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What is a hymen?

The hymen is a thin membrane that partially covers the vaginal opening. Hymens can be thick or thin and come in different shapes. It is typical for the hymen to shed a little blood if it tears for the first time. Some girls break or tear their hymen when they are playing sports, riding a bicycle, masturbating or during sexual activity with a partner such as fingering or vaginal sex with a penis. If the hymen is very thick, a girl may have a difficult time inserting a tampon, penis or finger into her vagina. She can talk to her health care provider if these activities are painful.

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