Minor vaginal tears typically heal within one to two weeks, however, more severe tears, such as those that require stitches, can take longer.
Minor vaginal cuts and tears are common, frequently happening when a person shaves near the vagina or engages in sexual activity or during childbirth. They may be more common in women with specific hormonal, dermatological, and immunological problems.
Vaginal wounds may be minor or major (deep) and serious. Most vaginal tears heal in about one or two weeks, whereas deeper tears can take longer, especially tears that require stitches (sutures), which typically dissolve within four to six weeks. Vaginal tears should be evaluated by a doctor and be treated appropriately.
Minor vaginal wounds are relatively painless, but they can cause slight discomfort for a day or two before healing, particularly when urinating or having a bowel movement, and bathing or showering. While minor wounds or tears may bleed profusely for a short time, more severe vaginal tears, especially deep lacerations, do not stop bleeding or do not heal with basic self-care, requiring medical intervention.
Vaginal cuts or rips can occur because of sexual assault or rape. People who have been sexually violated should consult a doctor or seek emergency care as soon as possible. Any unexplained or worrying vaginal bleeding, wounds, or tears in children or newborns should also be discussed with a doctor immediately.
What causes vaginal tears?
The most common causes of vaginal tears and wounds include the following:
Vaginal tears can occur because of sexual activity
Vaginal tears are frequently caused by sexual activity when a person’s penis, finger or other item inserted into the vagina causes injury to sensitive tissues.
Vaginal tears during sexual activity can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
- harsh or vigorous thrusting of an object into the vaginal canal
- vaginal dryness or vulvovaginal atrophy (vaginal tissues become drier, thinner, and less elastic during sexual activity)
- certain skin disorders (such as eczema, lichen planus, or psoriasis)
- vaginal scarring or tissue damage (such as from surgery, pelvic radiation therapy)
- congenital deformities and some drugs (such as corticosteroids)
Shaving or waxing of pubic hair can cause vaginal tears
Another typical cause of vaginal cuts or tears is removing pubic hair with a razor. Waxing can sometimes result in visible wounds or tears on the skin. Hair removal, in addition to larger cuts or rips, can result in microscopic wounds. These little incisions are nonetheless large enough to enable bacteria into the body, raising the risk of skin infection.
Vaginal tears can occur during childbirth
Giving birth can result in severe wounds and rips to the vagina and perineum (perineal tears). These cuts or tears can make it difficult for a woman to walk or sit for a few days. Severe wounds or tears can be excruciatingly painful and bleed profusely. For a few weeks, the perineum (space between a person’s rectum and vulva) is usually swollen and painful.
Additionally, the doctor may perform an episiotomy during childbirth to widen the vaginal opening and aid in difficult deliveries, and prevent the rupture of tissues. Episiotomies are more common with first-time vaginal births. Postpartum, the doctor or midwife usually closes the perineal tear with stitches.
During your pregnancy, choose a midwife or doctor who’s experienced with perineal massage to reduce the need for stitches during vaginal births, especially if there is a risk of needing an episiotomy.
What should you do when you have a vaginal tear?
Vaginal tears that cause problematic symptoms should be evaluated by a doctor and treated appropriately. Most tears to the vagina or perineum that don’t cause significant issues can be managed in the following ways at home:
- Cuts and tears weaken the skin’s barrier, making it easier for bacteria to enter the body and cause infection, so avoid skin infections by keeping the area around the vagina clean and dry.
- Wash your hands with soap and running water for 15 to 30 seconds before touching the wound.
- Wash the affected area daily with warm water and a mild, unscented soap or cleanser.
- Make sure the affected area is completely dry before getting dressed.
- Avoid soaking the affected area.
- Avoid sexual practices that involve vaginal contact while the tear is healing.
- Wear loose-fitting underwear made of natural materials, such as cotton or bamboo.
When should you see a doctor?
Tears to the vagina or perineum that do not heal should be evaluated by a doctor, since they may require stitches or other medical attention.
Minor vaginal wounds or rips usually do not require treatment and heal fast. However, more severe tears might result in further complications, such as significant blood loss and infections. Additionally, anal sphincter tears are more likely to result in incontinence of gas or feces.
Signs and symptoms of vaginal tears that require medical attention are:
- Bleed heavily or do not stop bleeding after 10 minutes of firm, direct pressure
- Large, deep lacerations
- Have rough edges
- Do not heal within a few days
- Get worse with time
- Cause anxiety or distress (get them examined by a doctor)
- Fever or chills
- A general feeling of being unwell
- Numbness or tingling
- Lightheadedness or losing consciousness
- A discolored or foul-smelling discharge
- Experiencing incontinence
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Medically Reviewed on 9/13/2021
Fairview Health Services. Vaginal Tear (Non-Obstetric). https://www.fairview.org/patient-education/116680EN
Jansson MH, Franzén K, Hiyoshi A, Tegerstedt G, Dahlgren H, Nilsson K. Risk Factors for Perineal and Vaginal Tears in Primiparous Women – The Prospective POPRACT-Cohort Study. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2020 Dec 2;20(1):749. https://bmcpregnancychildbirth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12884-020-03447-0