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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
This could look like itching, redness, bumps, swelling, hives or a rash. Fortunately, there are condoms available that are not made from latex.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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:
Combined with the itching you may be experiencing, eczema may form red patches. The skin may become thickened from itching.
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.
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.
1. Expression of Ezrin in Vagina Cells of Postmenopausal Rats after Dietary Administration of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Formula
2. Wang CH, Fang CC, Chen NC, Liu SS, Yu PH, Wu TY, Chen WT, Lee CC, Chen SC. Cranberry-containing products for prevention of urinary tract infections in susceptible populations: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arch Intern Med. 2012 Jul 9;172(13):988-96. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2012.3004. PMID: 22777630.