If Your Cervix Feels Bruised, This Might Be What’s Really Happening

Photographed by Daantje Bons.
Over the past few years, many articles have been written about bruised cervixes. “SEX-CRUCIATING: The horrifying sex injury that can happen to women during a passionate romp,” reads a headline from the Sun written in 2018. But Meryl Kahan, MD, an OB/GYN who practices in New York, says bruised cervixes are impossible — although the cervix can feel painful and bleed, unlike other parts of the body, the cervix can't technically bruise.
Instead, if the cervix experiences trauma, “you’re going to have actual bleeding, instead of under-the-surface bleeding, which would be a bruise,” Dr. Kahan explains. There are a few different possible explanations for cervical pain and bleeding. Some indicate a health problem and others don’t, so if you are experiencing pain, go to an OB/GYN to find out what's going on.
“Potential causes could be trauma to the area, with intercourse being the most likely,” Dr. Kahan explains. This can happen with a penis, a fist or hand, or a sex toy. If an OB/GYN rules out an underlying cause like an infection, then the person experiencing pain "should try to note if they notice the discomfort more during certain positions when they’re having intercourse,” Dr. Kahan says. “If that’s the case, we have to advise patients to really just try to avoid those positions that cause discomfort.”
Now, about that potential infection: some sexually transmitted infections can lead to a pelvic infection, which can cause bleeding or spotting. The most common culprits for this are trichomoniasis (aka trich) and chlamydia, both of which can be treated with medication. And although HPV doesn’t lead to a pelvic infection, it can lead to bleeding. “HPV could cause abnormal cells on the surface of the cervix, which is what we test for with a Pap smear,” Dr. Kahan explains. There isn’t a cure for HPV, but symptoms can be managed in a variety of ways, and it’s incredibly common — according to the CDC, 79 million people in the US have it.
The cervix can also bleed or feel sore during pregnancy. “You can be more susceptible to [cervical] bleeding during pregnancy, because of the hormonal changes that go on in the body,” Dr. Kahan explains. “They can impact the cervix and can change the actual type of cells that are on the outer surface of the cervix into the type that is more prone to bleeding and more prone to injury from trauma.”
In the end, if your cervix feels sore or painful, it’s best to consult with an OB/GYN. “Get it checked out, because it could be something that’s easily fixed,” Dr. Kahan says.

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