The outlook for vulva pain depends on what’s causing it. But there are many treatments that can help relieve your discomfort.
Rough sex and improper hygiene can cause friction, leading to a sore vagina. You can also have a reaction to your lubricant or semen. If you get a UTI, calcium citrate supplements may help.
Women often use feminine wipes to clean their vulva. However, it’s important to remember that the external vulva is actually self-cleaning and shouldn’t be scrubbed with wipes unless for medical reasons, like having a yeast infection. If you’re going to use intimate wipes, make sure they are specifically formulated for the vulva and made without harsh ingredients, perfumes or parabens, like these Feminine Wipes from Rael. These are gentle on the skin and contain all-natural grapefruit extract to support healthy levels of bacteria.
Lubrication is especially important during sexual intercourse, as it readies the vagina for penetration and helps reduce friction or irritation. It’s also a great way to add an element of foreplay and can help increase sexual satisfaction. It’s also a good idea to consider using a water-based lubricant, as oil-based products can damage condoms or diaphragms used for birth control or protection against STIs and other conditions.
Intimate wipes are great for cleaning up menstrual leakage in public restrooms or after a sweaty workout, and are helpful for reducing the chafing that occurs during your period. They can also be used for post-coital cleanup, but it’s always best to wash with a natural soap and water afterward to avoid irritating the delicate tissue.
Women may experience pain in the vulva (the outside area of a woman’s genitals) that’s not related to menstrual symptoms. This is called vulvodynia, and it can affect the vagina or the labia (the skin that forms the outer portion of the vulva). This pain may be confined to the external vulva, or it can also extend to the pelvis and cervix.
A hormone imbalance, especially after menopause, can cause vulvodynia. This occurs because the uterus no longer produces estrogen, which helps lubricate the outside of the vulva. This can lead to a painful sensation when wiping or during sexual intercourse. The pain can also be accompanied by vaginal discharge that appears different from usual or has an unusual smell.
If you’re experiencing vulvodynia, your doctor may recommend certain lifestyle changes to help reduce your symptoms. For example, they may suggest that you use a lubricant when having sex or may prescribe vaginal dilators to relax the muscles in the vulva and improve lubrication. They may also advise that you stop using lotions or scented soaps near the vulva and wear loose, comfortable underwear. They may also suggest dietary changes, such as adding more foods that are rich in antioxidants to help reduce inflammation and prevent UTIs.
Other treatment options include anesthetic injections or nerve blocks to help deaden the area in your vulva, and surgery to treat conditions such as vulvar vestibulitis, vulvodynia, and cervical cancer. Some doctors may also prescribe medications, such as tricyclic antidepressants or anticonvulsants, to help control chronic pain.
There are many things that can irritate the skin and tissues of the vulva. These can include scented tampons, pads and douches; chemicals in soaps, shampoos and lotions; and abrasions from activities like bicycling and swimming. Infections like yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis can also cause pain, itching, and a cottage cheese-like discharge from the vagina. If these are the causes of your symptoms, your doctor can prescribe over-the-counter medications to treat them. Other infections, especially sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and herpes, require medical treatment, including a course of antibiotics.
The condition causing these pains is called vulvodynia, and it can be triggered by contact with the outside genital area. It can be ‘provoked’ if it occurs when you insert a tampon or have sex, but more commonly, the pain is unprovoked and ‘persistent’. It can occur in one spot or throughout the vulva, and conventional painkillers may not relieve it.
To diagnose vulvodynia, your doctor will look at your vulva and ask questions about the color, texture, and smell of any discharge. Do not douche before your appointment, since it can make accurate testing difficult. If a yeast infection is the cause, your doctor will recommend over-the-counter antifungal medication; if bacteria or a sexually transmitted disease are to blame, you’ll need prescription antibiotics. These can include doxycycline, metronidazole, or fluoroquinolones.
Pregnancy can cause vaginal pain in some women, especially if it is a high-risk pregnancy. This is because the uterus grows larger to accommodate the fetus, which can put pressure on the pelvic area and cause pain.
It can also be due to an infection, such as candida (yeast) or bacterial vaginosis. These infections are more common in pregnant women because their immunity is lower. Symptoms of these infections include itching, a thin clear or gray discharge and painful urination.
Other reasons for pain during pregnancy may be a urinary tract infection (UTI), which is also common in pregnancy because of hormonal changes that encourage overgrowth of naturally-occurring flora. This can cause pain, itching and burning in the vulva and rectum.
If you are experiencing vulvar pain, talk to your doctor. They will take a sample of the lining of your vagina with a cotton swab to test for an infection. They may also perform a pelvic exam to look for inflammation or an infection. In some cases, they may recommend a procedure called cystoscopy, which involves inserting a thin tube into your bladder to look at the lining of your bladder and urethra for signs of an infection. This is a safe procedure for most women, but it can be uncomfortable in some cases. In rare cases, surgery can be recommended to remove irritated tissue from the vaginal vestibule, or opening, called a vestibulectomy.