Don't freak, they're not all STDs
Close-up of beautiful mid adult woman relaxing in bathtub with eyes closed
1- An Allergic Reaction To Seamen, His Soap, or Lube
It’s super-rare that you’d be allergic to your partner’s semen. In fact, according to a study from the University of Cincinnati, only about 40,000 women in the United States suffer from this condition. Of the thousands of women Dunston has seen in her practice, she can only think of two women who had legit semen allergies.
What’s more likely is that you’re allergic to a soap that he’s using on his man parts, which means your guy needs to switch to a hypoallergenic soap, Dunston says. It's also possible that your reaction is caused by spermicidal jelly or lubricant used during your sex sesh. (We recommend this organic lube from the Women's Health Boutique.)
Be forewarned: It takes a little detective work to figure out where an allergy is stemming from, says Dunston. For instance, if it isn’t your man’s soap, you might need to eliminate your go-to lube to see if that’s the culprit. Dunston recalls a patient who was having post-sex vaginal irritation and after STDs and latex allergies were ruled out, they discovered it was the toilet paper she used made from recycled paper.
If you have an allergic reaction, apply some Cortaid, an over the counter topical steroid to your vulva. You don’t need a green light from your ob-gyn on this one. But, Dunston says, when it comes to applying topical steroids, opt for creams instead of ointments because creams adhere better to your vagina, which is lined with a mucus membrane.
Witch Hazel compresses, like Tucks medicated cooling pads, are another soothing option and can be purchased over the counter, she says. Typically, Tucks is advertised as hemorrhoid relief, but it can also be used on an inflamed vulva, Dunston says.
“In severe situations, systemic steroids may be required, but that is unusual,” she says. To avoid an allergic reaction in the future, work with your doctor to identify what is actually irritating your hoo-ha.
2- An Allergic Reaction To Condoms
If your vag feels super itchy or irritated immediately after sex, and you used a latex condom, you may have a latex allergy, says Kyrin Dunston, M.D., ob-gyn. You might have even felt a burning sensation as soon as you came into contact with the condom, says Dunston
Keep a 1 percent hydrocortisone cream, like Cortizone 10, in your nightstand so you can apply it to your vulva after a reaction, Dunston suggests. It might burn some when you apply it, she cautions, but you can apply an ice pack to numb the nerve endings on your lady parts, she says.
The alternative to latex? Lambskin condoms, which are a contraceptive, but straight-up suck when it comes to protecting from STDs. “I always caution women that lambskin condoms do not protect against STD transmission,” Dunston says. Unfortunately, if you can’t use latex, the best thing to do is get tested for STDs with your partner before having sex.
3- A tear In your Skin
Um, ouch! Occasionally, Dunston sees skin tears after vaginal intercourse, but it’s far more common following anal sex, she says. “If a man is particularly large, or the sex is particularly rough, then small lacerations can occur,” she says. The tears, which typically occur at the vaginal opening where the vulva meets the vagina, can cause a burning sensation or even bleeding, she says.
If it’s super-minor, like a small scratch, a warm-water Sitz Bath from the drugstore can alleviate the discomfort while sitting, Dunston says. You can usually find these shallow baths, which are commonly used for post-partum relief, for under $10 and they attach to your toilet. Cha-ching. If a tear doesn’t stop bleeding or is particularly painful, call your doctor's office and make an appointment. Next time, foreplay and lubricants can help prevent vaginal tears, Dunston says.
Rectal tears, though, are a different ballgame because they’re extremely painful. Rectal tissue is far more sensitive than vaginal tissue, and if you have a rectal tear the pain is constant and extreme, Dunston says. That pain multiples when you poop, she says. Because of that, you’ll need to see your doctor ASAP for a stool softener and suppositories. To prevent these tears in the future, use lubrication. Also, try using anal beads for experimentation before trying the real deal, she says. Since the graduated beads vary in size, you can start small and test your limits.
4 - Trichomoniasis
STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea rarely cause vaginal skin irritation, but trichomoniasis, a lesser-known STD, does, says Dunston. Though it's not as recognizable as herpes, it's actually pretty common, affecting an estimated 3.7 million people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The symptoms can mimic an allergic reaction, but the itching is usually intolerable,” she says. Plus, it can be accompanied by a grayish discharge.
Trichomoniasis needs to be diagnosed by a physician and both you and your partner need to take antibiotics, Dunston says. And because trichomoniasis thrives in acidic environments, you can make your body less hospitable to the disease by eating more veggies, less sugar, and fewer processed foods, Dunston explains. In the future, use condoms to reduce your risk of transmitting trichomoniasis.
For women who already have herpes, it’s possible that the friction from sex could trigger an outbreak of the blisters, since the herpes virus lives in nerve roots, Dunston says. On the flip side, if you contract herpes during sex, it usually takes about a week for the first outbreak to occur, and the cluster of red sores can be extremely painful, she says. But, many women diagnosed with herpes don’t even remember having a first outbreak, she says.
While wearing a condom can reduce the risk, herpes is spread via skin-to-skin contact, and a condom may not cover the area where the virus is present. You should avoid having sex when an outbreak is present because the transmission rate is higher. Also, something to remember: You can contract herpes through oral sex if your guy is going down on you with a cold sore, but using a dental dam can reduce that risk, Dunston says.
If you have a herpes outbreak, you can ease the symptoms by taking ibuprofen and applying cool compresses to the sores to calm the itching and pain, according to the National Institutes of Health. If you or your partner has herpes, it’s also a good idea to get a prescription for anti-viral meds, like Valtrex, to prevent viral shredding and transmission, Dunston says.