July 28, 2008

Q&A: Sex With A Virgin, What Should I Do About Bleeding?

Dr. Debby Herbenick answers a question from a reader about how to deal with possible vaginal bleeding when having sex for the first time.

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Question: I am unsure of what to do when having sex with a virgin. What should I do when she starts to bleed? Should we stop having sex or clean it up and keep going?

It is true that sometimes a small amount of bleeding occurs during the first time – or first few times- that a woman has vaginal intercourse. Usually the bleeding is due to tearing of a woman’s hymen, which is a thin layer of tissue that’s rich with blood vessels and may cover a portion of the vaginal entrance.

The Hymen And Bleeding

While nearly all girls are born with a hymen, the size of the hymen can vary greatly. Also, some women’s hymens are gradually torn over the years due to self-masturbation, tampon use or sexual activities such as finger stimulation. As a result, by the time a woman first experiences intercourse, she may notice only small amounts of bleeding, or none at all. Others notice larger amounts of bleeding.

Some couples continue with sex when bleeding occurs; others are more comfortable stopping and checking things out. Some women experience physical discomfort with early attempts at intercourse; others do not.

These are reasons why it is important to continue checking in with each other. You might even choose to have sex on a towel or dark sheets if concerns about bleeding interfere with feeling relaxed and open to pleasure.

Vaginal Tearing

Bleeding can also be caused by vaginal tearing. A woman might notice this during sex or afterwards, or even the next. If at any time a woman feels discomfort, pain or has concerns about bleeding, she might consider checking in with her healthcare provider (which is recommended prior to becoming sexually active, anyway).

Using Lubricant

The risk of vaginal tearing may be reduced by using a store-bought lubricant during intercourse. It can be applied to a man’s penis (over the condom) and to a woman’s vaginal entrance, to make intercourse more comfortable. If you’re using latex condoms, choose a water or silicone based lubricant.

Lubricants can be incorporated into your sex play in fun, sexy, pleasurable ways. You can watch each other apply it to your own genitals, or take turns and apply it on each other’s bodies. Safer, more comfortable sex can absolutely be enjoyable.

Good Communication

Regardless of your partner’s level of experience, it can be good to ask each other questions like, Are you comfortable?, Shall we keep going?, Do you want to stop?, or How does this feel? Good communication can help you and your partner decide whether you want to continue sexual activities, try different things, vary your position or rhythm, or stop altogether.

Before deciding to be sexual together, people often remember to ask each other important questions about sexually transmitted infections (STI) and condom use. However, they sometimes shy away from asking equally important questions about the emotional side of sex.

Letting your partner know how you feel about sharing sexual experiences — your values, expectations, excitement and concerns — and asking how he or she feels in return can help deepen your relationship and bring you closer to developing the relationship you desire.

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