As if the cramps weren’t bad enough (UGH!), period pain can also hit your vulva. This includes your clit, outer labia (labia majora), inner labia (labia minora), and the skin around the vagina or urethra.
Here’s what could be causing your vajayjay pain plus prevention tips and treatments.
Vulvar pain 101
In addition to your time surfing the crimson wave, vulvar discomfort can be caused by:
- yeast infections
- bacterial infections
- vulvar cancer
Your treatment will depend on the cause, but there are some ways to minimize your pain. You can:
- soak in a sitz bath
- swap tampons for pads
- apply a cold compress to the area
- take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever (like ibuprofen)
PSA: If your pain is caused by an infection or underlying condition, your doc might give you a prescription antibiotic or another type of medication.
To prevent the pain in the first place:
- use lube during sex
- don’t douche, it throws your pH out of whack
- avoid products with harsh fragrances or chemicals
- wear loose cotton undies that let your private parts breathe
While vulvar pain can be annoying AF, it’s usually nothing to worry about. But there are some conditions you should watch out for. Here’s what could be going on in the land down under.
Vulvodynia can cause chronic vulvar pain, burning, or irritation. Sometimes the symptoms seem to surge out of nowhere, and the discomfort can last for months at a time.
If your vulvar pain only pops up during your period, you might be dealing with cyclic vulvodynia (or cyclic vulvitis). With this type of vulvodynia, the pain tends to get worse during your blood moon.
Currently, there’s no clear cause of vulvodynia. But contributing factors can include:
- hormonal changes
- pelvic floor weakness
- a history of vaginal infections
- allergies and skin sensitivities
- nerve injury around the vulvar area
Yeast infections are uber common — about 75 percent of women will have at least one in their lifetime. Vulvar pain is a frequent symptom. Another telltale side effect is a thick, white, or smelly discharge.
Some causes include:
- unmanaged diabetes
- tight undies or clothes
- harsh hygiene products
- antibiotics or topical antimicrobial creams
- hormonal changes from pregnancy or oral contraceptives
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is exactly what it sounds like — a bacterial infection that hits your hoo-ha.
Research shows that about half of the people with bacterial vaginosis don’t have any symptoms. But you might notice burning when you pee or a foul-smelling discharge.
Causes of bacterial infections can include:
- douching or excessive cleansing methods
- having sexual intercourse with a new partner
- hormonal changes from pregnancy, menstruation, or menopause
Folliculitis is the inflammation or infection of a hair follicle. You might notice small red bumps that look like acne or a rash. It can also cause soreness, itching, or swelling.
Most of the time folliculitis stems from shaving or wearing tight clothing.
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a parasite. About 85 percent of folks who have trich don’t experience any symptoms at all. (All the more reason to have safe sex and get tested on the reg!)
If you do have symptoms, you may have:
- bleeding or spotting
- pain when you pee
- frequent urge to pee
- genital burning or itching
- a foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- discomfort during sex or tampon insertion
Vulvar cancer isn’t a common cause of vulvar pain during your period. But it can produce similar symptoms like itching or discomfort. You might also see changes to your skin color or lumps on your genitals.
Treatment for vulvar pain depends on what’s causing it. So first, you need to figure out why you’re experiencing the pain. Then you can go from there.
A lot of treatments can be done yourself at home, but some require a doctor’s visit.
Here’s a deep dive into the possible treatments you’ll need depending on the cause of your vulvar pain.
Vulvodynia can be treated by a topical hormone cream. But sometimes your doc might suggest an antidepressant or an anticonvulsant (anti-seizure) medication.
The best way to treat a yeast infection is with antifungal medications. Most of the time, you can opt for an OTC brand. They come in tablet or suppository form.
For more stubborn infections, your doctor can prescribe a stronger medication.
If you think you have an infection, make an appointment with your doctor to be diagnosed. They can prescribe an antibiotic that can help nip it in the bud.
Hair follicle inflammation (aka folliculitis) usually clears up on its own. In the meantime, a warm compress can reduce discomfort. If it doesn’t go away or those red bumps get bigger, it’s time to call your doc.
You can’t diagnosis trich on your own. The only way to know for sure is to get an STI test. Your doc might give you an Rx medication like metronidazole tinidazole to help clear it up.
If you have vulvar cancer, your doctors can come up with a treatment plan that works with your individual needs. Treatments can include surgery, topical therapy, chemotherapy, biologic therapy, or radiation.
DIY pain remedies at home
Want the pain to go away (or at least get better) ASAP? There are a few things you can do on your own while waiting to see a doctor.
- Switch to tampons or pads without plastic coating or deodorizers (or menstrual cups).
- Soak in a sitz bath for 5 to 10 minutes a day. It’s super soothing.
- Apply a cold compress to the area. It can reduce swelling and stave off pain.
Sometimes vulvar pain can be avoided with some simple lifestyle changes. Here are some top tips:
- Use a clean razor when you shave.
- Use lube during sex or penetration.
- Avoid wearing tight pants or clothes.
- Opt for loose, breathable, cotton underwear.
- Don’t do an activity that can put pressure on the vulva while on your period (e.g. horseback riding or cycling).
- Ditch the douches, genital deodorants, or perfumed feminine hygiene products.
Chat with a doctor if your vulvar pain is chronic. They’ll help you figure out the cause and provide a solid treatment plan. They can also provide prevention tips.
Most vulvar pain during your period isn’t serious and can easily be treated. But sometimes, it can be a sign of a more serious issue. Common causes include vulvodynia, yeast infections, bacterial infections, folliculitis, or trichomoniasis.
Your doctor can provide a medication or other treatment option that can get your vag back to its normal, glorious self.