What causes a woman to bleed after sex?

There are many reasons why a woman may bleed after sex. The medical name for this is "postcoital bleeding".

If you’re concerned because you experience vaginal bleeding after sex, seek advice from your GP or a sexual health clinic (genitourinary or GUM clinic). They will ask about your medical history and assess your symptoms. They can then advise you if any treatment is needed.

Causes of bleeding after sex

Bleeding after sex can be a sign of a health condition, such as:

  • an infection, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), or a sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as chlamydia
  • vaginal dryness (atrophic vaginitis) caused by reduced vaginal secretions after the menopause
  • damage to the vagina such as tears caused by childbirth, or by dryness or friction during sex
  • cervical or endometrial polyps (benign or non-cancerous growths in the womb or the lining of the cervix)
  • cervical ectropion (also known as cervical erosion), where there is an inflamed area on the surface of the cervix

In rare instances, bleeding after sex can be a sign of cervical or vaginal cancer.

Tests and examinations

Depending on any other symptoms and your medical history, your GP may recommend some tests or examinations, such as:

  • a pregnancy test (depending on your age)
  • a pelvic examination (where the GP inserts two fingers into your vagina to feel for anything unusual)
  • looking at the cervix with an instrument called a speculum

If the problem is caused by vaginal dryness, they may recommend that you try using lubricating gels.

You may also be referred to a specialist, such as a gynaecologist or genitourinary specialist.

Cervical screening tests

It’s important that all women aged 25-64 get regular cervical screening tests, to help prevent cervical cancer. For more information, see our Health A-Z page on cervical screening tests.

Read the answers to more questions about sexual health.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 14/05/2013

Next review due: 13/05/2015