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Morning sickness, headaches, mood swings, and tiredness are some common symptoms of pregnancy. If you are pregnant, you must have experienced a few of them, if not all. Most women experience these symptoms while pregnant, but sometimes, they may also experience vaginal itching at some point of their pregnancies. Vaginal itching, though not experienced by all, is common during pregnancy. If you experience vaginal itching, you need not panic. It could be caused by various factors and dealing with it requires us to first identify the correct cause.
What Is Vaginal Itching?
Vaginal itching during pregnancy is a condition where the skin in and around the vagina is irritated and becomes itchy and inflamed. When a woman is pregnant, she might experience an increase in vaginal discharge, which may irritate the skin of the vulva. However, the itching could also be because of infections or an allergic reaction to any detergent, lotion, or soap being used during pregnancy.
What Are the Causes of Vaginal Itching During Pregnancy?
The most common reasons for vaginal itching during pregnancy are mentioned below.
1. Yeast Infection
The pelvic area experiences increased blood flow during pregnancy, and this causes engorgement of the vaginal area, making it more susceptible to infections. Yeast is normally found in the vagina in a small amount. The hormonal changes during pregnancy can disrupt the pH balance of the vagina, making it vulnerable to infections. As a result, the yeast can multiply in the vaginal region, causing intense itching, smelly cottage cheese-like discharge, and pain. This can be treated easily with over-the-counter medication. The medicines suggested are anti-fungal creams, ointments or tablets. However, you must check with your doctor first, before using any medication.
2. Increase in Vaginal Discharge
Hormonal changes, changes in the pH levels, and thickening of the vaginal walls during pregnancy can lead to increased vaginal discharge. An increase in vaginal discharge and cervical mucus during pregnancy can lead to itching. If the discharge is clear or white and not smelly, it means the itching is caused by pregnancy hormones. Although vaginal discharge protects the vagina, sometimes, it can irritate the skin of the vulva, making it red and itchy. If you are experiencing an increased vaginal discharge, wipe it off gently and keep your vaginal area dry and clean as much as possible. You can even use a cold compress on the affected area or wash the area with water.
3. Bacterial Vaginosis
This is a very common cause of vaginal itching during pregnancy. Bacteria are commonly found in the vagina, but if the balance between the good and bad bacteria changes in the vagina, it can cause bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy. The symptoms of bacterial vaginosis include itching, soreness, burning pain while urinating, foul-smelling discharge, and inflammation. This condition has to be diagnosed and treated by a doctor. The doctor usually prescribes antibiotics to eliminate the bacterial infection.
4. Product-induced Irritation
During pregnancy, the sensitive skin of the vagina can get inflamed or irritated due to harsh soaps, detergents, or lotion that you use. Fabric softeners and detergents used on your underwear, perfumed soaps, lotions, douches, and condoms can all cause the vaginal skin to become irritated. To prevent this, avoid using perfumed soaps and lotions. Use gentle, fragrance-free soaps and lotions, and opt for hypoallergenic detergents and fabric softeners.
5. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can also cause vaginal itching and irritation. Examples of STDs include Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Trichomoniasis, and Herpes. Besides itching, these diseases also cause smelly discharge and pain. In case of an STD, a woman must seek medical help immediately. In case you have an STD, the doctor will recommend the appropriate treatment. While having sex, one must use condoms and avoid sex with partners who are not monogamous.
6. Pediculosis (Crab Lice)
If you have intense itching around your pubic hair, it could be due to pediculosis or crab lice. Crab lice are tiny insects that feed on human blood. They are very contagious, and you can get them from public toilets or via sexual transmission. Pediculosis cannot be treated at home and one must consult a doctor for the same. In the case of crab lice, complete decontamination of bedding and clothes also becomes necessary. Using chemical lice treatments without consulting a doctor is not recommended.
7. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Vaginal itching could also result from a urinary tract infection (UTI). It is mainly because of bacteria lodged in the urinary tract, causing itching, pain, and burning sensation during urination. It may also be accompanied by fever, chills, and vomiting. If you experience these symptoms, you must consult a doctor as it will require treatment with antibiotics.
How to Prevent Itching in the Vagina During Pregnancy
If you experience vaginal itching during pregnancy, you should not try to self-medicate yourself. Over-the-counter medicines should also be taken only after consulting with a doctor. However, if you don’t experience this problem, there are certain things you can do to prevent it. You will have one less thing to worry about during pregnancy. Here are a few tips to reduce the likelihood of vaginal itching during pregnancy.
- Wear Cotton Underwears: Wear loose cotton panties and avoid wearing tight clothes during pregnancy. Don’t opt for lycra and spandex fibres as they can trap moisture adjacent to the skin and cause itching.
- Use Wet Wipes: Use gentle, fragrance and alcohol-free wet wipes to wipe your vaginal area after using the restroom or through the course of the day.
- Stay Clean and Dry: Stay as clean and dry as possible. Change your underwear 2-3 times a day to get rid of sweat and discharge. Also, clean thoroughly down there, after intercourse.
- Opt for Hypoallergenic Products: Use gentle soaps, lotions, and shower gels. Use hypoallergenic fabric softeners and detergents to wash your underwear.
- Use a Cold Compress: A cold compress can be used on the affected area to get rid of the itching. If the vaginal skin is sensitive, use cold water to wash it as hot water might increase the irritation.
- Eat Yoghurt: Yoghurt helps the body maintain balanced pH levels. Include yoghurt in your daily diet. However, opt for unsweetened, low-fat yoghurt to help balance your body’s pH levels.
- Try Anti-Itch Creams or Cornstarch: You can use an over-the-counter, anti-itch cream after checking with your doctor to make sure it does not contain any ingredients that can pose harm to your baby. You can also try sprinkling an unscented, cornstarch-based powder on the itchy area to keep it dry and relieve the itching.
- Practice Good Hygiene: After having sex or going to the bathroom, make it a point to clean your vaginal area. Always wipe from front to back.
When to Visit a Doctor
If you experience vaginal irritation during pregnancy that is accompanied by symptoms like foul-smelling discharge and pain, you should consult your doctor right away to rule out STDs and other infections. The main cause of vaginal itching in early pregnancy is hormonal changes or infections. You should consult your doctor if the itching persists for a long time and you have pain or smelly discharge. Call your doctor if you notice anything abnormal in the vaginal area like ulcers, cuts, sores, or raised bumps. Once a healthcare professional finds the cause of the problem, he can recommend the appropriate treatment for vaginal itching during pregnancy.
Vaginal itching during pregnancy is very common and can be treated by a doctor after determining the exact cause. But it is always recommended that you practice good hygiene to keep this problem at bay. Keep your vagina clean and dry to avoid irritation. Do not use any medication to treat vaginal itching without asking your doctor first.