You just had sex. Nice! Was it fun or romantic or playful or relaxing? Hopefully, it was your personalized version of “fantastic.” You might be feeling energized or maybe wonderfully calm, not a worry to be had...until...the dread. Because, for you, the high will inevitably wear off and be replaced with the itching, the stinging, or the general discomfort down there that is almost always guaranteed after a roll around in the hay. Sound familiar?
Yes, irritation after sex is common, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating, or difficult to deal with. Beyond the physical pain you might be struggling with, pain during or after sex known as dyspareunia, can present a fair number of psychological challenges, too, like avoiding sex altogether, embarrassment, confusion, or shame.
While there is no single solution to this problem, and everyone’s solutions are different, keep reading for suggestions to consider to help you help yourself (and your sex life) before and after getting your freak on.
How to Soothe Irritation After Sex
To soothe irritation after sex, we suggest catering these to your own needs and make them your own. Take note of what worked (and what didn’t work) so you’ll have a better idea how to manage the pain and irritation post sex next time.
1. Resist regret & remember you deserve pleasure
It’s easy to regret having sex if you know it often leads you to discomfort. Resist that urge. While the pain is annoying, you also deserve pleasure and joy and fun. Irritation post pleasure is not your body punishing you — it’s your body working through maybe a new person, lube, position or time in your life. Be gentle with yourself and handle with care — you (and your body) is learning and growing and ever changing.
2. Rinse off to flush bacteria away
Whether it’s after a solo sesh, a hot and sweaty threesome, or a Thursday night routine — rinse off! Now, the vagina is it's own self-regulating machine, but sex can get messy, and introducing any sort of foreign object, body part, or fluid can get stuck in between the folds of your vulva and disrupt your vaginal pH. By rinsing off with regular ol’ water, you flush away the sweat, lube, discharge, ejaculate, and/or saliva that can introduce new (read: unhealthy bacteria), which can lead to further discomfort that comes after you do. Depending on what you have access to, here are the many ways you can rinse off.
Shower. The obvious option.
Take a bath. Throw in some Tonic and your toys to give ‘em a proper rinse and soothe your sensitive or inflamed skin.
Take a sitz bath. Perfect for those without a tub!
Use a bidet. You can install one onto your toilet, or find a trusty handheld that can travel with you.
Use a warm washcloth to gently wipe your vulva.
Pour a warm glass of water over your vulva sitting in the bath/shower or on the toilet.
3. Slather on Salve for cooling comfort
With clean hands, smooth on a pea sized amount of Salve to help soothe any mico-tears, stretching, or inflammation that occurred during sex. It’s a creamy coconut oil based balm with natural anti-inflammatories Goldenseal, Echinacea, and Calendula that can also help prevent future discomfort.
Soothe post sex vulvovaginal discomfort and irritation: Shop Salve
4. Cool it (or heat it) to reduce inflammation
Like any other pain point on your body, holding a hot compress or ice pack to the irritated area can help ease post-coital discomfort. Keep in mind that heat boosts blood flow and works best to help heal micro-tearing. Cold compresses slow blood flow to help reduce swelling and inflammation.
5. Allow your body to rest & reset
Listen to your body and help it reset. Don’t push your vagina’s limits. Planning to have sex later this week? Raincheck it. Usually wear tight pants? Opt for loose fitting for the next few days.
Take a calming and rejuvenating Tonic bath: Shop Tonic
6. Know when it's more than discomfort & when to see you doctor
Irritation after sex is common and usually nothing to write home about. Painful urination, bleeding, sores, and extreme pain during any sexual encounter are all signs to visit your gynecologist to see if there are any underlying conditions or infections. The more you know about your body, the better you can serve it, so even if a trip to the doctor seems daunting, know that it’s in service of you getting ~serviced~
How to Help Prevent Pain & Avoid Irritation
Now that you’ve soothed the immediate irritation at hand, you might be wondering how you can prevent irritation after sex from happening next time? Here are a few suggestions to help keep your vulva and vagina healthy and happy.
1. Daily maintenance is key
Helping your vagina feel its best isn’t just about what happens minutes before or after sex. It’s a daily practice that can help your vulva, body, and overall wellbeing. It’s the simple, small things that add up that truly help with sexual wellness. Stay hydrated, take a daily probiotic, and eat food that makes you feel good.
Promote a healthy gut and vaginal microbiome: Shop The Probiotic
2. Skip the latex (but not the protection)
Latex is so widely used in the majority of condoms, dental dams, and other protection that you might not have even thought about the possibility of having an allergic reaction. Latex condoms (or any latex toys, costumes, etc) might be the hidden irritant in your sex life. Non-latex alternatives are widely available and worth trying for your irritable vagina.
Read More: Stuff You Should Know: Sex & Aftercare
3. Lube Up
Whether you’re a beginner or a pro at busting out the lube during play time, having a reliable, all natural lubricant readily available can be a game changer. Stay clear of any lubes that are scented, flavored, or loaded with fillers or artificial ingredients. As a rule of thumb, the less ingredients, the better (unless it’s petroleum jelly! Never use Vaseline on your vulva or vagina — its viscous texture sticks around for a looong time and essentially traps sweat and bad bacteria in the many folds between your legs, which can lead to more irritation in your future).
There’s no such thing as being too lubricated when it comes to sex, so stock up and pour liberally. Dryness can cause some serious discomfort from chafing and tearing.
4. Good Old Fashioned Communication
Be generously straightforward with your partners about what is and isn’t working. They want to please you and make you feel good — help them help you! If a partner is doing something that you know is painful for you either now, or tomorrow morning, let them know and gently suggest an alternative for the two of you to indulge in.
5. Track Your Cycle to Better Understand Your Body
Start with one month. Make a note everyday of how you feel physically, emotionally, and sexually. High libido with cramps? Low libido and stressed? Day three of period and super horny? Write it all down, or use an app to track. You might find there are certain days of the month that your body just can’t take “it” and that’s fine! Get to know your cycle and those days to prevent pushing your limits.
Read More: How Each Phase of the Menstrual Cycle Affects Your Immunity
6. Get in (birth) control
If you’re on a hormonal birth control, it could be affecting your body’s irritable reaction to sex. Ask your doctor about it, or look into switching birth controls to see if that helps. Just remember, everyone’s body reacts differently, so just because your friend swears by one, doesn't mean it will work for you.
7. Reassess your menstrual products
Sometimes we forget that our menstrual products may be the culprit to vaginal irritation because a lot of us have been reaching for the same products for years. Look at the ingredients and materials in your menstrual care products—some may contain hidden fragrance or other chemicals that cause irritation and it’s worth switching up your product of choice to see if it helps with your overall vaginal wellness.
If you usually use tampons, you might want to try a cup. If your cup is causing discomfort, look into organic cotton pads. Reusable cloth pads are famously gentle, and you'll avoid inserting anything foreign into your vagina. Just be sure to wash your pads with fragrance free detergent to avoid further irritation!
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