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What Is The Hymen?

First time penetrative sex can be a little daunting for all of us, but there may be a little extra anxiety when it comes to those of us with a vagina. Not only are you going to experience being penetrated for the first time, but you may also be anticipating a little pain and potentially some bleeding.

If you are about to have sex for the first time, you’ve probably got a load of questions when it comes to the whys and wherefores; does first time sex hurt for a woman? Why do some women bleed? You may even have some questions around the hymen – what is it and will it hurt when broken?

Rest assured; we have what you need to know when it comes to what the hymen is and what happens when you have penetrative sex for the first time.

What happens the first time you have sex?

There’s going to be a whole mix of emotions in the build up to your first time having penetrative sex. You may be excited and nervous in equal measure. Regardless of how you feel, the most important thing is to make sure you are ready and that both you and your partner have consented to what you are about to do.

Once it comes to the sex itself, it’s important to ensure you are comfortable, warm, and relaxed. If you are nervous, ensure you let your partner know so they can keep a closer eye on you and check in with you regularly. Once you’re both ready, and the appropriate protection is in place (e.g. a condom) you are ready to have them penetrate you.

When your partner does enter you, their penis may stretch and break your hymen; that’s if your hymen is still intact.

What is a hymen?

So, what exactly is the hymen? The hymen is a small piece of skin that can be found inside the opening of the vagina. There is a common misconception that the hymen is a complete membrane that covers the full opening of the vagina however, this is not the case. In most cases, the hymen is half-moon shaped, this allows menstrual blood to pass through.

It’s important to remember that not all women’s hymens may remain intact by the time they get to their first time having penetrative sex. Hymens can break during several activities outside of sex such as horse riding or the insertion of a tampon. Some women may have been born with comparatively small hymens or no hymen at all.

man and woman

What does a hymen look like?

Just like the rest of the vagina, appearance can vary from person to person. As mentioned, some women may be born with comparatively smaller hymens and some women may have no visible hymen at all, this means hymens really do come in all shapes and sizes.

A hymen can look like a half moon shape, it can look like a sheet of tissue that covers almost all the vaginal opening, it can look like a band of tissue running down the middle of the vagina or it might not even be visible at all.

If you are curious about what your hymen looks like, with it being toward the front of the vaginal opening, you may be able to examine it yourself at home using the help of a hand mirror and torch. Getting in the right position to examine your own hymen can be quite tricky though, so if you have concerns about your hymen, it’s always best to speak to a healthcare professional.

Does it hurt when your hymen breaks?

As mentioned, when you have penetrative sex for the first time, you may experience a little pain and/or bleeding. This is a perfectly natural process. Once you have had sex for the first time, the hymen will remain present in your vagina – provided you had one in the first place – however, it will now be stretched to the sides of the vaginal opening and shouldn’t cause you much discomfort in future.

You may find you experience slight discomfort when having penetrative sex after your first time. If discomfort persists, you should contact your GP at the earliest opportunity.


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