Burning after sex without a condom

Dear Alice, 

A few months ago, my fiancé and I, after much consideration, decided to stop using condoms and rely only on the Pill as a contraceptive method. Since then, when he ejaculates inside my vagina, I frequently experience a strong burning sensation a few minutes afterward — varying in both degree and length each time. Could I be allergic to his semen? The pain sometimes subsides if I hold a wet cloth over the area. Sometimes, perhaps during a different part of my cycle, there is no discomfort. Does it have something to do with the pH level or something? It feels very chemical, somehow. — Sex distressed

Dear Sex distressed, 

Instead of feeling the afterglow of sex, it sounds as though you're feeling the burn! The after-burn, that is. There are a number of possible explanations for the burning sensation you're feeling, including (but not limited to) friction caused by insufficient lubrication, vaginitis, or a semen allergy. Read on for steps you might consider to help alleviate your situation! 

Vaginal dryness is common and can be a side effect of some hormonal birth control methods among other things. If there is not enough lubrication during sex, the friction that occurs during penetration may be irritating the vaginal tissues causing you to feel sore or burning because of the inflamed tissue. It’s important to note that this irritation can increase your risk for various infections. To combat friction and prevent vaginal irritation, you may consider extending foreplay or adding water-based lubrication into the mix. 

Another possible explanation for what you’re experiencing could be caused by vaginitis. Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina that's often associated with abnormal discharge, mild or severe itching or burning of the vulva, chafing of the thighs, or frequent urination. This condition could be a reaction to new products you've used such as lotion, spray, spermicide, or detergent, among others. Vaginitis may also be caused by the existence of other conditions such as bacterial vaginosis (BV), a yeast infection, or sexually transmitted infections (STI) such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis may also lead to vaginitis. Because vaginitis has a number of different causes, seeing a medical professional is recommended in order to get a diagnosis and properly treat it. 

You might also be onto something with your theory about a semen allergy being the culprit. Individuals with semen allergies often experience a negative reaction to the proteins in the seminal fluid—not the sperm itself. Symptoms like burning, pain, and swelling, usually on the outer genitals, typically start 20 to 30 minutes after contact and can vary in severity and duration. To find out if what your experiencing is a reaction to the seminal fluid, consider making an appointment with a medial professional to get an allergy test. 

Other possible triggers for the pain and discomfort you’ve described include lowered immune resistance, douching, antibiotics, or cuts and abrasions. Since there are a number of possible causes for your pain and burning, consider talking with your health care provider to determine the cause and recommended course of treatment. 

Hoping you find some relief soon, 

Last updated Apr 21, 2023
Originally published Jan 26, 2018

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