While most women ignore vaginal problems because of embarrassment, it is important to understand the reason why your vagina hurts.
A vagina is medically-defined as a passage from the cervix to the vulva. Any discomfort or pain is often a result of psychological or medical issue. Normal vaginal pain could also be a possible cause of infection.
Early treatment & prevention helps lower the complications and aids in the diagnosis of severe diseases. If you’re not sure where your vaginal discomfort & pain is coming from, then read this article to understand better. This article includes an overview of vaginal pain, causes, and possible vaginal pain treatment.
1. Causes of Vaginal Pain
- Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
When the pelvic floor muscles are damaged due to an injury, it causes pain in the abdomen area and vagina. The risk of having this injury increases during pregnancy, childbirth, age, and episiotomy. Some women who suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction also experience incontinence when they jump or sneeze. There can also be vaginal pain during urination.
Pelvic inflammatory disease or pelvic pain is a condition that causes pain in the vagina. It can result in scarring inside the pelvic organs and cause chronic discomfort.
- Yeast Infection
Yeast infection is the most common cause of vaginal pain in women, which can be painful as it impacts the inner area of the vaginal wall. It may cause swelling and redness, while some women also experience vaginal discharge. There could also be a possible white discharge from the vagina along with a burning & itching sensation.
- Vulvodynia (Vulval Pain)
Vulvodynia is a chronic pain caused in the vulva or vagina. The degree of pain varies depending on the cause, but the condition usually intensifies during intercourse, resulting in painful sexual intercourse. For some women, the pangs of pain can come and go or may be unrelated to sex. The condition is not well understood even today. But most doctors believe that the pain originates from the extra nerve fiber in the outer part of the vulva.
- Bacterial Vaginosis
Caused by an overgrown bacteria in the vagina, this condition causes itching and vaginal discomfort along with watery discharge. The good bacteria help to keep the PH of your vagina well-balanced. But, when the bad bacteria outnumber the good bacteria that’s when Bacterial Vaginosis can happen. Most doctors believe that periods and intercourse may affect the normal PH of the vagina.
- Vaginal Dryness
Lack of hormone Estrogen causes vaginal dryness. Estrogen is a growth hormone that improves the blood flow to the vaginal area. It provides elasticity and lubricates the vagina. When there’s not enough estrogen, it causes itching and dryness. At times, you may also experience pain. Breast-feeding, menopause, and birth control pills cause vaginal dryness.
- Sexually Transmitted Infections
Sexually transmitted infections can cause vaginal pain and discharge. The most common one being Herpes that generally causes inflammation and is nerve-related. Herpes creates swelling of the vaginal tissue along with a burning sensation.
At times, most women also experience vaginal pain after sex. The belly pain might be coming from the penis penetrating uncomfortably. If you are allergic to latex, then another possible cause of vaginal pain could be a condom.
Learn more about Sexual Health checks.
- Physical Trauma
During normal childbirth, the vagina tear extends to the perineum – the area between the vagina and anus. The clitoris may also tear during the process of childbirth resulting in vaginal pain. If you have an injury in the vulva, it may result in vaginal pain and inflammation at times. Women who experience sexual assault or child abuse may also experience vaginal pain.
- Bartholin’s Cyst
Located at the side of the vaginal entrance, Bartholin’s gland helps in the lubrication of the vagina. When the gland gets blocked, it causes a cyst that feels like a pimple or hard lump leading to vaginal pain. Over time, the cyst may become larger or completely disappear. In severe cases, it can get infected and cause intestinal pain.
The condition is caused when the uterine tissue grows outside the uterus. It could also grow inside your abdomen area or pelvic region causing vaginal pain and create chronic inflammation & scarring around the tissues.
Go here for more information on Endometriosis.
2. Symptoms of Vaginal Pain
Depending on the cause of vaginal pain, different women experience different symptoms. Some common symptoms of vaginal pain are:
Itching in the vaginal area is a common sign of yeast infection or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Pelvic floor injury causes nerve dysfunction, which can causes itching and redness.
Most women also experience unusual sensations in the vagina due to infection. Itching in the vagina due to sex is another common symptom. If there is a possible rupture in the area because of the cyst, it can cause itching. Vaginal itching is also caused by allergic reactions. So knowing about the cause may help you to deal with the condition.
- Burning and Inflammation
Bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections are two types of bacterial infections that cause a burning sensation in your vagina. It may happen after having sex with your partner. Inflammation is a possible symptom of infection or any injury caused in the vagina. The symptom can make you uncomfortable, especially if you already have an infection.
- Muscle Spasms
When you experience tightness in the vagina, it could be a possible symptom of pelvic floor dysfunction. Some women also experience muscle spasms along with the condition. Vulvodynia is a condition that causes tensing of the muscles, especially when you’re having sex with your partner. When the muscles becomes forcefully tense, it may be difficult to have intercourse.
- Tenderness and Sensitivity
Bartholin’s cyst causes the skin around the vagina to become sensitive and tender. At times, the affected area may become red with swelling and have lumps depending on the severity of the condition. If the cyst leads to an infection in the vagina, then vaginal pain may become intense. Another reason is trauma. When the vagina is traumatized, it leads to pain and tenderness. After childbirth, most women complain of vaginal sensitivity due to perineal tear.
- Pain During Intercourse
When you have intercourse with your partner, it may intensify your vaginal pain. Vaginal pain after sex is a common symptom, but most women stay tight-lipped about it. Any friction can irritate and affect the vagina. If you experience constant pain after having sex, it may be a possible symptom of bacterial vaginosis. So, it is better to get a check-up done to stay safe.
3. Diagnosis Of Vaginal Pain
- For diagnosis, the gynaecologist can request your medical history or conduct a physical examination if need be.
- For medical history, the questions are generally related to your physical health, including symptoms and their medical conditions. You will also be asked about past medical procedures.
- You’ll be asked about the medications you’re currently taking. At times, they may also ask about your sexual habits.
The gynaecologist may conduct a physical examination of your vaginal area to check for signs of redness, scarring, swelling, and damage. They may apply some pressure with a cotton-tipped applicator to the vulva to check for pain. You might experience severe pain on pressure if you’re suffering from vulvodynia.
Most doctors take samples of your vaginal discharge for testing. For proper diagnosis, they may also recommend more tests, including a blood test. All these will help them to understand your symptoms and prescribe medications accordingly.
If you are interested in learning about different types of vaginal discharge and their causes, you can refer to our vaginal discharge guide.
4. Vaginal Pain Treatments
- For sexually transmitted diseases and bacterial vaginosis, antibiotics are prescribed. You must take the prescribed medicines even if the symptoms resolve before you finish the course. This helps reduce the chance of relapse.
- The gynaecologist may recommend topical ointments or lubrications if you suffer from vaginal dryness. Topical ointments can numb the vaginal area and provide relief from pain. It also helps to relieve the pain during sex. Topical steroid creams reduce burning, irritation and pain.
- Yeast infections are treated using over-the-counter antifungal medicines.
- Bartholin’s cyst does not need treatment in mild form as it subsides on its own. But, you can use a warm compress on the area if there is pain. If the cyst is severe, it would require a surgical process.
- For pelvic floor injury, physical therapy is recommended. The therapist can help to strengthen the pelvic floor with exercises.
- Treating vulvodynia may be difficult, so a combination of treatments are used. This includes topical pain medications, pelvic floor exercises, drugs for nerve block, sex therapy, lifestyle changes, and nerve stimulation.
5. Home Remedies For Vagina Pain
Home remedies cannot treat vaginal pain, but it can help alleviate the pain.
- Apply warm compress on the area of pain. Soak in a warm sitz bath to ease the pain. A hot water bath provides relaxation when you are dealing with itchiness down there. Add Epsom salt to bath water for quick relief.
- Apply ice packs. An ice pack can provide effective relief from the symptoms of vaginal pain. But don’t apply the ice pack directly to the skin; use underwear or cotton cloth as a barrier. If you apply directly, it may further irritate your skin.
- Apply Vaseline if there is dryness or itchiness in the affected area. Clean with water later on. Don’t apply petroleum jelly if you have a yeast infection as it may make the condition worse. For yeast infection, use a yeast infection cream.
- Apply witch hazel pads to your vaginal area to soothe irritation and itching sensation caused by an infection. There are pretreated witch hazel pads available at stores so you can use one.
- Use a mild unscented soap to maintain the PH balance of the vagina. If you’re suffering from any kind of infection, you must wear loose cotton underwear. Don’t wear tight underwear as it may worsen your condition.
You’ll be able to prevent vaginal pain by having a healthy diet and testing for sexually transmitted diseases from time-to-time. Using condoms during sexual intercourse prevents vaginal dryness and itching. It also reduces any chance of infection.
You need to know about the precautions that are important during the process of childbirth. It can prevent a perineal tear. Don’t wear wet underwear or wet clothes as that might increase the possibility of yeast infection. Always use a mild soap or special washes that maintain the PH balance of the vaginal area. It is also a good idea to schedule regular check-ups with a healthcare provider who specialises in women’s health, such as our well woman centre. They can provide additional guidance on proper prenatal care and postpartum recovery, as well as address any concerns or questions you may have throughout the process.
Vaginal pain may be chronic or temporary, depending on the infection or cause. Most women experience vaginal pain during pregnancy or sex. If you experience mild pain, it may subside with time. But, if your pain is constant and throbbing, you need to make an appointment.
Depending on the cause, you’ll be treated for the infection. So, ensure you get your condition diagnosed and treated at the right time.
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