April 9, 2009

Q&A: Genital Itching and Burning After Sex

A female reader wonders why she is suddenly having genital irritation (burning) after sex.

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Question: I didn’t have sex for three weeks and then I started again and my vagina started burning. Why is that?

Women’s genitals are quite sensitive; as a result, it’s not uncommon for women to occasionally notice genital itching or burning.

Depending on the details of this sexual encounter, you may have experienced vaginal burning for any number of reasons.

Condoms and Lubricants

Some condoms, for example, contribute to vaginal burning or irritation. Nonoxynol-9 is an ingredient that is used in the lubricant of spermicidal condoms – which some men and women use in hopes of further reducing their risk of pregnancy – and yet this chemical can sometimes contribute to genital irritation.

If you used a lubricated condom or if you added lubricant during sex, it may be that the lubricant contained other ingredients that your body is sensitive too.

Sexually Transmissible Infections (STIs)

You also might check in with your healthcare provider, as some sexually transmissible infections – or STIs – can cause vaginal burning.

You didn’t mention how soon after having sex you experienced vaginal burning, but some STI symptoms may show up within days or a week or two after infection. Other STIs have few, if any, symptoms.


Vaginal burning can also be sparked by the friction involved in sex. If the sex you had was particularly rough or vigorous, then the act itself may have irritated your sensitive vaginal or vulvar tissues. That happens!

However, if vaginal burning continues for several days, if it worsens or is associated with pain, or if you simply have questions about it, please check in with your healthcare provider.

Learn More

You can learn more about vaginal and vulvar health by reading The V Book: A Doctor’s Guide to Complete Vulvovaginal Health by Dr. Elizabeth Stewart.