The hymen is a thin membrane surrounding the vagina. It may be in different shapes in different people.
It is widely known that first time intercourse can lead to light bleeding that signifies the membrane is torn in the act. However, there are instances that can lead to losing your virginity even without engaging in penetrative intercourse.
But how do you know if your hymen is broken or torn? Does it mean you have lost your virginity regardless of the cause?
Find out below from the symptoms to look out for. Also, you will know what exactly happens when the membrane is torn and whether it can grow back afterwards.
What does a hymen look like?
This membrane often has a crescent shape and either partially covers or surrounds the external vaginal opening.
- It is part of the external genitalia with the other parts being the vulva and the labia (majora and minora).
- While the other parts of the vagina have their specific purpose, the hymen does not have a role to play in the physiology of the vagina or the body in general.
Also, while the most common shape is crescent, other shapes are also possible. It may appear thick and rigid or thin and stretchy.
The hymen may also not be present at all in some people even before engaging in any activities that may break it.
What does it look like when broken?
If you need to know if yours is torn or cut, then the first thing to take note of is the shape of the hymen.
If you knew the shape before and are looking at your vaginal canal to confirm whether it is broken, you need to look for broken pieces of skin at the opening of the vagina.
A hymen has been the symbol of virginity for a very long time. If you just had sexual intercourse for the first time, chances are high that you tore the membrane.
The breaking may be accompanied by some light spotting (which is perfectly normal), and some pain which shouldn’t last long.
Even with the different types and shapes, the symptoms of a broken hymen are similar across the board. You will know it is no longer intact if you notice the following signs.
- Light spotting in the vagina.
- Slight pain in the vaginal area.
- Pieces of broken skin in the vaginal opening.
However, this is not always the case in some people since you may not have all the symptoms stated above yet you are highly suspecting a broken hymen.
How to check
While a visit to the doctor will conclusively tell you whether you have a broken hymen or not, you can also confirm on your own with the following steps:
You will need: a mirror, a chair, a water-based lubricant, and some clean water with soap and a towel.
Do the following:
- Wash your hands using soap and clean water then wear gloves (if you have them). Otherwise, dry off your hands and apply a lubricant on your middle finger.
- Sit on a chair and place the mirror in front of you.
- Spread out your legs to place the mirror right in front of your vagina.
- Once you can perfectly see the vagina in the mirror, use the index and middle finger of one hand to spread the lips of the vagina as wide and as comfortably possible. You can now see the inside of the vagina correctly. You don’t need to see all the way up. Just seeing the opening is enough for this exercise.
- In this position, you should be able to see the hymen as a thin (or thick) layer of skin around the vagina. If not, it should occur as a piece of skin on the vaginal opening towards the anus.
- If you don’t see the membrane or only see broken pieces of skin on the opening of the vagina, then your hymen is broken.
There are cases of a missing hymen from birth. This does not in any way mean that you have a problem since the sheath has no actual purpose in the body.
Causes (besides sex)
The presence or absence of the hymen is often assumed to be the determinant of virginity in women. However, while having penetrative sex will surely break the membrane, there are other causes of such tearing. They include:
- The use of vaginal speculums for abdominal tests.
- The use of tampons
- Being active in sports such as riding horses, jumping on a trampoline, riding a bicycle, doing gymnastics.
- Injury to the body
- Not being born with it
All these conditions will tamper with your ‘virginity’. Even with that, it is not a guarantee that engaging in these activities or conditions will break the membrane. In some cases, even sex will not tear the hymen but only stretch it.
What happens when you tear your hymen?
When you break the membrane, you are bound to experience the following:
- Some light bleeding
- Pain in the vaginal opening
- If you look inside the vagina immediately after, you will likely see broken pieces of skin with some pink blood or spotting.
At other times, may not see any of these signs yet the hymen is cut, torn or broken. After the activity, simply check for its presence as stated in the steps above.
If you notice some bleeding and pain, you can do the following to ease the pain and bleeding right at home:
- If the color of the discharge is a dark brown or dark red tinge rather than light red, then it would be another problem. It would also be an infection and not something to overlook.
- The spotting should not go on for more than two days after the hymen has been torn. It should not be enough to soak a pad and, in any case, you don’t need a pad for this purpose.
- After you confirm tje tearing, avoid all sexual activities until the pain and bleeding has fully ended.
- If you broke it with a finger rather than another object or situation, you may need to take some preventive medications for infections.
If you experience anything beyond the norm, you should see a doctor as fast as possible given that postcoital spotting (bleeding after sex) can occur due to many different reasons including:
- Vaginal tearing
- Uterine polyps
- Yeast infections
- Cervical polyps
- Cervical dysplasia
- Cervical cancer
Can your hymen grow back?
No. Once broken, it cannot grow back no matter how long you abstain from sexual intercourse or any other activities that penetrate the vagina such as masturbation.
The hymen is a mucous membrane whose formation starts early in the development of a baby. Once the baby is born, the mechanism to grow this membrane is rendered useless meaning that, however early or late the sheath is broken in your life, it will not grow back.
There are two cases that have been confusing women as far as the regrowth of the membrane is concerned. They are:
1. Secondary virginity
Secondary virginity is when you decide not to engage in penetrative sexual intercourse anymore after a period of sexual activity. It simply means choosing to abstain from sex no matter your age even after you have had a period of being sexually active.
While the word virginity is employed here, it has nothing to do with the presence of the hymen. Even when you bleed for the first time after secondary virginity, it would not be due to the breaking of the hymen.
Also called hymenoplasty or reconstruction, hymenorrhaphy is the artificial creation of the virginity membrane with the aim of causing bleeding after sex in the first sexual encounter after marriage.
This is required in some cultures as a proof of virginity at marriage.
Hymenorrhaphy can be performed under the following conditions:
- After sexual assault to restore the hymen if the victim was a virgin. This is done by suturing a tissue in the hymen to facilitate the healing.
- Creating a completely new membrane by using a flap of the vaginal lining.
- A procedure of plastic surgery in which a gelatine capsule filled with a fluid with the traits of blood which will be placed inside the vagina. The fluid would then ooze out just like the actual blood.
As seen here, once you know if your hymen is torn, the only ways to revert back to virginity would be through virginity or hymenorrhaphy.
Different types of hymens
The hymen comes in different sizes and shapes. No one shape is correct or normal over the other. Among the most common types hymes are:
The septate membrane has bands of tissue extending across the opening of the vagina. The tissue can either be soft and supple or rigid and thick.
That means that penetration during sex is only possible after the breaking of these bands. Besides that, using a tampon will also be impossible with the bands in place.
These bands may at times break on their own, during sex or by a surgical procedure.
2. Parous introitus
This is a type that is almost gone. It appears as a thin layer of skin on the sides of the vaginal opening. Either you may be born with it or you could have broken away the existing membrane.
The cribriform membrane has many small holes in the opening of the vagina. These holes are enough to allow for the passage of menses and other vaginal discharges.
However, abdominal examinations and the use of tampons is highly limited. Sexual penetration will only be possible with the breakage.
4. Imperforate hymen
Unlike the other types, the imperforate hymen completely covers the vaginal opening. It means that menstrual blood will not be allowed out of the body.
You will thus require a surgical procedure to correct this case since retained menses is bad for the body. The good news is that the imperforate membrane is very uncommon as only about 2 percent of women will have it.
The annular hymen is one whereby the hymen forms an almost perfect circle around the opening of the vagina. A look at it will reveal a fully-formed vagina with a little hole in the middle.
For this kind, masturbating, having sex or other physical exertion will widen the hole with the reduction of the hymen. It is also called the microperforate membrane.
If you are in suspicion of having an imperforate, cribriform or septate hymen, you need to pay your doctor a visit for a checkup.
- Is My Hymen Intact? | SexInfo Online – University of California, Santa Barbara