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7 Vaginal Issues + Vaginal Health Remedies to Match 'em

By Maya Khamala

Something just ain't feeling right?

Whether your vagina is sore, itchy, burning, painful, or if you’re having painful sex or urination, there are powerfully effective DIY remedies out there you may not have heard of...yet.

The internet age and all the information-sharing that comes with it has its pros and cons- no doubt.

One definite pro? The vastly increased ability of women everywhere to share with other women both their personal experiences and official knowledge of vaginal pain, discomfort, symptoms, infections, and general issues—many of which go without professional diagnoses.

This sharing is nothing short of revolutionary.

Although there is still a TON of work to be done to take the mystery out of how basic women’s health problems counter gendered biases in medical research, progress is happening.

Here are 7 common vaginal issues, and ways of banishing them:

Vaginal issues & the answers we seek...

1. STIs

There are several STIs that can cause vaginal pain and soreness, genital herpes, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis among them.

Every year there are 3 million cases of chlamydia in the US alone. Painful sex is one of the most common symptoms among infected women.

The good news: if you have any of the above, there are tests that will detect it. You should test for chlamydia on the regular even if you don’t have any symptoms, because it can cause serious harm to your reproductive organs in the long run, or lead to pelvic inflammatory disease. You’ll get antibiotics, so take a strong probiotic to counteract their effects (they can disrupt your natural pH and cause yeast infections). In the case of herpes, which can be staved off (but not eliminated) with anti-viral meds, you can avoid future outbreaks by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

2. Yeast infections

75% of all women will experience at least one yeast infection in their life.

Many of us deal with chronic yeast infections. Cottage cheese-like discharge, burning, itching, redness, you name it. This overgrowth of yeast can happen for lots of different reasons: taking antibiotics, hormonal imbalances cause by taking the pill, diabetes, sitting around in a wet swimsuit, douching, or anything else that may screw with your pH balance. This includes having sex. When your immune system is strong, you’re less susceptible to the yeasties. While the OTC antifungal remedies available in pharmacies work for some, others have had much more success curing yeast infections naturally. Reducing the amount of carbs and sugar you consume also helps (sugar feeds yeast).

My fave yeast infection treatment: this coconut/lavender/tea tree oil mélange. Pure magic.

3.  Bacterial vaginosis

Most of the same things that cause yeast infections cause bacterial vaginosis (BV). Symptoms: a really bad odor accompanied by discharge (and maybe some burning). Basically, an overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria in the vagina. It's pretty common, and your doctor can prescribe meds to clear it up, or you can go for the natural methods, which are strikingly similar to those used to treat yeast infections; both conditions result from a pH imbalance.

4.  His junk!

You heard me, babies. Sometimes, it’s his fault. Not that we’re laying blame, am I right? Maybe his penis is too big and it’s causing irritation. Most of us know by now that bigger is not always better. Solution (if he really is the one): more foreplay, more lube. 

Or maybe he has a yeast infection without knowing and is continuously reinfecting you. If you get yeast infections, your man should get treated too, to avoid such a scenario. Some guys will get ‘em without symptoms, so it’s important for him to check it out. While rare, some women even experience semen allergies with certain partners. Before you fret, try these possible courses of treatment.

5. Vulvodynia 

If you’re experiencing chronic pain/burning/itching/stinging/tingling in your vulva or vaginal opening, it may be what doctors have termed vulvodynia. Makes sex painful, of course. Sigh. See my previous post on this subject here

Causes: anything from a past injury to the vagina, to allergies (say, to that irritating detergent), to trauma from sexual abuse, to uncontrollable stress, to a history of vaginal infections. 

Vulvodynia is the term doctors use to refer to any kind of vaginal pain they do not know enough about to clearly diagnose. Best solution I found (‘cause I have personally suffered): see a pelvic floor therapist. They’re more and more common these days, and can give you exercises (both mental and physical) that get to the root of the problem.

6. UTIs 

If you've ever had a urinary tract infection (UTI), you know how agonizing they are. Most common cause: having sex. The urethra is close to the vagina, and bacteria can travel all over the place. Design flaw? Who the hell knows? Luckily, these are treated pretty easily with antibiotics, and in spite of the whole antibiotics-yeast infection connection, this is one of those rare times that I’d almost 100% counsel you to take the damn pills (along with a ton of probiotics and probiotic foods). 

7. Things that go bump 

Try not to panic. If you have a swollen or painful bump on your vulva, it might be a Bartholin's cyst, or a sebaceous cyst, which is basically a clogged gland or pore. Folliculitis is a clogged and infected hair follicle that might look like a little red bump or whitehead. You can get them due to shaving, waxing, or a host of other reasons. All of the above are pretty common and might not cause you any trouble, in which case you can leave them alone or treat ‘em with warm compresses. If painful, infected, or swollen, you may need drainage or antibiotics from good ol’ doc.

General wellbeing, yo.

Even if you can’t figure out exactly what the problem is with your vagina, never panic, never fear (as I admit I have done: “OMG, I’m never going to have sex again!”) because many different issues can stem from common causes, as is evident above. I.e., hormonal imbalances, stress, diet, etc., and to every problem there truly is a solution. Even if that problem goes unnamed, knowing your symptoms is often enough to figure out out an effective course of action.

Bonus tip: Woman Heal Thyself, published in 1995, details a deeply empowering and accessible DIY system for self-massaging a set of acupressure points that help you gain reproductive control, hormonal balance, and banish chronic vaginal pain, infections, and sexual pain once and for all.

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