If Your Vulva Is Swollen After Sex, This Might Be Why

Photographed by Ashley Armitage.
From a painful cervix to a broken penis, sex injuries are all too real. Today, let’s chat about one of the more minor conditions: a swollen vulva. This condition can happen after a lot of sex, rough sex, or insufficiently lubricated sex. As Ariana Grande once sang, “I've been here all night / I've been here all day / And boy, got me walkin' side to side.”
First, let’s talk lubrication. Spending a lot time on foreplay so that you’re really turned on before you begin having sex helps your vagina naturally lubricate. But different people produce different amounts of lubrication — and hormonal birth control, certain medications, and hormonal changes can reduce the amount of natural lubrication you produce.
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That’s what store-bought lubes are for — and even if you produce a lot of natural lubrication, using store-bought lube can still make sex feel better. If you’re lube-shopping, just keep in mind that oil-based lubes aren’t safe to use with condoms or other latex barriers, and silicone lubes aren’t safe to use with silicone sex toys.
However, if your vagina is swollen and you did use lube… that could be the explanation, too. “[Lack of] lubrication is a big factor, but I would also consider a latex allergy, or allergies to certain lubricants as another cause,” says Kristyn Brandi, MD, an OB/GYN and family planning specialist at Rutgers University, New Jersey Medical School in Newark, NJ. “Always get checked out if this happens!”
Along with swelling, a latex allergy can cause redness, itching, or hives. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 to 6% of the general U.S. population is sensitive to latex. However, people who work in the healthcare industry are more likely to be sensitive to latex — about 8 to 12% of healthcare workers regularly exposed to latex are sensitized. According to the Mayo Clinic, people with spina bifida, people who have had multiple surgeries, rubber industry workers, and people with a personal or family history of allergies are also at higher risk than the general population. If you do have a latex allergy, there are quite a few latex-free condom brands out there, as well as non-latex dental dams and non-latex gloves. So you don’t have to give up safer sex practices if you have a latex allergy.
You could also be allergic to ingredients in the lubricant you use, particularly if you’ve opted for a flavoured or “warming” lube. Keep an eye out for other potential irritants, as well — did you wear new lingerie or try out a new detergent? That might be the explanation.
Finally, if you have already have a condition like a yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, or an STI, having sex might increase the irritation. So it’s a good idea to see an OB/GYN, particularly if the swollen vulva is accompanied by other symptoms.
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