Aunt Vadge: Are my vaginal tears herpes?

Hi Aunt Vadge, 

I’ve been having unprotected sex with my boyfriend since the beginning of September of this year and have not noticed anything abnormal until now. After having sex on Saturday (5 days ago) I noticed a small tear on the bottom of my vagina near the perineal,  which at the time I thought nothing of.

We had sex again last night resulting in what looks like now 2 (1 small 1 rather big) splits in that same area that are pretty deep and a little painful/itchy. I am absolutely scared to death to see a doctor in fear of it being herpes hence why I am writing you here. They don’t seem to be healing very fast and I’m really freaked out.

Please help!
Scared
Age 18, Canada

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Hi Scared,

Thanks for your email. Your cuts do not sound like herpes – herpes presents as really painful sores, blisters, and not as cuts. It is just unlikely – herpes are reasonably distinctive, and do not present as a cut, so you can relax on that front.

Plus, if you did have herpes, your boyfriend would usually need to have given it to you via an open sore on his penis – if you are having sex with herpes sores, it is quick to spread, so if he seems fine, don’t worry about herpes.

The main problem is how you did get these cuts, which seems to be from the sex, unless something else more serious is going on. So at least for starters, let’s just assume you have got sex tears, and wait for them to heal, then see what happens.

Minor cuts and tears can be encouraged to heal well with a moisturising vulva and vagina-friendly cuts cream.

In the meantime:

No sex, no masturbating, no fingering, do not touch your vagina at all except to gently wash it with warm water. You need to leave the cuts alone so they can heal without interference or aggravation.

Cuts on your vagina or vulva are just the same as cuts other places – they itch a bit and can be a little bit sore as they heal. It’s usually not an issue, they don’t leave scars and they heal very quickly.

The cuts are worrying if they return for no reason or are triggered off by gentle, properly-lubed sexual activity. When you have sex again after the cuts are completely healed, just make sure you pay attention to how that area (the posterior fourchette) feels.

Vulvas are so easy to tear – any move in the wrong direction with a hard-on and you can cause damage very quickly. It’s so common and in fact kind of normal to a degree, though obviously it is unpleasant and you want to avoid any skin damage. Be cautious, take preventative measures to avoid cuts (positions, lube, etc.) and learn how and when tears tend to appear.

Another important thing you need to get used to is going to the doctor for small reasons when it comes to your vaginal and reproductive health. If you do have herpes, you really want to know about it immediately, and if it isn’t herpes, and the cuts repeat themselves, you really do need to visit a doctor and talk to them about what’s going on.

You should be now getting pap smears and an STI check annually – you get them all done at the same time – because you are now sexually active and at risk of infections and HPV (the virus that causes cervical cancer). Get used to getting examined, form a good relationship with a doctor you trust (usually a female doctor is preferable because subtle symptoms are easier to describe), and don’t skimp on your check-ups. It’s not worth it.

There are a few reasons why you might get vaginal tears, but let’s not go there just yet. Also, please use birth control! It’s important. You need to protect yourself from pregnancy and infections, so learn how to use condoms, or pick another form of birth control that suits you.

Best,
Aunt Vadge