Healthy vaginas all have key things in common. No part, from your cervix o your vulva, should itch, hurt, or burn. And while scent and discharge can vary a lot from woman to woman, whatever vaginal odor or amount of discharge that is normal for you depending on where you are in your cycle shouldn’t suddenly change in a major way.
But if you do develop a crazy-persistent labia itch, for example, or your lady bits start to smell funky, it’s time to investigate. These and other signs are your vagina’s way of saying that something is off. It’s always wise to see your ob-gyn for an official diagnosis. In the meantime, use our symptom decoder to find out what your vagina is trying to tell you.
If your vagina itches…
An occasional crotch itch is one thing — you’ve sweat a lot at the gym, or you ended up with razor burn after shaving.
But a chronically itchy vagina or vulva is a sign that something is not right. While the urge to scratch may simply be triggered by an allergic reaction to soap or body wash, it can also be a tip-off to conditions like bacterial vaginosis (which happens when the normal bacteria in the vagina get out of balance), a yeast infection, or the sexually transmitted infection trichomoniasis.
To find out which of these infections could be behind your itch and then get the right meds to treat it, you’ll need some simple tests. That means seeing your doctor, says Michael Cackovic, MD, ob-gyn at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Although most women self-treat with over-the-counter medication, I believe they should see their doctor to find out exactly what is causing their symptoms,” he says. Treating yourself for the wrong issue can make symptoms worse.
If your vagina smells funky…
Depending on the time of the month, your choice of clothes, and how hard you sweat, your vaginal odor can be anywhere from mild to pungent. But it should never smell foul or bad, so any change along these lines is worth paying attention to. An unpleasant scent “could be due to something as simple as changing your hygiene regimen or diet,” says Dr. Cackovic. “Or it may be something more complicated, like an infection.”
Infections like bacterial vaginosis and STDs like trichomoniasis — yep, these two again — are often the culprits behind odor issues. But don’t discount something as simple as forgetting to take out a tampon, which causes bacteria to build up and produce a funky stench.