Vaginal Itching During Pregnancy – Causes & Prevention
- What Is Vaginal Itching?
- What Are the Causes of Vaginal Itching During Pregnancy?
- What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Vaginal Itching While Pregnant?
- What Are the Complications of Vaginal Itching in Pregnancy?
- How to Treat Vaginal Itching When Pregnant?
- How to Prevent Itching in the Vagina During Pregnancy?
- When to Visit a Doctor?
Morning sickness, headaches, mood swings, and tiredness are common pregnancy symptoms. If you are pregnant, you must have experienced a few of them, if not all. Embarking on the miraculous pregnancy journey brings joy, anticipation, and the occasional itch in places we’d rather not scratch. Yes, we’re talking about the mysterious case of an itchy vagina during pregnancy! While it’s a normal occurrence, it can still be quite bothersome. Most women experience vaginal itching at some point in their pregnancies. Vaginal itching, though not experienced by all, is common during pregnancy. If you experience vaginal itching, you need not panic. Various factors could cause it, and dealing with it requires us to identify the correct cause.
What Is Vaginal Itching?
Vaginal itching during pregnancy is when 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 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; one must consult a doctor. 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 antibiotic treatment.
8. Vulvar Varicosities
Vulvar varicosities refer to the swollen and enlarged veins in the vulva, which can occur during pregnancy due to increased blood flow and pressure in the pelvic region. These varicose veins can cause discomfort and itching in the vaginal area. The itching associated with vulvar varicosities can be relieved by using cold compresses, wearing supportive undergarments, avoiding prolonged periods of standing or sitting, and elevating the legs.
9. Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP)
Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy is a liver disorder that occurs during pregnancy, leading to reduced bile flow. The accumulation of bile acids in the bloodstream can cause generalised itching, including in the vaginal area. Itching is typically more intense at night and can be accompanied by jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). It is important to seek medical attention if ICP is suspected, as it can increase the risk of preterm birth and fetal distress. Treatment options may include medications to relieve itching, vitamin K supplementation, and close pregnancy monitoring.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Vaginal Itching While Pregnant?
While hormonal changes and increased blood flow to the genital area can contribute to vaginal itching during pregnancy, it is crucial to rule out any underlying conditions. Here are some of the common signs and symptoms of vaginal itching while pregnant:
- Persistent itching in the vaginal area is a primary symptom of vaginal itching during pregnancy. It may be accompanied by a general irritation or discomfort in the genital region.
- The skin around the vagina may appear red and swollen due to the constant itching and scratching. This inflammation can further contribute to the discomfort experienced by pregnant women.
- Vaginal itching during pregnancy can sometimes be accompanied by changes in vaginal discharge. The discharge may become thicker, cottage cheese-like, or have an unusual odour. It is important to note any abnormal discharge and report it to a healthcare provider for evaluation.
- In some cases, vaginal itching during pregnancy can cause pain or discomfort during urination. This can be due to the inflammation and irritation of the vaginal tissues.
- Vaginal itching can also make sexual intercourse uncomfortable or painful for pregnant women. The itching and irritation can cause sensitivity and soreness in the vaginal area, making intercourse less enjoyable.
What Are the Complications of Vaginal Itching in Pregnancy?
Understanding the potential complications can help pregnant women seek appropriate medical attention and take necessary measures to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Here are some of the complications associated with vaginal itching in pregnancy:
- Infection Risk: Constant scratching of the vaginal area due to itching can create small breaks in the skin, making it more susceptible to infection. Bacterial or yeast infections can develop, leading to discomfort, inflammation, and further complications if left untreated.
- Preterm Labour: In certain cases, severe or persistent vaginal itching during pregnancy may be a sign of an underlying condition such as intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP). ICP can increase the risk of preterm labour and other complications for the mother and the baby.
- Disturbed Sleep and Emotional Distress: Vaginal itching can significantly impact a pregnant woman’s quality of life, causing disturbed sleep and emotional distress. Sleep deprivation and emotional stress during pregnancy can adversely affect maternal and fetal well-being.
How to Treat Vaginal Itching When Pregnant?
The diagnosis and recommendation of the doctor will determine the course of action for severe itching. Self-medication using over-the-counter drugs for this condition is not advised during pregnancy. The following are some therapy strategies to lessen vaginal itching when pregnant:
- Without therapy, bacterial vaginosis can go away; in other instances, medicines are sufficient.
- Antifungal drugs such as topical azole antifungal therapy are advised for fungal infections. Within seven days, it might successfully reduce the fungal infection.
- Medication is used to relieve the pediculosis itching. However, using self-medication or lice preparations is not advised.
- Vaginal infections can be avoided by practising good personal hygiene and often cleaning clothes, bedding, and towels.
- Using chemical products in the vagina should be avoided to lessen vaginal irritation during pregnancy.
If the itching persists or is accompanied by unusual discharge, odour, or pain, it is essential to consult your healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment. In less severe cases, you can also try some home remedies for vaginal itching during pregnancy after consulting with your healthcare provider.
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 throughout the day.
- Stay Clean and Dry: Stay as clean and dry as possible. Change your underwear 2-3 times daily to eliminate 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.
- Aloe vera gel: Aloe vera has soothing and anti-inflammatory properties that can help alleviate itching. Apply a small amount of pure aloe vera gel to the affected area and gently massage it. Ensure to use a product specifically formulated for external use and avoid applying it internally.
- Chamomile tea wash: Chamomile tea is known for its calming and anti-itch properties. Brew a cup of chamomile tea, allow it to cool, and gently wash the vaginal area using it.
When to Visit a Doctor?
Suppose you experience vaginal irritation during pregnancy accompanied by symptoms like foul-smelling discharge and pain. In that case, you should immediately consult your doctor 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.
1. At What Month Does Vaginal Itching Start in Pregnancy?
Vaginal itching can occur at any point during pregnancy. It may start as early as the first trimester and can continue throughout the pregnancy. Hormonal changes, increased blood flow, and changes in vaginal pH levels can contribute to vaginal itching during pregnancy.
2. What Happens If a Yeast Infection Goes Untreated When Pregnant?
If a yeast infection goes untreated during pregnancy, it can potentially lead to complications. The infection may persist or worsen, causing more severe symptoms, such as intense itching, redness, swelling, and discomfort. There is also a risk of passing the infection to the baby during delivery, which can result in oral thrush or a diaper rash. It is important to seek medical attention and follow the recommended treatment if a yeast infection is suspected during pregnancy.
Vaginal itching during pregnancy is very common and can be treated by a doctor after determining the exact cause. But you should always practice good hygiene to avoid this problem. Keep your vagina clean and dry to avoid irritation. Do not use any medication to treat vaginal itching without asking your doctor first.
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