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9 Reasons Why Your Vagina Might Be Itching After Sex

9 Reasons Why Your Vagina Might Be Itching After Sex

An itchy vagina after sex can be uncomfortable and even alarming for some, but vaginal itching is common.

vaginal itching after sex

There are a number of reasons why a woman's vagina might itch after sex. Image via Shutterstock

Vaginal itching is often not a cause for concern. But, there are numerous reasons why this may be happening. If persistent itch occurs, you may require medical attention and/or treatment.

Vagina Itching After Sex – 9 Potential Reasons To Consider

1. Your vagina may be dry

If there isn’t enough vaginal lubrication during sex, micro-tears can occur. Micro-tears are small tears in the membranes of the vaginal wall. While they are usually harmless, they can result in itching and even pain.

There are several reasons for vaginal dryness including certain medications (antidepressants, hormonal birth control), a lack of foreplay, douching, menopause, breastfeeding, smoking, depression, high stress, and more.

Estrogen is a hormone that provides the vaginal lining with lubrication. A decrease in estrogen (like which occurs naturally during menopause) can result in vaginal dryness. Other factors[1] that may decrease estrogen include premature ovarian failure, thyroid disorders, pituitary gland dysfunction, chemotherapy, and excessive exercise.

A research in the Journal of Menopausal Medicine says that a diet that is high in omega-3 fatty acids may increase vaginal lubrication. Note: In Western Blot analysis, Omega-3 fatty acid composition in diet did not affect expression of ezrin and merlin in rat vagina estrogen presented significant impact on expression of ezrin and merlin.

Omega-3s also increase circulation and blood flow, which improves sexual functioning. To increase omega-3s in your diet, try eating foods such as avocado, flaxseed, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, Brussels sprouts, or supplementing with omega-3.

Lubricants can be helpful if dryness is the issue. There is absolutely no shame in requiring a lubricant for sex and the sooner we normalize this, the more comfortable and satisfying sex we will all have.

A study published in 2013 surveyed 2451 women and found a positive relationship between lubricant use and better sex. It is important to use condom-friendly lubricants to avoiding a broken condom. This means using lubricants that are water- or silicone-based as opposed to condoms that are oil-based.

2. The pH balance of your vagina may be off

A healthy vagina will have an acidic pH between 3.8 and 4.5 (which does vary based on age). Various factors[2] can increase or decrease the pH. For example, sperm is more basic (alkaline) so unprotected sex can change the pH of vaginas (another reason to use protection!).

Antibiotics are another common reason for changes in pH. This can be an issue with frequent antibiotic use. While antibiotics are meant to kill bad bacteria, they can also kill off beneficial bacteria. This can also change the smell of your vagina.

Your diet can also affect the health of your vagina. Eating an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are optimal for vaginal health. Iron, zinc, and manganese are all important minerals for a healthy vaginal pH.

Foods high in probiotics may be helpful as well. Some research[3] shows that apple cider vinegar can be a healthy addition to our diets as well, particularly for vaginal health.

Being dehydrated may cause vaginal itching so staying hydrated with water is helpful. Conversely, a diet high in sugar and gluten may disrupt the biome of the vagina.

Finally, douching, or cleaning the vagina with specific products, can also alter the pH which is why douching isn’t recommended.

Douching is also associated with some case of infertility, sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) and vaginal infections.

While hygiene is important, a simple shower with a gentle, naturally-derived soap will do the trick. Showering after physical or sexual activity is especially important.

3. It may be a sign of Bacterial Vaginosis

While Bacterial vaginosis (known as BV), often has no symptoms, there are a few red flags sometimes.

These include vaginal itching, discharge that is green, grey or white, a burning feeling during sex or when peeing, or a “fishy” vaginal odor. These are signs to see a healthcare provider. BV can often be treated with a range of antibiotics.

4. You may be having an Allergic Reaction

Vaginal Itching after sex may be a sign of an allergic reaction to a condom. While latex allergies are uncommon (between 1-6% of Americans)[4] they can result in localized inflammation.

This could look like itching, redness, bumps, swelling, hives or a rash. Fortunately, there are condoms available that are not made from latex.

Another potential allergic reaction may be due to spermicide. Nonoxynol-9 is the active ingredient which often causes irritation such as itching and sores.

Nonoxynol-9 can also increase the risk of contracting HIV from an infected partner.

5. It could be a Yeast Infection

If vaginal itch is accompanied by a burning sensation during pee or sex, or a white, cloudy discharge, this can be a sign of a yeast infection.

About 75% of women will have a yeast infection in their life (and often will have more than one). They can be resolved with antifungal creams and other treatments.

Research has shown that cranberry extract supplements may be effective for preventing and treating yeast infections.

If you aren’t sure it is a yeast infection, it is helpful to see a healthcare provider for a diagnosis. This will avoid unnecessary and perhaps inaccurate treatment.

For the future, some steps[5] that can be taken which may help avoid a yeast infection include:

  • Wearing cotton underwear
  • Avoiding tight-fitting tights and pants
  • Refraining from douching
  • Limiting hot tubs
  • Removing wet clothes and bathing suits shortly after use
  • Avoiding unnecessary antibiotic use

6. Your period may be starting

Hormonal changes can be accompanied by vaginal itch. The pH of the vagina changes throughout the menstrual cycle. Menstrual periods create a more basic environment as blood has a pH of 7.4. This pH is higher than the vagina’s pH and will change the overall pH temporarily.

7. It may be a sign of an STI

Several STIs have similar signs. Vaginal Itching is one of these common symptoms.

For example, trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection that is usually not serious. Along with a vaginal itch, women often experience a discharge that can be heavy, foamy, yellow, green or have a foul odor.

Other symptoms can include painful sex, and pain when peeing. Fortunately, trichomoniasis can often be treated with medication. Chlamydia is another common STI where itching may occur. Other symptoms can include discharge and pain while peeing. Chlamydia can be treated with medication.

Herpes simplex virus (HSV), also known as genital herpes, is a common STI often with no symptoms. When symptoms do present they can include itching, red bumps, white blisters, ulcers, or scabs. While there is no cure for HSV, it can be treated to control outbreaks.

Genital warts often don’t cause any symptoms, However, when symptoms are present they can include itching, burning, tenderness, pain or bleeding.

While gonorrhea often doesn’t have any symptoms, some signs include vaginal discharge, pain when peeing, bleeding between periods or during sex, pain during sex, and abdominal/pelvic pain.
It is best to get tested regularly to know your STI status.

8. It could be one of a variety of skin conditions

While confusing, many conditions of the skin present with an itch. Some of these include:

  • Eczema
    Combined with the itching you may be experiencing, eczema may form red patches. The skin may become thickened from itching.
  • Psoriasis
    Psoriasis is fairly common and can occur all over the body. It usually shows up as pink patches. While it is treatable, the vagina requires separate treatment than how other areas of the body may be treated. Often a topical steroid cream is prescribed by physicians.
  • Lichen Sclerosus
    One of the first symptoms is itching. When being examined, white patches may be seen. Lichen Sclerosus is often treated with a high potency corticosteroid cream.
  • Lichen Planus
    While this can affect the vagina, vulva, mouth and other areas of the body, there are specific symptoms of the vagina area. If a sticky yellow discharge or erosions are present with the vaginal itching you are experiencing, it may be lichen planus. This is often treated with a topical steroid medication.
  • Pubic Lice
    Also known as crabs, pubic lice can cause a very itchy vagina. This can spread to other areas like the legs, chest, armpits, beard, or eyebrows. It is contracted through either sexual intercourse or through sheets, towels, or clothes of someone with pubic lice. This is often treatable with medicated lotions or shampoos.

9. There is a very rare chance of vulvar cancer

Vulvar cancer is quite rare as it makes up less than 1% of cancers that affect women, according to Harvard Women’s Health Watch.

The signs can include itching, burning, or discomfort of the vulva. Other symptoms include bleeding between periods, changes in the color or thickness of the skin, and lumps or bumps. Surgery may be suggested to remove the bump.

Takeaway

Before jumping to this conclusion, recall all the previous possibilities mentioned, and discuss it with your doctor.

As you can see, there are numerous reasons for vaginal itch. Some are more serious than others. And some require intervention while others will resolve themselves.

If the vaginal itch persists or is accompanied by other symptoms, it is best to discuss this with your healthcare provider.

Feedback:

References

[1] What happens when estrogen levels are low? | Medical News Today https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321064.php
[2] Vaginal pH balance: Symptoms, remedies, and tests | Medical News Today https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322537.php
[3] Front Microbiol. 2015; 6: 1528 Published online 2016 Jan 20. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2015.01528 PMCID: PMC4718981 PMID: 26834706 Bacterial Vaginosis Biofilms: Challenges to Current Therapies and Emerging Solutions https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4718981/
[4] Centers For Disease Control and Prevention? https://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/toolstemplates/entertainmented/ResearchAgenda.html
[5] Yeast infection (vaginal) | Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/yeast-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20378999
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Dr. Dylan Cutler, PhD

Dr. Dylan Cutler is a PCOS Wellness Consultant, holistic health content creator, fitness enthusiast, feminist, and vegan. She obtained ...

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