Dr. Kate, I Lost My Virginity and Now Tampons HURT!

Dr. Kate is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in Boston who lectures nationally on women’s health issues and conducts research on reproductive health.  She regularly (and generously!) answers your health questions here on EMandLO.com. To ask her your own, click here.

Dear Dr. Kate,

About 2 months ago my boyfriend and I had sex for the first time (both virgins). When I got my period like normal, it caused a burning feeling for me to wear tampons and I’d only get relief when I took the tampon out. The last 2 times I’ve had my period it still hurts to wear tampons. I have worn the same tampons from when I started wearing them and have never had these issues until after I had sex. Do I have an STD? A tear? If you have any information that could help me I would really appreciate it!!!

— Newbie

Dear Newbie,

Have you had intercourse with your boyfriend since that first time? Does that cause the same burning? If you haven’t had sex, has he penetrated you with his fingers or tongue, and does that cause burning as well? If you’ve been sexually active like this without pain, and your only discomfort comes with tampons, it makes me wonder about how you’re using them. Are you still placing them at the same angle? Does it hurt to insert them or only when they’re inside? If you don’t feel that anything at all is different with your tampon technique, you may think about using a smaller size for a while.

But I suspect that you may be feeling discomfort with anything inside your vagina right now. If this is the case, there are several possibilities:

• Your hymen might have torn irregularly during intercourse, and the edges may be “catching” on the tampon when you insert it.

• You may have a vaginal infection, which could be as simple as a yeast infection (not sexually transmitted) or as serious as chlamydia or herpes (which are). Have you noticed any unusual discharge, or painful bumps on your labia?

• An actual tear in your vagina is not common with sex, even the first time, but is possible. Did you notice any unusual bleeding after sex, or in between your periods? The vast majority of tears would have healed by now. If you’ve had two periods since your first sex, it probably means a couple of months have passed, and any tear that’s still open would have kept bleeding this whole time.

• If you’re continuing to have sex with him, intercourse can cause some small internal abrasions (due to friction, lack of lubrication, etc) like rug burn.  But if it’s been awhile since you last had sex, those should have healed by now. 

Your next best step is to see a woman’s health practitioner: this may be a gynecologist, or a nurse practitioner. Whoever you see, they need to give you a gentle pelvic exam and STI testing to make sure that your vagina and your vulva are okay. The bottom line is that pain is never normal, so you should always listen to your body. Help your clinician diagnose your problem by giving them all the answers to my questions above. 

Dr. Kate

Let Dr. Kate halt the hurt:
How to Make Sex Less Painful

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