genital injuries in femalesImages (Click to view larger image)
vulval injuries, vaginal injuries, injury to the genitals, straddle injury
A genital injury to a female is an injury to the reproductive organs of a girl or a woman.
What is going on in the body?
The external genitalia has a rich blood supply. As a result, relatively minor injuries to the area may bleed excessively. This is particularly true when injuries involve the hymen, vagina, or labia. The injury may be the result of childbirth, rough intercourse, sexual assault, or an accident or other trauma.
What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?
If the injury is to the inside of the vagina, the girl or woman may not have any bleeding or pain. Sometimes these internal injuries affect the bladder, rectum, and other organs in the abdomen. Symptoms may include:
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
- pain in the abdomen
- pain inside or outside the vagina
- redness and swelling within the vagina
- cuts or tears anywhere in the genital region
- painful urination
- inability to urinate
- foul smelling discharge
- an object embedded in the vagina
- feeling faint
- bite marks on the genitalia
- bruising of the vulva, the outside of the vagina
- bleeding under the skin of the vulva
- change in the shape of the vaginal lips, vulva, or other areas
Childbirth is the most likely cause of genital injury. A tear in the vulva or vagina during pregnancy and delivery may occur as a result of:
Accidental injuries can be caused by:
- an episiotomy, which is a cut made in the opening of the vagina during childbirth
- tears in the vaginal opening from delivering a large infant
- the use of forceps or vacuum suction during childbirth
Injuries related to sex or assault are due to: What can be done to prevent the condition?
- straddle injuries, for example falling on monkey bars, a bicycle bar, or a fence
- chemical burns or burns from hot objects
- pelvic fractures
- high-pressure liquid injection, such as from water-skiing or jet-skiing
Vaginal injuries related to high-pressure water injection can be prevented by wearing protective clothing such as a wet suit while water or jet skiing. Keeping one's feet together when entering the water on a slide will keep water from entering the vagina.
Preventing sexual assault may not be possible, but it is clear that the victim of this brutality should not be blamed. Women should avoid situations that can bring physical or sexual harm, such as:
Children should be told that they should not place objects into the vagina. Also, getting rid of sharp objects in the bath that they may fall on can prevent injuries.
- alcohol or drug use
- being in a dangerous environment
- having an abusive partner
- having group sex
How is the condition diagnosed?
It may be hard to do a pelvic examination in woman or girl who has a genital injury. But without a thorough examination, a doctor may misjudge the extent and severity of the injury. Sometimes the examination is done with the woman or girl under general anaesthesia.
Other procedures that may be done include: What are the long-term effects of the condition?
Genital injuries need to be treated right away to prevent bleeding, complications, and long-term psychological damage. Genital injuries in girls will very likely create a lot of anxiety for the child as well as for her parents.
What are the risks to others?
A genital injury can pose a risk to a foetus if the woman is pregnant. Other risks may occur from some of the secondary effects of genital injury, such as sexually transmitted diseases.
What are the treatments for the condition?
Treatment varies according to the severity of the injuries. Treatments may include:
What are the side effects of the treatments?
- ice packs, pressure to stop any bleeding, and bed rest
- draining any large areas of blood
- suturing of cuts or tears
- surgery to repair any damage to other organs
- oestrogen creams to help the vagina heal
- using a urinary catheter, which is a small tube that allows urine to drain from the bladder
- counselling after sexual abuse
Antibiotics can cause stomach upset, rash, allergic reaction, and other side effects. Surgery poses a risk of infection, bleeding, and allergic reaction to anaesthesia.
What happens after treatment for the condition?
Bed rest, ice packs, and antibiotics may be needed for some time depending on the extent of the injuries. Not having sex for a while will allow the tissues to heal.
How is the condition monitored?
A woman or girl should notify her doctor if she notices any of the following: Author: Eva Martin, MD
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 12/06/2005
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request