Most women have been there. You’re distracted and squirming in your chair because it doesn’t feel right down there. Perhaps there’s a smell that’s a little, well, funkier, than usual. You want to do something to make it stop, now.
Although it can be darned uncomfortable, it’s not the end of the world. You could have an infection caused by bacteria, yeast, or viruses. Chemicals in soaps, sprays, or even clothing that come in contact with this area could be irritating the delicate skin and tissues.
It’s not always easy to figure out what’s going on, though. You’ll probably need your doctor’s help to sort it out and choose the right treatment.
Painful Sex in Women
Types of Vaginitis
Doctors refer to the various conditions that cause an infection or inflammation of the vagina as “vaginitis.” The most common kinds are:
Candida or “yeast” infections
Reactions or allergies (non-infectious vaginitis)
Although they may have different symptoms, a diagnosis can be tricky even for an experienced doctor. Part of the problem is that you could have more than one at the same time.
You could also have an infection without any symptoms.
It doesn’t really have a smell or make you itch. How much of it and exactly what it looks and feels like can vary during your menstrual cycle. At one point, you may have only a small amount of a very thin or watery discharge, and at another time of the month, it’s thicker and there’s more of it. That’s all normal.
When discharge has a very noticeable odor, or burns or itches, that’s likely a problem. You might feel an irritation any time of the day, but it’s most often bothersome at night. Having sex can make some symptoms worse.
Vaginal Infection Prevention
The best ways to prevent bacterial vaginosis are not known. However, enough is known to show that bacterial vaginosis is associated with having a new sex partner or having multiple sex partners. It is seldom found in women who have never had intercourse.
Basic prevention would include using condoms, limiting the number of sex partners, abstaining from douching, and using all the medicine prescribed for treatment of bacterial vaginosis, even if the symptoms go away.
Vaginal yeast infections can be easily prevented in most cases.
Keep your vaginal area dry, especially after a shower.
Wipe from front to rear after using the toilet.
Switch to looser-fitting cotton underwear.
Change wet bathing suits after a swim.
Avoid tight-fitting jeans or pantyhose.
Pregnant women should see their doctor immediately if they are experiencing symptoms.
Avoid chemical irritants in deodorized tampons. Do not use douches or feminine hygiene products. Regular bathing is usually adequate to cleanse the vagina.
Trichomoniasis can be prevented. If you are diagnosed with a trichomonal infection, your sex partner should also be checked. He or she may have other sexually transmitted diseases and also may re-infect you if not treated.
Safe sex with condoms and counseling about sexually transmitted diseases may help decrease the rates of infection and reinfection.