The hymen is a fleshy membrane surrounding the vagina that usually has only one hole. A cribriform hymen is one type of abnormal hymen that has multiple small holes, which can interfere with menstrual flow, sex and tampon use. Cribriform hymen sometimes goes away, or minor surgery called hymenectomy can correct it.
Your hymen is a thin, fleshy membrane that surrounds the opening of your vagina. A cribriform hymen means that your hymen has multiple small perforations (holes). The condition is congenital, meaning someone is born with it.
Usually, your hymen has one hole in it. The hole is big enough for blood to exit during menstruation and for tampon use.
But there are other types of hymen, such as:
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Cribriform hymen, imperforate hymen, microperforate hymen and septate hymen aren’t common conditions.
A cribriform hymen occurs when the hymen doesn’t form properly during fetal development. But scientists don’t yet understand what causes the abnormality.
With a cribriform hymen, secretions can flow out of your vagina, such as blood from periods (menstruation). But blood may come out slower than usual, which means that periods may last longer than normal (perhaps by four to seven days).
Having a cribriform hymen also makes it difficult for people to comfortably insert an object into their vagina. For example, you may experience:
Cribriform hymen may be detected at birth during a physical examination of the newborn. But it’s often not noticed until puberty or later. A healthcare provider can make the diagnosis by looking closely at your hymen during a pelvic exam. This is usually performed by a gynecologist, a specialist in the female reproductive system.
Not all cribriform hymens require treatment. But you may choose to have your hymen surgically corrected if the condition interferes with:
The surgery, called hymenectomy, is a minor procedure performed in a doctor’s office, clinic or operating room. Your healthcare provider cuts away the extra tissue, leaving only one opening that’s normal size.
Your healthcare provider will talk to you about options for anesthesia to control pain during the procedure. You may need stitches afterward, which usually dissolve on their own.
You can go home the same day as a hymenectomy, and recovery takes a few days to a few weeks. You may have some discomfort when the anesthesia wears off. You also may have light bleeding from the surgical area.
Your healthcare provider will give you instructions about how to take care of yourself after a hymenectomy. They may include limiting certain activities, such as:
There’s no way to prevent cribriform hymen or other types of abnormal hymen.
A cribriform hymen can cause pain and limit activities, but it’s not a dangerous condition.
Sometimes the issue goes away on its own as a child grows. The hymen also may tear during intercourse or tampon insertion, which may solve the problem.
If you choose to have a hymenectomy to treat cribriform hymen, the extra tissue won’t grow back.
Cribriform hymen may not produce any symptoms at all. But if you experience any pain or abnormal bleeding near your vagina, or periods that are longer than usual, talk to your healthcare provider.
If you want to know more about your hymen, consider asking a healthcare provider the following questions:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A cribriform hymen means that the hymen has multiple small perforations (holes). If you have pain or difficulty with menstrual flow, sexual intercourse or tampon use, talk to your healthcare provider. A minor surgical procedure may be able to help.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/13/2022.
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