Ever thought your vagina was trying to tell you something? Our vaginas are pretty amazing at taking care of themselves, but when something’s up, they’re going to let you know. Vaginal itching can be uncomfortable, painful and downright inconvenient (we’ve all used our handbags to disguise a scratch) but it’s basically the body’s way of grabbing your attention. The causes of those ants in your pants can be as minor as wearing the wrong kind of clothing to other issues that require treatment. So here’s the DL on the causes and treatments available for that itch that just won’t quit.
Yeast Infections and Bacterial Vaginosis
The vagina’s natural environment, their ideal feng shui if you will, is a (slightly acidic) optimal 3-4 pH which supports action against harmful bacteria and infections. Yeast and good bacteria are naturally occurring in the vagina and are usually harmless, however with any imbalance, they will grow more than they should. This can further throw off your equilibrium lead to yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis (BV).
Yeast infections are normally accompanied by a white cottage cheese-like discharge and BV is known for its greenish discharge and charmingly fishy bouquet. Both infections also cause a burning sensation when peeing and intense itchiness and inflammation in your lady parts. Don’t fret! Yeast infections and BV are treated rather easily with topical creams or oral medication, but it’s important to see a doctor if you think your have either one of them as they are often confused with one another and their respective medications are very different. You’ll find more information about yeast infections here.
To douche or not to douche, there really is no question – DO NOT do it! Douching is used by many women to “clean” their vaginas, but is in fact very damaging. When douching, fluid is flushed into and out of our vagina to “clean it”, in the process upsetting the good bacteria so vital to maintaining our vaginal zen. Consider this – the pH of your vagina and the pH of water is very different, and douching solutions which often contain added fragrances, vinegar, baking soda and iodine only add insult to injury. Often leading to irritating infections, in particular BV, douching gets a big ‘No-No’ from us – and your gynecologist, physician and mom too!
Our vagina’s delicate tissue is super sensitive to what we put inside, outside, or around it. The chemicals present in your laundry soap, fabric softener, soaps, creams, lube and condoms can provoke an ‘Oh no you didn’t’ reaction from downstairs. To avoid this, you need to be selective with the products you buy, seeking unscented, chemical-free alternatives. During intercourse you can use a water-based feminine moisturizer that compliments your natural balance, for example. And don’t forget to avoid tight clothing and to stay as dry as possible – that spandex catsuit has ‘itch’ written all over it.
Tampons and pads absorb menstrual fluid, and as we have learnt, there’s a lot of great stuff in your vagina necessary to keeping it healthy. This absorption can leave your vagina dry and prone to a nasty itch, especially around our vulva where pads wreak chaffing havoc. Scented pads and tampons are worse still, claiming to mask unpleasant odors but doing nothing of the sort and are in fact as bad as the chemical culprits listed above. Come on, blood and perfume is hardly the most inspiring combo. Switching to menstrual cups is a great solution as they collect blood rather than absorbing it, meaning no more dryness and no more itching!
Many women like to tidy up their private parts, some going for a tentative trim and others a thorough shave. Compared to removing hair from your legs or armpits, your vulva and the surrounding area is super sensitive with thicker hair so if you do decide to shave or wax you must be careful and prepare to face an often itchy regrowth. When it comes to shaving, you can avoid ingrown hairs, razor burn and itching by using a new razor and plenty of fragrance-free shaving gel. If done properly, waxing is less likely to cause problems however if you do develop ingrown hairs, stop removing hair from that area and over time it will clear up. And if all of this sounds like a real ordeal, why not embrace the bush and make “long hair don’t care” your mantra.
Sigh. Despite the millennial consolation, ‘All adventurous women do’ – nobody really wants to contract an STI. And yet, over half of all people will have an STI at some point in their lives.Chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, genital herpes and warts, can all be accompanied by unpleasant itching as well as varying degrees of vaginal pain, growths and different kinds of discharge. The treatments of each of these kinds of STD also vary so if you think you have an infection definitely speak to your gynecologist to clarify the best route for you to go down to alleviate symptoms and confront your particular issue head on.
Like pH, when our hormones are out of whack the evidence is clear from how our bodies react – and yes, you guessed it – one of those reactions is itching. During and after pregnancy estrogen levels jump from one extreme to the other. High levels of estrogen during pregnancy stimulate mucous production, exiting the body as discharge and irritating the skin around the vulva. After pregnancy, estrogen levels plummet to make room for breastfeeding hormone prolactin. This halts our period, which is great, but can also result in menopause-like symptoms such as dryness and itching downstairs. Low levels of estrogen during menopause can cause vaginal atrophy, or thinning of the vaginal walls and tissue, which also results in dryness and itchiness.
Bottom line? Too much or too little estrogen equals trouble in our nether regions. Luckily, there are effective treatments for tackling any discomfort a hormone imbalance causes, including local vaginal hormone creams and vaginal lubricants.
If you can’t quite determine what’s causing that itch or you’ve tried various treatments that just haven’t worked, make sure to go see your doctor. In very rare cases, vaginal itching can be an early symptom of vulvar cancer, a condition caused by abnormal cells reproducing uncontrollably. Itching may be accompanied by discolored patches of skin, lumps or wart-like growths, pain with urination and abnormal bleeding. As with most health issues, the earlier you tackle it the better, and depending on the stage of your condition, there are a variety of treatments available.
Usually, your vagina has its natural balance well under control, but now and then it may need a little assistance. There are plenty of solutions out there for even the most vexing itch so if you find that your daily life is being disrupted, go get it checked out with your doctor!
Please note that advice offered by Tips For Healthy Living may not be relevant to your individual case. For specific concerns regarding your health, always consult your physician or other licensed medical practitioners.