Aunt Vadge: my boyfriend touches me and I swell up

Hi Aunt Vadge,

I’m almost 17, and at the beginning of this year, my boyfriend fingered me for the first time. His fingers were a bit dry so I told him it was sore and so he made them wetter, and then it was way nicer.

But after he’d done it I was really, really swollen. My clitoris and the hood and the labia was almost triple its usual size! I was in quite a lot of pain, but there was no blood. 

I went to a doctor soon afterwards because it kept hurting when I pee. The problem was fixed after antibiotics, and I didn’t let him finger me for a month, then when he did it again I made sure his hands were clean and he was gentle, and I was still a bit swollen, but not sore and there was no blood. 

The same thing happens every time he’s fingered me or given me head since. But last night when he fingered me he did lots of rubbing me over my underwear before going underneath them, and it felt good at the time, but he was really rough when he fingered me, and now everything’s swollen about four times its usual size. I can even see the swelling through my undies!!! I’ve also got some spots of blood in my underwear.

Do I need to see a doctor?! I’m scared, he’s older than me and I have told him about it and we’ve talked about this stuff and he’s always really sorry, but he doesn’t know what’s normal and what’s not!

I’m not allergic to anything, and when I masturbate, nothing out of the ordinary has ever happened, but I’m always super gentle so that’s probably why.

Love,
Anonymous x
______

Hi Anonymous,

Wow it sounds like you are a bit over-reactive for some reason – it sounds really painful and uncomfortable. Because you can masturbate and the reaction doesn’t happen, it could be one of two things:

1. You are allergic to something your boyfriend has on his hands, in his saliva or possibly laundry detergent or some other external substance.

2. Your boyfriend is touching you too hard and it is causing you damage.

Allergy or hypersensitivity reaction

Swelling is a sign of inflammation, which can come from an allergic or dermatological reaction – so for example if you were allergic to bee stings, and you got stung, the area would swell up to several times its normal size. You could be allergic to something that is touching your vagina/vulva and causing the swelling.

It could be laundry detergent in your underwear getting smooshed into your vagina when you are dry humping and having fun with your boyfriend. It could be something on your boyfriend’s skin – soap, moisturiser, something he uses every day on his hands, something on his nails.

If the common denominator each time is your boyfriend, maybe you are reacting to something in his mouth – something he ate recently, just his saliva in general…

Stranger things have happened! Usually people who are allergy-prone tend to have several allergies, not just one, but it is not unheard of to develop weird allergies for no particular reason. Our immune systems use complex mechanisms.

Physical damage

Alternatively inflammation can come from physical damage. If you trip and hurt yourself, the area you hurt swells up and is red, hot, and inflamed. This may be the case, though general vaginal touching usually does not result in swelling that bad unless of course you are being touched too roughly and you have sensitive skin.

If you need to be touched really softly, then that’s just what your body needs. Every body is built differently, and it may just be that your body is super-sensitive – you might have a lot more nerve endings and blood vessels in your vulva than most other people, and therefore if it gets touched with a firmer pressure or gets damaged, it could become inflamed.

Check out the fingering basics article and try to adjust your practices so you are both as gentle as possible until you figure out what works and what doesn’t – be super gentle at all times.

Work backwards from the softest touch possible, and try to remove the cause this way. Don’t have any sex play (with your vagina or vulva) until the area is completely healed and shows no signs of inflammation – reactions beget further reactions, so calm it down, then try again.

If being more gentle doesn’t help, it might pay to visit your doctor and have a chat, since you may have something else going on that can be treated, for example if you are allergic to something, you could try taking antihistamines to see if that helps – if it does, it means you are suffering an allergy; if it doesn’t, you can work on other solutions.

Your doctor may have more clues as to what it is too, as they see many cases of all sorts of reactions every day, so don’t accept no for an answer and keep searching until you find the solution.

Warmest regards,
Aunt Vadge    

References​1,2​

  1. 1.
    Uloko M, Isabey EP, Peters BR. How many nerve fibers innervate the human glans clitoris: a histomorphometric evaluation of the dorsal nerve of the clitoris. The Journal of Sexual Medicine. Published online January 30, 2023:247-252. doi:10.1093/jsxmed/qdac027
  2. 2.
    Pauls R, Mutema G, Segal J, et al. ORIGINAL RESEARCH—BASIC SCIENCE: A Prospective Study Examining the Anatomic Distribution of Nerve Density in the Human Vagina. The Journal of Sexual Medicine. Published online November 2006:979-987. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2006.00325.x


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Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)
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