Vagina and vulva is not only a scintillating erogenous zone but is an integral part of the female reproductive system. Our privates are home to a host of bacteria that help to maintain the pH balance- slightly acidic. It is a protective mechanism adopted by the body. Any irritation in a woman’s private part can create a lot of discomfort. Vaginal yeast infection is a common problem encountered by 3 out of 4 women. Vaginitis is the infection and inflammation of the vagina, whereas vulvovaginitis is the inflammation of both the vagina and vulva- the external part of the vagina.

Three kinds of vaginal infection can afflict women:

  1. Vaginal yeast infection – and overgrowth of the fungus – Candida albicans
  2. Bacterial infection- an overgrowth of bacteria.
  3. Trichomoniasis- infection from parasite contracted through sexual contact.

The other cause of vaginal inflammation may be due to vaginal atrophy caused by menopause, which makes the vagina dry and can cause itching. External factors can also contribute to discomfort down there. Ladies, there is nothing to worry and vaginal infection symptoms can last anywhere between a couple of days to a maximum of 2 weeks.

Vaginal Infection Symptoms

  • Itching
  • Change in the amount of discharge
  • Change in the color of discharge
  • Bleeding or spotting from the vagina
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain or burning sensation during urination

These vaginal yeast infection symptoms in more aggravated form can be due to some other underlying cause like STIs and cervical cancer or if you have pain, develop fever or might be pregnant then consult a doctor. In most cases, a doctor’s intervention might not be required and the infection would ebb on its own or with OTC medicine. If this is the first instance of vaginal infection, a doctor might perform a pelvic exam and might even send the discharge for lab testing.

Maintaining your personal hygiene plays an important role in the prevention of such infection. The vagina cleans itself, so you don’t need to do much about it. You can wash your vulva, with some lukewarm water while taking a shower, and also use some mild soap but not the scented variants. Any soap is best avoided. Douching isn’t prescribed by doctors either.

Even the various feminine hygiene products that are advertised aren’t beneficial in the true sense. Your vagina has a natural smell, so don’t try to make it smell like a garden of roses. You can follow the same hygiene protocol even when you are on your periods. Certain other things that you should remember to keep your vagina healthy: 

  • Always wash front to back

Anal bacteria can wreak havoc when it comes to contact with the vulva or urinary tract. It is the same when having anal sex, use a different condom or wash your hand and toys before inserting them in your vagina after using it in the anus.

  • Visit the toilet after sex

It reduces the chances of UTI.

  • Cotton panties

Sexy lingerie might be exciting but it’s not healthy for your pubic area. Wear cotton underwear that is breathable.

  • Say no to wet clothes

Moist clothes are the breeding ground for fungus, discard wet swimwear and humid drenched clothes.

  • Use protection

Always use condoms when having intercourse with a new partner.

Bacterial Infection

Bacterial vaginosis or BV is similar to yeast infection but has certain distinguishing symptoms like in BV vaginal discharge is thin and would be accompanied by unpleasant fishy odor and is gray, yellow or greenish in color. Hormonal changes and unprotected sex can often result in BV. If you find the symptoms are persistent, consult a doctor, in case of bacterial infection you would need to take antibiotics. Untreated BV can lead to infertility and STIs. 

During the course of treatment it is best to avoid sex, and if you have your menses use sanitary pads instead of tampons or menstrual cup. Bacterial infection can have a recurrence within a year but there is nothing to worry about unless you are pregnant, which can then cause premature birth. Incorporating yogurt a natural probiotic helps to increase the good Bacteria. Tea tree oil mixed with coconut or olive oil is beneficial in fighting BV.

Vaginal Yeast Infection

Vaginal yeast infection is a type of fungal infection in women caused by an overgrowth of the fungus Candida leading to a yeast infection discharge. To determine whether your vaginal itch is due to yeast infection discharge, check if the discharge is thick “cottage cheese like discharge” and there is pain and soreness around the vaginal opening as well as pain and itching around the vulva.

Vaginal yeast infection discharge can occur if you are:

  • Diabetic
  • On contraceptives
  • Hormone therapy
  • Pregnant

Most women have around 2 infections in a year, but if you have over 4 infections in a year, call your doctor he may prescribe a different medication or further investigation. Vaginal infection during pregnancy can affect your child; you can also pass it on to your sexual partner. When you have an episode of yeast infection discharge, abstain from having sex, as it may cause further inflammation, itching and delay the recovery process.  Certain home remedies like incorporating probiotics in your diet, taking bath by mixing apple cider vinegar or hydrogen peroxide in water and topically applying coconut oil.

Vaginal Infection Symptoms
Vaginal Infection Symptoms

Not All Itch Is Yeast Infection

Itching in the pubic area is not only embarrassing but also extremely uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s not the commonly occurring yeast or bacterial infection but other causes like:

  • Vulvitis- allergic reaction or wearing tight clothing can cause vaginal discharge, vulvar itch, redness, cracks, and swelling.
  • Contact dermatitis- an allergic reaction to lubricant, condom, soaps, detergents. It can go away once the irritant is removed.
  • Sexually Transmitted infections like Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.
  • Hormonal changes prior to your periods and during the menopausal age.

Sometimes the infection goes away on its own if it doesn’t consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Also Read: Vaginal Care: 5 Quick Steps