Bleeding after sex

Overview

Another term for this is post-coital bleeding, and it usually occurs within 24 hours of intercourse. In most cases it is nothing to worry about, but should be investigated if persistent or if you are concerned.

Possible causes

Common causes are cervical polyps and cervical ectropion. A polyp is a benign (not cancer) growth at the opening of the cervix. An ectropion is a raw area on the outside of the cervix that can become friable, or in other words fragile. An infection (such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea) may also cause this.

An uncommon cause of post-coital bleeding is cervical cancer. Even if a recent cervical smear is normal, persistent postcoital bleeding should be investigated. A colposcopy may be indicated.

What to do

Please see your GP if you have persistent or concerning post-coital bleeding.

How we can help

If you are experiencing bleeding after sex and would like to talk to us about how we can help, please feel free to contact us. You can also request an appointment online.

Further information

Conditions

Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is cancer that forms in a woman's cervix, at the lower part of the uterus. It is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus which also causes genital warts. There are many different types of HPV virus, and only a few are linked to the development of cervical cancer. Find out more

Ectropion

An ectropion is when the inside of the cervix (endocervix) becomes everted on to the outside of the cervix. The endocervix is more fragile, and can bleed with contact, such as from penetrative intercourse. Find out more

Infection

An infection is the invasion and multiplication of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites that are not normally present within the body. An infection is a cause that is always considered in women with abnormal bleeding. Find out more

Polyps

Polyps are common benign growths in the uterus, cervix or vagina. Cervical polyps can cause bleeding after sex. The chances of a cancer being present in a polyp is low, with older women being more at risk than younger women. Find out more

Procedures

Colposcopy

A colposcopy is performed when a woman has had abnormal pap smears. A speculum is placed in the vagina, and the cervix visualised using a colposcope. This provides a magnified view of the cervix so that a targeted biopsy can be taken. Find out more

Ectropion treatment

Ectropion is common, and treatment is generally not required. When bleeding is persistent and troubling, women may consider ablative treatment such as cautery (electrosurgery). Colposcopy may also be used to diagnose and treat this area.

Treatment for infections

If an infection is the cause, treatment with antibiotics is required. This is generally given orally, but if an infection is severe, antibiotics given intravenously may be required.

Hysteroscopy

A hysteroscopy is a common gynaecological procedure, placing a thin camera through the cervix to evaluate the inside of the uterus (the endometrial cavity). This may be as an investigation or a treatment. Find out more