You might have a love/hate relationship with your vagina, but it's absolutely essential to give her your undivided attention. Aly Walansky from YourTango helps us learn what to look for so you can treat irregularities and keep your vagina healthy and happy.
Don't ignore these symptoms.
An unhealthy vagina is a vagina that isn't given the attention it deserves. The vagina needs to be given the same hygienic attention as any other part of your body.
"Between urine, sweat and being so close to the anus, cleaning the vagina regularly is critical to prevent dirty bacterial buildup and to avoid the offensive odors that develop throughout the day . . . Debris build-up in the labia grooves from not washing the vagina well can be called 'smegma.' The point is, women get it as easily as men," says Sheryl A. Ross, MD. "An unhealthy vagina does not visit the gynecologist to get the appropriate check up yearly or have sexually transmitted infection testing between partners. An unhealthy vagina does not get the HPV vaccine before becoming sexually active or a pap smear when turning 21 years old."
Sexologist Dr. Jess, PhD says if you notice a change in the color or odor of your regular discharge, see sores or blisters on your vulva, experience pain or itchiness in your pelvic region, or penetration is painful even with adequate arousal and lubrication, you should absolutely see a doctor.
So ladies, if you're experiencing any of these problems, you may have an unhealthy vagina and should seek medical attention.
1. Vaginal dryness or irritation
Vaginal dryness and irritation can be a sign of an unhealthy vagina hygiene due to menopause, says gynecologist Ronald D. Blatt, MD. Menopause can create these symptoms, both inside and outside of the vagina, which may involve skin flaking and irritation associated with mature skin. This can lead to uncomfortable intercourse as well.
2. A fishy odor
A healthy vagina will have its own fragrance, but how can you tell if the smell is healthy or not? "A fishy odor with extra clear discharge can be a sign of BV, bacterial vaginosis, that is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria and an imbalance of the pH balance of the vagina. BV is very common and easily treatable with antibiotics from your gynecologist. Natural remedies include apple cider vinegar douche and changes in diet. A strong odor with green discharge can be a sign of an STD, trichomoniasis, so you should get tested immediately," says Psalm Isadora, a sex and relationship expert.
3. Itching or irregular discharge
If you have discharge that looks like cottage cheese and has a yellow or white consistency, you may have a yeast infection. "This is caused by a fungal infection and overgrowth of yeast, and can be caused by taking antibiotics, unbalanced pH, wearing tight non-breathable underwear or clothing, douching, or an unhealthy diet too high in sugars. You can get over-the-counter creams, pills, and suppositories, but recurring yeast infections mean you will have to make changes in your diet and cut back on sugars and alcohol," says Isadora. Drinking water and eating yogurt are natural remedies to help prevent and treat yeast infections.
4. Burning sensations when urinating
This can be a sign of UTI (urinary tract infection) and is often caused by sex. These are also readily treatable with antibiotics.
5. Inability to insert tampons
"Painful sex is usually a psychological issue, but in rare cases, it's an imperforate hymen — women born with extra tissue around the opening of the vagina," says Isadora. This can be diagnosed by a gynecologist and treated with surgery.
6. Painful blisters
This is usually a sign of the sexually transmitted disease, Herpes. You should immediately get tested.
7. You have irregular bleeding
Bleeding or spotting that occurs when you're not menstruating can be a hormonal imbalance often caused by birth control methods or stress, says Isadora. It can also be a sign of pregnancy. Bleeding after sex can be a sign of cervical cancer, and you should see your gynecologist right away.
8. Continual vaginal infections
If your vagina seems angry and you're getting frequent yeast infections, bacterial infections or UTIs, you might need to give your vagina a break. "Sometimes she is trying to tell you that she is unhappy with the way you are treating her. Maybe you are in an unhealthy relationship, or your partner might be having other partners and bringing problems back to you. Take a pause and give her a break; try and eat healthy and have less stress," says Isadora.
Your vagina will get back in balance in no time and will thank you for it.
Check out these other important vaginal health tips from YourTango:
- 8 Common (and Annoying) UTI Symptoms — and What Causes a Urinary Tract Infection
- 8 Things Your Vagina Desperately Wants You to Know
- 10 Foods That Are Surprisingly Great For Your Vaginal Health