Anyone with a vagina is aware that it’s a complicated but magical place. 🦄 While we could go into all the amazing things the vagina can do, (hello babies) let’s review all the stress and issues it can cause.
Let’s get down to the basics. The vagina is the muscular opening into the body that leads up to the uterus. It’s where this holy grail empties out all the things it doesn’t need once it’s done cleansing, lubricating, and shedding new layers of tissue it needs while getting ready to sustain life. The vagina is a warm, dark place perfect for happy bacteria to grow and line its walls. Once in a while, the bad guys move in and it’s like a ‘mucinex commercial’ family reunion. All the little bacteria set up shop in the cave, which is a perfect place for a party. 👻
Now, all of a sudden things are happening down there. When there is vaginal irritation we often call that vaginitis.
First let’s think about what the average female is wearing. Choices are likely thong, aka butt floss vs granny panty vs breathable cotton underwear. Over this choice, most women are wearing some sort of legging, yoga pant, or skinny pant. Now the airflow down there is limited in general, and now we are adding to moistness of the vagina. Yes, I said it. Moist. The root of all evil 👿 in the vagina. Never mind the fact that people are flossing poop particles into their vaginal area with their underwear choices. Can’t get that image out of your head, can you? If your vagina is giving you a hard time, then maybe it’s time to lose the butt floss.
Now the most common vaginal issue is itch. Itching is usually caused by yeast, which is a ungus. Now, don’t panic just yet. Unless you wiped your pee with leaves in the woods (then panic– you may have poison ivy and need a steroid).
The itch is sometimes accompanied by some thick yellowish or white discharge but not always. This can easily be fixed with an over the counter medication called Monistat. Monistat is a cream that you use internally and will help soothe the itch and irritation. Get the 7-day treatment, don’t let the 3-day fool you! Generic is great too. Ask the pharmacist if you need help finding it.
Take a shower and dry that vagina before squeezing into those yoga pants, or better yet, throw on a pair of loose cotton pants and air it out! Your vagina will thank you. If you can’t handle putting something in your vagina, you can see your provider for a prescription antifungal pill. Lastly, soothe your poor itchy vagina with some Aquaphor or vaginal itch cream. Give that external skin some TLC.
Bacterial Vaginosis (Fishy Smell)
Next, is the dreaded smelly vagina. This is usually caused by working out in non-breathable velour pants. But it can also be caused by bacterial vaginosis (BV). Now this one is just horrifying. But don’t get too down on yourself. BV can be from sexual activity but is really just bacterial overgrowth in the vagina. It can happen anytime and is NOT an STI. Get ready – it can be pretty obvious when you have BV. Picture yourself walking through a fish market. Now take a whiff. This is how your vagina might smell. 🐟 Don’t panic! It’s ok. Fish happens. Now call your doctor, you need an antibiotic.
Just Plain Ole’ Normal Vagina Stuff
Not a fishy smell? Just smells different? Maybe some clear or white discharge but otherwise seems pretty happy? The vagina is an amazing place. Different times of the month will have different types of vaginal discharge. The discharge will vary based on your hormone cycle. This discharge can have different smells. Different textures and consistencies. High five! Your vagina is working great! Your hormones are cycling.
Chlamydia, formerly known as the clap 👏🏻, can silently cause an infection. Sometimes you don’t even know you have it. Sometimes you have Gonorrhea too. Sometimes you will have green discharge sometimes you won’t. Your doctor/provider generally screens for this STI at your well-visits. If you are having sex, use a condom. Every. Single. Time. Men don’t have vaginal discharge and won’t know they have it. Protect yourself! In most states, there is a law allowing providers to treat your partners for these STIs too, even if the partner is not registered as a patient for your doctor. The government is really trying to remove barriers to treating STIs. Ask your provider and tell your partner they will need treatment too! Otherwise, we will see you again soon!
How about trichomonas. Here we go. Under the 🔬 , they look like little shrimps 🦐 swooshing up and down through the ocean.These little guys (parasites) are IN. YOUR. VAGINA. (If you are a male reading this it’s swimming up the urethra of your penis). Ok. Condom anyone? Now, most people will have NO symptoms at all. 🤔 hmm. Makes you wonder?
Some women will have lots of symptoms, itching, odor, discharge, irritation… sounds lovely, doesn’t it? The condom. Yes. Make your partner wear one. Now if you have lots of vaginal symptoms, and you are sexually active, it’s time to get tested. Go see your medical provider who can test you and treat you with antibiotics. This one is treatable too!
And, in general, if you are sexually active, you should get tested every 6 months just to be safe and keep others safe too!
Let’s talk Herpes. [photo] Now it’s time to get serious. Herpes is with you for life. It is an STI. Condoms are essential in prevention. You just had sex without a condom, a week later you start to wonder… what’s happening down there? You may start to feel a little irritation and possibly a tingly feeling (and not the good kind). The next thing you know a sore will start to form. The first herpes outbreak is the worst. This is called your primary herpes outbreak. It’s bad. It can start with one sore and then suddenly your vaginal opening looks like it caught the chicken pox. Except they hurt like a razor blade and are oozing. Sound fun? Wear a condom!
If you start to get these sores, hightail it to your gynecologist’s office. You can start a prescription antiviral asap to help suppress the virus (the longer you wait, the less effective it will be, so go right away!). Don’t worry, your next outbreak won’t be as bad. Let’s help out the next guy and tell your partners, and use condoms every single time!!
Where can you get tested for STIs?
There are so many options, the question is which one is right for you. Check out the list below for some helpful guidance:
- What about your doctor? Have a primary care provider that you trust? They would be a great option to see if you can be seen fast. Call and try to schedule an appointment now!
- Don’t have a doc / nurse you know and love? Try a local urgent care clinic – they often are well equipped for these types of health issues and can provide testing, family planning, and/or contraception (if you’re interested in that of course).
- Your local Planned Parenthood is a fantastic option! They offer low-cost or even free STI testing, along with so many other great services!!!
- Any local family planning clinics near you? Worth checking at this easy-to-use website. These clinics provide family planning services, sexual health services including diagnosis and treatment of STD/STI symptoms, and preventative health services at free or reduced prices! Awesome, huh?!?!?
- Still a bit confused about the best option? Chat with a Health Expert on Nurse-1-1 now and get some trustworthy guidance now!
- Sexually active? Are you a millennial or Gen Z? This website is woke! https://www.bedsider.
org/ and has great info on how to get birth control https://www.bedsider. org/where_to_get_it
For anyone with male sex organs reading this, check out this detailed article we wrote on STI symptoms in men!
What Not to Miss!
Some vaginal discharge is normal, but, if it comes with pelvic/abdominal pain (pain in the lower belly or lower back) and/or fever, it may NOT be normal. Sometimes sexually transmitted infections (STI), if left untreated, can become more serious infections of the insides of your vagina such as the cervix, fallopian tubes and uterus.
This infection is called pelvic Inflammatory disease (PID) and it’s super important that you go see a doctor ASAP! It can be treated with antibiotics and fully go away, but if left unattended can get real bad and even end in you being really, really sick! So, if you have fever, vaginal discharge or pain that is worsening, get it checked right away!
When in doubt, check it out. Always wear a condom unless you’re ready to get pregnant and have a kiddo with a partner you know and trust. Use condoms so you don’t catch things (unless someone is throwing you a ball, then catch the ball).
Unsure what your discharge or vaginal itching/pain means? Talk to an expert nurse now!
Nurse-1-1 Health Center is written by nurses in a straight to the point type of way to provide basic health information. We get a lot of people like you searching online for answers to health concerns or looking for a hotline to ask a nurse a few questions. We can help. We put some info here for you to find while searching through all that other dry, scary medical information online. Stop that. Read our posts, or chat with us. Not medical advice or a replacement for medical care but see what we have to say and hopefully it will stop you from scaring yourself any more than you already have. We can help.