"It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt," the old saying goes—and yes, it applies to sex.
Sex injuries aren't uncommon, and whether because of fear or shame, we can often feel hesitant to bring them up. But in the case of cervical pain—aka a bruised cervix—it may be too intense to ignore. Luckily, it's usually not a cause for concern. Here's what to know about cervical pain, plus how to prevent it going forward.
What is a bruised cervix?
A bruised cervix is a condition where the cervix, the small canal between the vagina and the uterus, feels sensitive or tender. It can feel like intense pain around the pelvic or lower abdominal region, or it may feel like a dull ache or discomfort similar to cramps. It's typically caused by vigorous sexual activity.
"The cervix is like any other body part and can become bruised if it's hurt," functional medicine gynecologist Wendie Trubow, M.D., explains to mbg. "The most common cause of a bruised cervix is rough intercourse or rough play with vaginal toys."
Certain factors can make cervical pain more likely, according to OB/GYN Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, M.D. "The position and consistency of the cervix changes throughout the menstrual cycle for menstruating women who are not on hormonal contraception," she notes. "It is higher up in the second half after ovulation, and lower during the week during and immediately following menstruation."
Additionally, the cervix also rises with sexual arousal as the vagina lengthens, because of changes in blood flow to that region, she adds. So, when the cervix is lower, it's easier to hit.
Signs and symptoms.
If your cervix was bumped, you likely felt it, and it's possible you still felt it the next day. Here's a general overview of what it might feel like:
- Soreness or cramping: It can feel sore inside, Trubow notes, and it may be similar or more intense than sensations you feel around your period.
- Painful sex: The sex that initially caused the cervical pain may have been painful itself, and any penetration or intercourse thereafter can hurt too until you've healed.
- Spotting: It's possible that if sex was particularly rough, there could be some spotting afterward.
- Nausea: Pain and cramping may cause some nausea.
Bruised cervix treatment.
A bruised cervix typically resolves itself on its own and doesn't take that long to heal. Trubow says it can take a week or so to completely feel better, adding, "The vagina is a pretty forgiving organ, so it can heal relatively quickly."
Until then, your best bet is to avoid vaginal penetration and particularly strenuous activities to let your body recover, she says.
When to see a doctor.
According to Trubow, cervical bruising should heal itself with avoidance of vaginal penetration, and she's actually only seen a couple of instances of it in her 20 years of practice. Nevertheless, if it doesn't seem to be resolving, or pain with intercourse is a recurring issue, she recommends seeing your OB/GYN.
How to prevent cervical bruising.
Understanding your body—including where you're at in your menstrual cycle and whether you're aroused enough for penetration—is key for preventing cervical bruising going forward. For example, you may want to keep rough sex to a minimum during the times when your cervix is lower, such as during and after your period. It's also important to make sure you're fully aroused before vaginal intercourse, as the arousal makes your cervix lift in the vaginal canal, making it harder to hit.
In addition, Trubow suggests changing things up during sex is something isn't feeling good: "If intercourse is uncomfortable, I would recommend changing positions, increasing foreplay, and using a lubricant. Prevention is focused on avoiding the behavior that causes it." If you realize there's a position where your cervix is getting hit more, avoid it and switch things up.
"Sex—with another or self—is a mind-body experience," Gilberg-Lenz adds, "so understanding your physiology and honoring your body's response to stimulus are paramount in supporting pleasure."
Topical products including CBD or THC designed for vaginal or anal sex may help, she adds. "Some evidence supports using these products, especially for folks who have experienced pain or other arousal issues."
The bottom line.
Cervical pain is no fun, but it can be prevented. Understanding your body—including where you're at in your menstrual cycle and whether you're aroused enough for penetration—is key for preventing cervical bruising going forward. Tune into your body, know your limits, and don't be afraid to express them to your partner.
In the meantime, be sure to give your body time to heal, and keep these tips in mind going forward so a bruised cervix doesn't get in the way again.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, as well as a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.