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COLUMN: Kinsey Confidential answers a question about vaginal bleeding after sex

I de-virgined my new wife, but she didn't bleed immediately. It was only several minutes after sex, and after we got dressed, that she told me that she noticed some blood on her pants. Is that normal?

Most female babies are born with a hymen that covers part of their vaginal opening. A hymen is a thin layer of tissue that is filled with blood vessels. Sometimes, a female is born with little to no hymen tissue and other times a female may be born with a hymen that completely covers her vaginal opening, which can be problematic later on when she begins to menstruate. The point is that hymens vary even among female babies, which means that they also vary among the adult women these young girls grow up to become.

Because the hymen varies from woman to woman, the amount of bleeding at first intercourse also varies from woman to woman. Some women don’t notice any blood at all when they first start having intercourse. This may be because they have previously masturbated with their fingers or a sex toy, or because they and a partner engaged in sex play that involved vaginal fingering. 

A lack of vaginal bleeding at first intercourse may also be because a woman simply had a very small hymen that, when torn, did not bleed much.

Other women have noticeable bleeding shortly after their first intercourse. They may not notice it at first and may simply notice some bleeding on their sheets or on their underwear later that day, such as the next time that they go to the bathroom. 

The practice of looking for vaginal bleeding after first intercourse is increasingly controversial, since it is not a reliable test of whether or not a woman was a virgin. 

Also, many health care providers feel that so-called “virginity examinations” – in which a woman is examined by a doctor prior to first intercourse – place unfair pressures and burdens on women. In some countries, worries about virginity examinations are a cause of significant distress, and even suicide, among young women. 

However, because of the pressure on some women to “prove” their virginity or to have a noticeably intact hymen, some women, often even with the participation of their fiancé, ask their health care provider for a hymen reconstruction. It is a controversial practice even among health care providers. To learn more about these topics of virginity, bleeding after first intercourse, and the hymen, visit our Kinsey Confidential website. 

Kinsey Confidential is part of a joint partnership between the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington (IU SPH) and The Kinsey Institute. The column is written by Dr. Debby Herbenick, professor in the IU SPH. Read past Q&A or submit your own question at Follow us on Twitter @KinseyCon  

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