Anonymous on September 27, 2011

Can women get a disease or get sick from masturbating?

I’m a teenager and I’ve never had sex...but ever since my health class, I’m afraid that if I touch myself I’ll contract a disease. I have masturbated, but that’s it. For the past three days, I’ve had a stomach virus and I started to feel better today...but then I found a small red bump on my vagina lips really close to my pubic hair. It hurts a little, but not bad. Should I be worried?

answered by David Sobel, MD, JD on September 27, 2011

You’re smart to observe changes in your body, and you asked a good question. 

First, if you’re worried about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), rest assured that you can’t get an STD from masturbating. Masturbation in and of itself does not cause disease.

That said, it’s still a good idea to avoid irritating your genital area when you masturbate. I encourage you to wash your hands before and after touching yourself, and don’t put anything sharp or dirty near your vagina or anus. You should always be careful with those parts of your body…but you don’t need to be afraid to explore your body. It’s healthy and normal to touch yourself. 

Also, you mentioned that you had a stomach virus…again, it’s extremely unlikely that your discomfort has anything to do with masturbation.

As for the bump on your vagina…it could be an ingrown hair, a cyst or even a pimple. It’s hard to diagnose the bump without seeing it, but if it’s near your pubic hair and a little painful, it may be as harmless as an ingrown hair. Cysts can also occur naturally in the vaginal area and tend to clear up on their own. 

And just like other parts of your body, sometimes you can get pimples in your vaginal area. Even so, I recommend that you see your regular doctor about it…just in case your bump requires treatment.

Finally, let’s talk about protecting yourself when you do start having sex. When you decide to be sexually active, here are a few things to keep in mind to reduce your risk of getting an STD, or spreading an infection to others:

  • Know your partner’s STD status (ask your partner to get tested before you have any sexual contact).
  • Always use a latex condom or a dental dam during vaginal, anal or oral sex…also use protection during genital rubbing (or, dry humping when there’s no penetration).
  • Limit the number of people you have sex with…the fewer sexual partners you have, the lower your risk of STDs.
  • Stay on top of your sexual health by getting tested for common STDs regularly.

To learn more about safer sex practices, you can check out our Prevention + Safer Sex Overview. And you can find more information about STD risks, symptoms and testing in our Expert Guide to STD Basics.

Thanks again for your question, and I hope you stay proactive about your sexual health.

David Sobel, MD, JD

Dr. Sobel is a Colorado-based urologist and Director of the Denver Center for Men’s Health. His areas of expertise include men's sexual health and all areas of urology, including urologic oncology, treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy, stone disease and incontinence. Dr. Sobel was educated at the University of Michigan Law School and the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, and completed his residency at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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