptoms show up with the swelling after sex, see your gyno, stat.
And disclaimer? Regular STI screenings are always a good idea.
Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the skin and underlying tissues that may cause the skin to become swollen, red, and tender, according to U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). Cellulitis can happen when, say, normal bacteria that lives on your skin enters through a cut or break in your derm layer, thereby causing a skin infection.
So while sex doesn't cause this swelling, getting frisky can certainly aggravate it and even bring it to your attention, especially if swelling continues to increase (meaning the infection is spreading).
Other tell-tale signs of cellulitis? Fever, nausea, vomiting, and a warm-to-touch, tight, glossy, or stretched appearance of skin. Relief includes antibiotics (so call your doc!) and using a warm compress on the area, Dr. Dweck explains.
Hopefully this isn't the cause of your after-sex vaginal swelling unless you're trying for a baby. But it can be a common one: Thanks to all the hormonal changes brought on when you're expecting, your body starts to swell in a variety of different places-your vagina included.
During pregnancy, there's also increased blood flow and pressure from the uterus, which can amp up this swelling, according to the Office of Women's Health .
Once you ensure that the inflammation isn't caused by, say, an infection, you can treat allover puffiness by avoiding prolonged standing and wearing compression socks or support stockings.
Yep, compression socks can help you have a less swollen vagina after sex. Who knew?!