Valentine’s Day is here, and in addition to securing gifts, candy, flowers and lingerie, many couples use the day, and the pressure that comes with it to do something different, to shake things up in the bedroom. Some of the ideas people are coming up with though are landing women in the hospital.
Andrea Alexander, MD, FACOG, a board-certified gynecologist based in Houston, shared a very insightful reel on Instagram ahead of the holiday detailing the types of things she sees in the emergency room on and after Valentine’s Day, including vaginal tears and abrasions, foreign objects in the vagina, vulvar burns and tears, vaginal bleeding, vulvar and vaginal irritation from foods and experimental lubricants being inserted, vaginal apex ruptures requiring surgeries and more. And while there’s nothing wrong with having fun sexually, some of us aren’t being safe.
To help reduce the likelihood of you needing to make a beeline from the bedroom to the emergency room on Valentine’s Day, we spoke with Alexander, who broke practices to ensure we’re really having “safe sex” tonight and every night.
ESSENCE: Is the pressure to make Valentine’s Day something different and special what’s driving your patients to do and try these things that cause great injury and concern? Or do you see these types of outcomes regularly?
Dr. Andrea Alexander: There is a lot of pressure on women nowadays. We are expected to work, but also be an amazing mom, give birth naturally, remain in amazing shape, eat right, look together 100% of the time, and I’m sure the list goes on! And then we are expected to perform to high standards in the bedroom multiple times a week! So it’s no wonder some patients truly do feel overwhelmed or believe that they must over perform in the bedroom. However, sometimes, patients and their partners truly like trying new measures to achieve orgasm and that should come without judgment if no illegality or nonconsensual means are noted. And now, more than ever, with the advent of podcasts and social media trends, we see this more and more often.
What’s the most common injury you see around this time that you mentioned?
We usually see vaginal bleeding in pregnancy after intercourse the most, as the cervix and its vasculature are more susceptible to injury after intercourse. In non-pregnant patients, and this may vary from provider to provider, we typically see vulvar injuries status post-play the most.
Could there be any long-term physical consequences?
There can absolutely be long-term sequela from sexual injuries such as vaginismus, vulvar pain, and let’s not forget, psychological turmoil. Patients may have to ease back into foreplay and intercourse, and depending on their provider experience when seeking medical attention for the injury, they may even begin to develop anxiety about seeking care.
What advice would you give to people who want to experiment in the hopes of spicing things up in the bedroom on this holiday?
- If you’re experimenting with toys, ensure they are clean and sanitized prior to use.
- While we recommend avoiding toys with sharp edges, if using any (hey, we don’t judge!), ensure your partner has good lighting to avoid vulvar and vaginal injury.
- If you’re into experimenting with foods/syrups during sex, ensure the temperature isn’t too hot to avoid burns, and avoid placing into the vagina to prevent irritation and infection.
- Seek a professional for hair removal to avoid mishaps.
- Know that vaginal bleeding is expected after the hymen is penetrated through. If you are concerned about too much bleeding, please don’t be embarrassed to ask your parent to bring you to the ED! Most parents I’ve encountered in this situation just want to ensure their child is safe!
- Please avoid placing foreign objects in the rectal vault. However, if this is your thing, ensure sterility before use, remove immediately after play, and avoid using objects with sharp edges.
- While vaginal apex rupture is more likely to be secondary to an extremely rare anatomical defect, I have seen this so ensure your partner is being gentle! You have feelings and needs too! Don’t feel pressured to engage in any play you’re not interested in. Your voice matters.
- Consider safety words before starting any play. This establishes that there are some boundaries before starting anything, clarifies one’s feelings, and gives all parties involved a voice in the matter.