It isn’t unusual for women to develop cuts in their vaginal area after sexual intercourse or foreplay. In many cases, these cuts can heal on their own.

Certain conditions can also make you more susceptible to tears or scrapes in this area. Keep reading to find out more about why they may be happening, how to treat them, and when you should see your doctor.

Vaginal cuts are often accompanied by feelings of discomfort — especially during urination — and minor bleeding.

That said, it isn’t enough to suspect that you have a cut in your genital area. In order to properly treat it, you need to take a look at how deep the cut is and determine whether other symptoms, such as pus, are present.

The best way to assess your symptoms is to position a compact or hand mirror so that you can see the reflection of your vagina. Many women find it easier to do this when they’re seated on the edge of a surface, such as a chair, or when laying on their back.

If you’re unable to see this way, you may be able to assess the cut’s severity by gently touching the affected area. You should always wash your hands before and after you touch a wound — especially a wound in the genital area — to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Superficial cuts are also known as “simple cuts.” These kinds of cuts usually heal on their own within a couple of days.

Simple cuts are most often caused by everyday activities like shaving or other hair removal, foreplay, and sexual intercourse. In fact, sexual activity is the most common cause of vaginal cuts that are unconnected to childbirth.

If the cut is superficial, you should:

  1. Wash the area with warm water once or twice per day.
  2. Refrain from using harsh or perfumed soaps, as this can affect the delicate pH balance of your vagina.
  3. Make sure the area is dry before you get dressed again.
  4. Wear cotton underwear and loose bottoms until it’s healed.

If you’re in a lot of discomfort, you can take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever, such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).

You may also consider applying a topical medication or barrier ointment to help soothe the area. For example, you can apply a topical antibiotic like Bacitracin or a barrier ointment such as Aquaphor to help encourage your skin to heal faster. Neosporin isn’t recommended as a topical antibiotic due to its risk of allergic reaction. Only apply these ointments if the cuts are in the outer area around your vulva and its labia.

Shop for Bacitracin and Aquaphor now.

You should never apply medication, including antibacterial ointment, to your vagina without speaking to your doctor first.

It’s possible to get a cut in or around your vagina and have no idea what caused it. These cuts are a little deeper than a simple cut, but they aren’t gaping and profusely bleeding wounds that you should be immediately concerned about.

Mystery cuts are usually related to or caused by:

Hormone imbalances

It’s common for shifting estrogen levels to make the walls of your vagina thinner and more prone to tearing. Although fluctuating estrogen levels are usually associated with menopause, they can occur due to other reasons, too. Switching birth control methods or excessive exercise may be to blame.

Chronic skin conditions

Some skin conditions can make your skin more fragile and prone to tearing. Examples include:

These can all negatively affect the skin on your vagina and vulva. Certain treatments for these conditions, like oral corticosteroids, can also cause your skin to weaken and thin over time.

Vitamin deficiencies

Deficiency in vitamin C or D can impact your skin tissue strength and cause it to tear more easily.

As with superficial cuts, you should:

  1. Wash the area with warm water once or twice per day.
  2. Refrain from using harsh or perfumed soaps, as this can affect the delicate pH balance of your vagina.
  3. Make sure the area is dry before you get dressed again.
  4. Wear cotton underwear and loose bottoms until it’s healed.

Shop for cotton underwear.

If you have a previously diagnosed condition that’s known to affect skin tissue strength, you may be able to avoid a trip to the doctor. Continue to wash and monitor the affected area for the next few days.

But if you aren’t seeing any improvement by the end of the week — or the cause is unknown — you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. They can help determine the cause of your symptoms and develop a treatment plan suited to your needs.

Deep cuts in and around your vagina are often a result of vaginal delivery. These wounds need immediate medical attention. They shouldn’t be left to heal on their own.

They can also happen as a result of sexual assault. If you’ve experienced sexual assault or were forced into any sexual activity, you should seek care from a trained healthcare provider. Organizations like the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) offer support for survivors of rape or sexual assault. You can call RAINN’s 24/7 national sexual assault hotline at 800-656-4673 for anonymous, confidential help.

Around 90 percent of women tear in some way during vaginal delivery, according to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. If you have a vaginal cut or tear that results from childbirth, your midwife or doctor should give you detailed instructions for how to care for the area.

If a tear has reopened or a new tear has occurred, it’s important that you seek immediate medical attention. Delaying care may result in long-term complications.

During the healing process, you may find it helpful to:

  • Rinse the area with sterilized water. Use a small bottle with a narrow plastic tip (sometimes called a peri bottle) to do this. Your doctor may advise you to rinse after every time you use the bathroom or after every cleaning.
  • Wear a pad for the first several days to help draw any blood away from the cut and keep the area clean.
  • Take OTC pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to help ease your pain.

If you’ve experienced a sexual assault, you shouldn’t try to treat the wound on your own. Your doctor or healthcare provider can assess your symptoms and help you care for any lacerations or bruises that have occurred. They may also prescribe pain killers or other medication to help you treat your symptoms.

If you have cuts in your vagina, you should avoid vaginal penetration until the wounds are healed. Penetration could reopen or worsen the cut and introduce new bacteria. This may cause the cut to bleed or swell. It can also lead to infection.

If you do have sex while your cut is healing, use protection. Having unprotected sex while you have an open wound increases your risk of transmitting or developing infectious disease.

Also clean the area with warm water and pat it dry with a soft washcloth afterward. This can help prevent bacteria from getting into or staying in the wound.

Depending on where your cut is, you may also want to avoid tampons and menstrual cups while it heals. Using a panty liner or pad to catch period blood may help speed up the healing process.

Most simple vaginal cuts will heal within a week or so. They usually don’t leave any lasting marks or result in any long-term complications.

If your symptoms haven’t improved after a few days, make an appointment to see your doctor.

You should also see your doctor if:

  • bleeding is continuous
  • yellow or cloudy fluid is present
  • pain is severe
  • you’ve recently had a vaginal delivery
  • sexual assault has occurred

Your doctor can diagnose your symptoms and determine the appropriate course of treatment.