Vaginas come in different shapes and sizes. They also have different sizes, discharges and even smells. Odor and discharge can vary from woman to woman, but no vaginal odor or discharge should suddenly change depending on where you are in your cycle.
It is important to know that any part of the genitals, starting from the cervix, should not itch, hurt or burn, this is a signal that something is “off” in the health of the vagina. Remember that the genital cavity includes all the external parts of the female genital tract: the labia, vagina, urethra, clitoris, mons pubis, and anus. The cervix is the opening to the uterus. The vagina is the muscular canal or tube that connects the cervix to the vagina at the top of the vagina.
If your labia are constantly itchy, or if your discharge starts to smell bad, it’s time to investigate. It is always wise to see a gynecologist for a diagnosis. In the meantime, use our Vagina Health Symptom Decoder to find out what your vagina is trying to tell you.
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- Vagina itches
It’s one thing to itch from time to time – you sweat a lot at the gym, or you get razor burn after shaving.
But chronic vaginal or vulvar itching is a sign that something is wrong with the spectrum of vaginal health. The urge to scratch can be triggered by an allergic reaction to soap or body wash, but it can also indicate conditions such as bacterial vaginosis (which occurs when the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina is disturbed) or yeast infection. infection, or sexually transmitted infection (STD) trichomoniasis.
You will need a simple test to find out which of these infections may be causing your itching and then get the right medication to treat it. That means seeing your health care provider, says Michael Kakowicz, MD, of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Although most women self-medicate with over-the-counter medications, I think they should see their doctor to find out exactly what’s causing their symptoms,” she told Health. Self-medicating for the wrong problem can make symptoms worse.
- Your vagina smells
Vaginal odor can be mild or strong depending on the time of the month, clothing choices, and how much you sweat. But it should never be gross or smelly, so any changes along those lines are worth considering. Bad breath “can be caused by something as simple as changing your hygiene routine or diet,” says Dr. Kakowicz. “Or it could be something more complicated, like an infection.”
Infections such as bacterial vaginosis and sexually transmitted diseases such as trichomoniasis are often the main culprits of odor-related problems. But don’t discount something as simple as forgetting to take a tampon, which can cause bacteria to build up and cause bad odor.
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- Your periods are irregular
Lose weight. Exercising too much. Crazy stress. Countless things can disrupt your cycle, make your period longer, shorter, or completely MIA. If you can legitimately rule out these factors, consider the possibility of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). According to the Office of Women’s Health, PCOS is a common but poorly understood condition related to hormonal imbalances. An imbalance can cause ovarian problems and affect the ovulation process.
“Women with PCOS don’t ovulate regularly,” Danielle Breitkopf, MD, chief of gynecology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told Health Organization. If you don’t ovulate regularly, your periods won’t come regularly – your flow may come every few months or it may be absent for a few times and then it may disappear again.
Other symptoms of PCOS include acne and abnormal hair growth on the face, back, and chest. Fertility problems can also be a symptom, as hormone deficiency makes it more difficult to get pregnant. “If symptoms persist for more than six to 12 months, a woman should see a doctor to investigate the cause,” says Dr. Breitkopf.
- Your vaginal discharge will change
If only there was a way to know how much discharge per day is normal and what it should be in order to determine vaginal health. But in fact, the amount, consistency, and color of discharge varies greatly among women. It changes depending on where you are in your cycle. According to the National Library of Medicine, hospital discharge may include:
Thick, paste or thin
Clear, cloudy, bloody, white, yellow or green
Odorless or foul-smelling
But significant changes in color, size, and odor need to be addressed. This change can be caused by hormonal changes, pregnancy, your hydration, etc
I think it’s a good idea to see your doctor in a day or two,” says Dr. Kakovic.
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- Your labia are lumpy or bumpy
Finding a lump or bump under the belt can be very scary. But in most cases it is completely harmless. A small lump under the skin of the vagina or vulva may be a pimple or glandular blockage caused by fluid accumulation. These blockages, or cysts, usually dissolve and go away on their own. If the cyst is painful or continues to grow, consult with your health care provider so that it can be removed if necessary.
A pimple-like bump or raised red rash on or near the labia can be associated with blocked or infected hair follicles, shaving, waxing, or long hours of sweating. These may be signs of an allergic reaction to a new detergent or body wash. Wait a few weeks to see if the lesions go away on their own, and if they don’t, have them checked by your health care provider.
Following these vaginal health tips will help keep your vagina and other genitals healthy. Remember, you should always seek the expertise and knowledge of your healthcare provider to make a diagnosis.