Occasionally, sexual activity can lead to accidental rips and tears. While vaginal and anal rips are more common, penile rips happen too.

Most small tears heal on their own, but others may require medical treatment.

If you’ve just torn or ripped your vagina, anus, or penis, immediately stop masturbating or engaging in other sexual activity.

Avoid engaging in further sexual activity until the area has fully healed.

If the tear or surrounding area is bleeding, do your best to identify where the blood is coming from, and apply slight pressure with a cloth or towel to help staunch the wound.

If the wound continues to bleed after a minute or so of pressure, or if blood is soaking through the cloth or towel, seek medical care as soon as possible.

In some cases, this could be a sign of an underlying condition that requires medical treatment.

Avoid inserting anything into a torn vagina, including sex toys, tampons, menstrual cups, douches, or anything else, as this can irritate the tear.

To ease pain, you could try the following:

  • Sit in a sitz bath, which is a shallow, warm bath, to clean your genitals. You might add an antibacterial agent or a natural additive like salt, vinegar, or baking soda.
  • Wash the area thoroughly to avoid an infection. Dry off thoroughly with a clean towel.
  • If the rip or tear is external (that is, not inside the vagina or anus), you can apply an antiseptic cream.
  • Apply a cool compress over the area. This could be an ice pack wrapped in a clean towel, or a cool cloth.
  • Wear loose, cotton underwear that doesn’t rub uncomfortably against your genitals.
  • Over-the-counter pain medication, like ibuprofen, might provide some relief.

If the pain is unbearable, it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor or other healthcare provider.

Rough sexual activity can cause rips and tears — but sex doesn’t have to be rough to cause tears. It’s possible to develop rips and tears even if you take precautions.

Manual stimulation — including fingering and fisting — can also cause tears, as can using sex toys.

Tears can happen during sexual activity for a number of reasons, including:

  • A lack of lubrication. Many people have vaginal dryness, which can increase friction inside the vagina and lead to tears. It’s a good idea to use lubricant, especially for anal sex, as the anus doesn’t produce its own lube. Lube can also prevent tears in the penile tissue.
  • A lack of arousal. Being aroused increases vaginal wetness and also helps the vagina and anal sphincter relax. If the vagina or anus is too tight, it can lead to rips. It could also hurt the penis if a penis is inserted. Foreplay can help with this issue.
  • Rough movements. This applies to penetrative vaginal sex and manual sex (including hand jobs, fingering, and fisting), as well as using sex toys.
  • Uncut nails. Any sharp edges, including sharp nails, could cause small tears along the penis or inside the vagina or anus.
  • Underlying conditions. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) could cause you to tear more easily. Menopause can also cause vaginal dryness.

If you’re not sure what caused it, it might be a good idea to talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider.

Suspicion of deliberate injury

If you suspect your partner deliberately hurt you and you’re struggling to get away from them, you have options for support. A doctor, nurse, or other healthcare provider may be able to help.

If you were sexually assaulted, you might find it helpful to see a therapist or join a support group (offline or online). It’s also a good idea to speak to trusted loved ones.

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Small tears heal themselves in time, but speak to a doctor if any of the following apply:

  • It burns when you urinate.
  • You have a strange discharge.
  • You experience bleeding that won’t stop.
  • The pain persists after sexual activity has stopped.
  • You often have vaginal dryness.
  • You suspect you have an STI.
  • You have a fever, nausea, or feel otherwise ill.

If you’re constantly developing rips and tears during sex, speak to your healthcare provider.

Although the occasional accident might not be cause for concern, if it’s a common occurrence it could point to an underlying issue.

The treatment for anal, penile, and vaginal tearing depends on the cause.

In some cases, your doctor might prescribe an antiseptic topical treatment to prevent an infection. If the tear gets infected, you might have to take a course of antibiotics.

If it’s around or inside the vaginal opening

Small, shallow tears often heal on their own without treatment.

If you often have vaginal dryness, your doctor might recommend a water-based lubricant or vaginal moisturizer. This will decrease the discomfort.

If vaginal dryness is a chronic concern, your doctor might suggest estrogen therapy depending on your overall health and circumstances.

Deep vaginal tears might need to be corrected with surgery.

If it’s between your genitals and anus (perineum)

Perineal tears are commonly associated with childbirth. If the baby is delivered vaginally, the perineum might split.

However, a perineum might also split as a result of sexual activity — and yes, this can happen even if you have a penis.

A shallow scratch or tear in the skin might heal on its own, as long as you keep the area clean.

But you might have to talk to your doctor if:

  • the cut is deep
  • it’s not healing
  • it’s bleeding or very painful

In severe cases, you might need stitches.

If it’s around or inside the anus

Anal fissures, which are small tears in the anal tissue, can lead to ulcers and infection if left untreated.

They can make it painful to pass a stool, in which case stool softeners might help. Your doctor might also suggest a muscle relaxant cream.

In more severe cases, your doctor might suggest a Botox injection. This helps the anal muscles relax, giving the anus time to heal adequately.

Another option is a sphincterotomy, where a cut is made into the sphincter muscle to reduce tension in the anus.

If it’s the frenulum (‘banjo string’) or foreskin

The frenulum, or “banjo string,” is a piece of tissue that attaches the foreskin to the shaft of the penis.

If the foreskin is pulled back too far, the frenulum can tear or snap. This could cause bleeding.

In most cases, this will heal without any treatment. While it’s healing, avoid masturbating or engaging in sexual activity. Take care to clean the area so it doesn’t become infected.

If it doesn’t heal, or if it becomes more painful, speak to a doctor.

If your frenulum gets torn often, you might need an operation called a frenuloplasty. This lengthens the frenulum, which will reduce the risk of future tears.

If it’s elsewhere on the penis or testicles

Tears can happen elsewhere on the penis or testicles. Some tears heal on their own, while others might require medical attention.

Your doctor might suggest an antiseptic topical treatment if there’s a risk of infection.

Don’t masturbate or engage in sexual activity while it’s healing, and try to keep the area clean.

Once you’ve healed from tearing, there are a few precautions you can take to avoid future tears and rips during sexual activity.

  • Use lubrication. Even if you’re getting fairly wet, using condom-safe lubrication is a good idea. Lubricant is especially important for anal sex. It’s also a good idea to use lube for vaginal sex, fingering, and hand jobs to reduce friction and reduce your chances of getting tears.
  • Cut your nails. If you’re being fingered, your partner should cut their nails carefully to avoid scratching you.
  • Watch your teeth. During oral sex, teeth can scrape against the vagina, anus, or penis, causing tears.
  • Go slowly. Give yourself time to get aroused and use slow motions at first. If you’re being penetrated, start small — like with a single finger or beginner butt plug — until it feels comfortable. This will allow your body to relax and your entrance to loosen slightly.

Your healthcare provider might be able to offer additional options, depending on the cause of the tearing.

It’s possible for sexual activity to lead to accidental tears on and around the vagina, penis, and anus.

Although small tears and rips might heal on their own, others may require medical attention.

If the tears don’t seem to heal on their own, or if the pain is severe, it’s a good idea to speak to a healthcare provider.

Sian Ferguson is a freelance health and cannabis writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She’s passionate about empowering readers to take care of their mental and physical health through science-based, empathetically delivered information.