Can Cycling Break Your Hymen: A doctor’s input


The issue of a women’s hymen and its integrity seems to have been going on for far too long. While the link between a broken hymen and virginity has long since been disproven, many people still ask if certain activities can damage your hymen. As a doctor and cyclist, I felt I would be well placed to answer the question of whether or not cycling could break or stretch your hymen?

The hymen can be broken by riding a bike. In fact, any activity that puts pressure on the genital region has the possibility of stretching or tearing the hymen. You are more prone to tearing your hymen while performing a non-sexual activity such as riding as the genital area is not aroused and so will not be lubricated.

So, we’ve established that the hymen can be easily damaged or torn while riding a bike. But what actually is the hymen? And how might you know if your hymen has been torn while riding a bike?

What is a hymen?

The hymen is a thin membrane that sits over the opening of the vagina from the time of birth. It does not fully enclose the vaginal opening (otherwise you wouldn’t be able to have a period), however, in most cases it covers the majority of the area. Think of it more like a curtain over the vagina than a seal.

For each individual person, the hymen itself can vary massively, from its size, thickness, shape, or its flexibility.

Many people are concerned about the integrity of their hymen due to an outdated belief that an intact hymen is an indication of virginity.

However, this is not the case! Many studies have now been done showing that while the hymen can become damaged during sexual intercourse, there are also many other ways the hymen can become torn or broken.

Sports activities, tampon use, or masturbation can all stretch the tissue of the hymen, causing it to tear, stretch or appear broken. On top of this, studies have shown that many sexually active women still have an intact hymen.

In fact, the WHO has called for an end to virginity testing, a means whereby someone will feel or inspect the hymen for signs of damage.

We’ve already established that there are many variations in what the hymen can look like (some may be torn from birth) and some may become damaged from non-sexual activities. And so there is no way that a sexual partner or another person would be able to look at a woman and tell if she’s a virgin.

Can riding a bike break your hymen?

We’ve already established that the hymen is a delicate piece of tissue that can be torn or stretched in many different ways, not just through sexual intercourse.

Activities such as horse riding or even stretching can result in a tear or break in the hymen. And bike riding is no different.

However, hymen damage would not be limited to these events, in fact, any activity that will put pressure or impact the groin area has a chance of damaging the hymen.

In fact, activities such as cycling which are not arousing will mean that the genital area is in its least flexible and lubricated state. This can result in any impact or stretch causing more damage than would be expected from even small activities such as stretching.

Use of tampons and inserting something in your vagina (fingers, sex toys, etc) can also stretch the hymen. By the time you have sex for the first time, your hymen might already be thin enough for it to not be affected at all. 

It is important to remember that you may well have been born with a torn or misshapen hymen (everyone’s is different), and so a tear in your hymen may well have been there from birth, not from any sexual or non-sexual activity you have been doing.

How would you know if your hymen has been damaged from cycling?

The traditional image of a hymen breaking is that of bleeding. And in fact, many will expect to see blood or feel pain when having sexual intercourse for the first time.

In reality, this bleeding is often a result of the vaginal wall than the hymen itself. Tears or stretching of the vaginal wall can occur as a result of forceful sex or a lack of lubrication.

As such, bleeding while having sex for the first time may or may not occur, and is not an indication of virginity or an intact hymen.

When it comes to other activities, such as riding a bike, the same rules apply. If your hymen tears or stretches during exercise, there is a chance that you will suffer from some bleeding, although this is not always the case.

When your hymen tears, you may or may not feel pain depending on how thin your particular hymen is. In some cases you will not feel pain at all, however, in other cases, you may be able to feel it when it actually tears.

If you are experiencing any pain or bleeding, it is worth consulting a medical professional so that they can examine and review you. While I am a doctor, I am not able to see you personally and do not have access to your other medical history and as such cannot give individual advice.

Overall

As you can see, the hymen itself can be damaged from cycling. But it can also be damaged from a wide range of different activities, be that from stretching to tampon use.

When it comes down to it, the focus on an intact hymen is an outdated view that has been shown by modern studies to be inaccurate and unhelpful.

Mark Holmes

30-year-old doctor with an interest in cycling, bikepacking, and statistics.

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