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You may have learned in sex ed and conversations with others that some pain may accompany the loss of your virginity, but what if that pain persists after the fact? How do you know if pain after losing virginity is normal?

Many factors go into the degree of pain you may experience when you have sex the first or third time, such as foreplay, lubrication or extra hymen tissue.

Here’s the reassuring and not-so-reassuring news: All kinds of seemingly out-of-the-ordinary things will happen down there as you age. Where there are questions, there is a plethora of answers — here’s how to figure out what’s going on.

The First Time Doesn’t Have to Be Painful

First, let’s debunk a persistent myth — “The first time is always painful.” No. Pain during the loss of virginity doesn’t have to happen. Not everyone feels pain while having sex, and that mainly comes down to making the experience mutually satisfying, but also other natural factors that can be outside of your control.

The first time doesn’t have to be painful, and neither do the times you have sex afterward. Even if the first time is not super comfortable, don’t jump to internalize a negative experience or think sex equals “pain” or “bad.” Do some research into how you can both make it more comfortable for you next time. It’s always best to be with someone who is gentle, patient and cares about how you feel.

So, What’s up with Pain After Losing Virginity?

Some women experience cramps and stomach pains after their first time, and this may continue the first few times they have sex. They increasingly worry when that pain persists.

Pain after losing virginity happens to many women, so you’re not facing this worry alone. Sometimes, the pain is temporary and goes away in a few days. You may have more hymen tissue than other women, or you may be experiencing ovulation or period pain that coincidentally occurred around the same window of your first time. Interestingly, sex can help soothe period pain, but more on that later. Here are seven reasons you may experience pain after losing your virginity.

Extra Hymen Tissue

Your partner may have felt resistance due to the tissue inside the vagina called the hymen. In sex ed, you probably learned the hymen would tear and cause a little bleeding during your first time, but here’s what you don’t know: Hymen tissue ranges from thin to thick, and some women don’t have a hymen at all.

Biology and Positioning

The assumption that a woman’s vagina will be tight just because she is a virgin is false. But tightness may signal tension in your body — your body tells itself it’s not ready. So, you need to loosen up more emotionally and physically, which is where foreplay comes in. Also, you should know that women’s vaginal grip differs and has nothing to do with how many partners they’ve had.

The vaginal canal does open after birth and due to hormonal changes. Pain after losing virginity or during intercourse may also occur due to an awkward position — some positions aren’t realistic. Your type of vaginal opening may also give you an idea of what sex positions may work best for you, such as more tightly closed lips signaling a position where you have more control, like cowgirl.

Pleasure Matters

OK, you loving-it-up couple. You may have rushed into the whole this-part-connects-to-that-part business of intercourse, and you may simply need more lubrication. While medication can interfere with your natural lubrication, you can encourage natural lubrication through foreplay, such as sensual touch and massage.

Irritation, Yeast Issues, Cysts or an STI

The joy of being a woman means deciphering what the heck your body is trying to tell you. Pain after losing virginity may also accompany other symptoms that signal irritation, yeast issues, cysts or an STI.

Feel pain and itch? You may have a yeast infection or irritation from sex, bath products or douching. Peeing after sex won’t prevent pregnancy, but it may help prevent a yeast infection. Your vagina naturally cleans itself, so you don’t need to douche.

Did you have protected sex with a condom? Did your partner recently get tested? Symptoms of most sexually transmitted infections (STIs) occur a few days to a few months after sex, but 70 percent of women don’t have symptoms. It depends on the STI, but if you notice unusual discharge, smell, sores or irritation, make an appointment for STI testing to be safe, since many infections are treatable.

What you may think is a weird bump resulting from an STI may turn out to be a cyst, and cysts can also occur on your ovaries. It’s better to know!

Vulvodynia

Do you feel a rawness, throbbing or burning? You may have vulvodynia, or vulvar pain, and experience irritation, dryness and itching with the condition, too.

Researchers are still working to uncover the cause of vulvar pain, but suspect it may derive from nerve injury, hormonal changes, frequent use of antibiotics or chemical allergies. You may also have vulvodynia if you have a high sensitivity to antibiotic use, abnormal response to vulvar trauma or genetic factors that affect the vulva’s response to chronic inflammation. Researchers estimate up to 6 million women have vulvodynia. You will also feel the symptoms outside of intercourse, including inserting a tampon, sitting, walking or biking.

Ovulation or Period Pain

Many women experience pain during ovulation and menstruation. Keep this in mind if you experienced pain after losing virginity. Do you feel pain on one side, signaling your egg dropping from your Fallopian tube into your uterus? Do you feel cramps like the ones you usually get during your menses? Period cramps start a day or two into menstruation, lasting 12 to 72 hours.

Problem with Your IUD

If you want to prevent pregnancy, you may have gotten an IUD, which will last three to ten years, depending on the type you chose. You may also experience pain after losing virginity due to issues with your IUD. So, if you have pain during sex and afterward, call your health care provider immediately. Other signs and symptoms of a problem with your IUD include fever, chills, strange discharge or odor from your vagina, or you feel the IUD at your cervix.

Normal pain after losing virginity typically goes away within a few days, and if abnormal, it will persist for longer periods and may be accompanied by additional symptoms. This list isn’t comprehensive but does include common causes. Visit your gynecologist with any of your questions or concerns, so you can stay safe and healthy. And remember to slow down and get to know your body in a way that makes you feel good.

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