Vaginal bleeding after sex is common and can happen when you're not menstruating or don't expect to be menstruating. Although it's often called "vaginal" bleeding, the term refers to bleeding from the vagina as well as bleeding from other parts of your genital and urinary systems.

Vaginal bleeding after sex occurs most often in younger, premenopausal women and doesn't necessarily mean that you need to see a doctor. But vaginal bleeding after sex in older, postmenopausal women is less common and warrants a visit to your doctor to find out what's causing it.

In premenopausal women, the source of vaginal bleeding after sex is usually the cervix — the narrow, lower end of the uterus. Even with a completely healthy cervix, enough friction or mild trauma during sexual intercourse can cause some bleeding. Inflammation of the cervix or some other abnormality, most of which are harmless, can also result in bleeding. Sometimes, though, vaginal bleeding after sex is a sign of a sexually transmitted infection.

In postmenopausal women, vaginal bleeding after sex may arise from the opening of the bladder (urethral meatus), the outer opening of the vagina (labia) or the uterus, as well as the cervix.

If you're premenopausal and you have infrequent episodes of vaginal bleeding after sex — and you've had normal results on routine Pap tests and sexually transmitted infection screenings — you don't need to see your doctor to be evaluated. If you have vaginal bleeding that bothers or worries you, make an appointment with your doctor to get it checked out. If you're at risk or feel you have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection, see your doctor for an evaluation.

If you're postmenopausal, vaginal bleeding at any time must be evaluated. Consult with your doctor to be sure that the cause of your vaginal bleeding isn't something serious.

Nov. 26, 2014