What causes vaginal bleeding?

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Dear Dr. Myrtle,

The other night, my partner was using her fingers to pleasure my vagina, and I started bleeding. The bleeding stopped right away. I know it wasn’t my period, because my usual period stopped about two weeks ago. I was wondering if you had any suggestions as to why this happened.


Think about vaginal bleeding in two general ways: expected vaginal bleeding, and unexpected vaginal bleeding.

  1. Expected bleeding would be explained by such events as menstruation, or other hormonal influences.
  2. Unexpected vaginal bleeding is usually from some type of physical trauma (a cut, nick, bruise, etc.), or inflammation that irritates the skin surface, such that any touching or friction can cause bleeding. Interestingly, the bleeding that you experienced may have been related to that period that stopped two weeks ago: when women ovulate (usually about two weeks after their last period), their levels of hormones can shift so much that a small bit of spotting can occur.

You may have noticed this more because your partner’s fingers had blood on them when they were withdrawn. This would have been "expected" or at least not surprising. On the other hand, it’s fairly easy to cut someone with a loose fingernail, hang-nail, or just overly long nails. If the thrusting was intense enough, it is possible that some bleeding occurred from damage to your cervix or to your vaginal walls. The cervix has a pretty strong blood supply, and it’s possible to bruise it a bit. If you have a yeast infection or other sexually transmitted infection, your vaginal tissues may not be their usual healthy selves, and could have bleed some during your intimacy.

It’s also common for women who have undiagnosed cervical dysplasia (cervical cells infected with HPV that have gone a little haywire and aren’t growing the way they are supposed to) to experience a little bit of bleeding with touch. If this is what caused the bleeding, cervical dysplasia is definitely something that you should know about, and it can be treated.

Usually, vaginal bleeding that is due to a fingernail cut, and stops right away isn’t an emergency situation. (Bleeding that will not stop, unless it’s related to a woman’s period, is an emergency, and should be evaluated by a health care professional.) But if you’ve experienced vaginal bleeding that doesn’t seem like a menstrual (period) bleeding pattern, you should be evaluated for sexually transmitted infections, bacterial imbalances (such as bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections), cervical cell changes, or to check on the depth of any cuts that you might have gotten.

So, what to do?

  1. Call your healthcare professional and have a pelvic exam to check out the possibility of trauma, sexually transmitted infections, or bacterial imbalances. Also, have them consider whether your bleeding cycles are "normal" and whether there is the possibility of cervical dysplasia.
  2. Have your partner make sure her nails and fingers are in good shape for play.
  3. Try wearing lubricated latex or non-latex gloves for vaginal/vulvar play. Not only does this reduce the possibility of tearing or cutting delicate skin, it is a wonderful sensation that is very arousing to many women.

Take care,
Dr. Myrtle