You are not alone, mama! There is a wide range of things that happen when we are pregnant. Weight gain, food cravings, swollen feet – we go through it all! And yes, even vaginal itching during pregnancy is a common issue many pregnant women face. Keep reading to learn more about it.
Why I am here and who I am:
Hey mama, I am Trish— AKA Labor Nurse Mama, a labor and delivery nurse with over 15 years of high-risk OB experience. I am also a mama to 7 kids and have given birth to 6 and have labored thousands of mamas and delivered many, many babies. I am the online birth class educator for Calm Labor Confident Birth and The VBAC Lab birth classes. and the mama expert inside our Calm Mama Society Mama Membership Community! You can find me over on IG teaching over 240k mamas daily.
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What Causes Vaginal Itching Down There During Pregnancy?
You can mainly blame it on hormonal changes altering the pH balance of the vagina, resulting in a range of symptoms, including itching, burning, and discomfort. But while it is the main culprit, there are still several reasons why you may experience vaginal itching during pregnancy. Here are some of the most common causes:
Bacterial vaginosis or commonly known as BV, is a type of vaginal inflammation caused by the overgrowth of bacteria naturally found in the vagina, which upsets the natural balance. BV results from an imbalance of “good” and “harmful” bacteria in a vagina.
It is essential to recognize these symptoms early in pregnancy.
- Thin, white, grey, or green discharge
- Unpleasant odor (kind of smells fishy, ykwyk)
- Vaginal itchiness
- Burning sensation while urinating
A yeast infection, also known as candidiasis, is a fungal infection that can occur in the vaginal area during pregnancy. It is caused by an overgrowth of yeast (most commonly Candida albicans) that naturally lives in the vagina. Symptoms of a yeast infection may include:
- Vaginal itching and irritation
- Swelling and redness of the vulva
- Burning sensation during urination
- Pain or discomfort during intercourse
- Thick, white, odorless discharge with a cottage cheese-like texture
- Rash on the skin around the vulva
An increase in Vaginal Discharge Can Cause Itching Down There
Along with your growing belly, there is also a natural increase in the amount of vaginal discharge and cervical mucus that is produced. This is due to hormonal changes that occur, as well as the softening of the cervix and vaginal walls. While discharge plays a vital role in protecting the vagina from infection, it can also irritate the skin of the vulva, resulting in redness and itching.
But hey, I got your back, mama! Here are some ways to manage the itch you might not want to scratch:
- Maintain regular hygiene habits by taking frequent baths and wearing cotton panties.
- Change panties every few hours to reduce the risk of irritation.
- Avoiding using any harsh chemicals in the area is crucial, and instead, consider adding a tablespoon of a mild solution to lukewarm water when washing the area.
- Don’t apply hair-removing cream. If you are using a razor, get a new razor for yourself, as a dull razor can aggravate the skin around your vagina, causing irritation and redness.
Vaginal Dryness Can Cause Vaginal Itching During Pregnancy
One of the things you can also blame on hormonal changes – vaginal dryness. This condition may result in redness, irritation, and pain during sex. Low progesterone levels may also be a cause of vaginal dryness during pregnancy. Since progesterone is essential for maintaining pregnancy, you should speak to a doctor to be safe if you experience this symptom.
Meanwhile, say no to dryness and practice the following measures:
- Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
- Avoid using chemical products in the vaginal area.
- Consider applying coconut oil to alleviate vaginal dryness.
- Stress can contribute to vaginal dryness, so try practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga.
Sensitivity to Products
You might want to temporarily bid goodbye to your favorite body wash, as (sadly) there can be products that you used comfortably before getting preggo that may irritate your skin now. This may also apply to your detergent, bubble bath, soap, and more.
Here’s what you can do to lessen the risk of itching and irritation:
- Use mild and gentle laundry detergent for washing your clothes.
- Avoid bubble baths and opt for plain water instead.
- Use mild and oil-based soaps for bathing to avoid irritation.
- Apply a cold compress to the vaginal area or take cool baths to alleviate itching.
- Add 1/4 to 2 cups of baking soda to a warm (not hot) bath to soothe the skin.
- Create a paste by mixing baking soda and water and apply it to the itchy skin.
- Consider applying coconut oil to the itchy skin to alleviate discomfort.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Picture this: the uterus sits on top of the bladder. As it expands during pregnancy, more significant pressure is placed on the bladder, blocking the expulsion of urine and causing an infection to occur.
The result: As a pregnant woman, you can be at greater risk of getting a UTI.
These are the symptoms that you should watch out for:
- Frequent and sudden urges to urinate
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Vaginal itching and burning
- Presence of blood in the urine
- Pain during intercourse
Cholestasis of Pregnancy
In late pregnancy, some women may experience a liver condition known as cholestasis of pregnancy, also called intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) or obstetric cholestasis. This condition temporarily reduces liver function in some pregnant women, causing bile to accumulate in the liver and bloodstream. Bile is a substance produced by the liver to aid in the digestion of fats. During pregnancy, increased levels of estrogen and progesterone can impair the liver's ability to transport bile.
Cholestasis of pregnancy is characterized by intense itching on the soles of the feet and palms of the hands, which may eventually spread to other areas of the body, including the vaginal region. However, rashes and redness are not typically associated with this condition.
What factors increase the risk of developing cholestasis during pregnancy?
- Having a family member with the condition.
- Having a previous history of ICP.
- Carrying twins, triplets, or more.
- Having a history of liver disease or hepatitis C.
- Having a history of liver damage.
- Having a genetic condition that affects the production and utilization of bile in the body.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
Vaginal itching can be an early symptom of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like genital herpes, HPV, and trichomoniasis.
It's possible to contract an STI during pregnancy or become pregnant while having an existing STI. Since some STIs may not exhibit any symptoms, it is crucial to inform your doctor if you suspect you may have contracted an STI.
How to Prevent Vaginal Itching During Pregnancy?
While I know that most of us are good at this, self-medicating may not work when it comes to experiencing vaginal itching during pregnancy! You might want to reach out to your provider for some help. You do not have to suffer trying not to scratch your lady bits.
Meanwhile, these are some preventive measures that you can do to alleviate the itching:
- Cotton Underwear All Day – Yes to loose cotton panties, no to spandex or lycra fiber panties! You don’t want moisture to be trapped next to your skin and cause itching.
- Use Wet Wipes – Choose the fragrance-free, alcohol-free, and gentle ones to wipe your vaginal area after using the restroom.
- Apply Cold Compress – Or if the area is too sensitive, it’s better to wash the vaginal skin with cold water.
- Use Hypoallergenic Products – Using mild, fragrance-free laundry detergent products to wash your panties is safer.
- Consume Yogurt – If you’re a yogurt hater, now is the time to love them as it helps maintain balanced pH levels. It will be a good addition to your daily diet.
- Stay Clean and Dry – It’s basic: keeping the vaginal area clean and dry is always necessary. Change your underwear 2-3 times during the day to get rid of discharge and sweat, and clean the area thoroughly after intercourse.
When Should I Be Worried About Vaginal Itching During Pregnancy?
If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should talk to your doctor or midwife right away:
- Severe itching
- Painful urination
- Vaginal bleeding
- Foul-smelling discharge
- Rash or sores on the genital area
Treatment For Vaginal Itching During Pregnancy
Depending on the cause of the itching, there are several treatment options available for vaginal itching during pregnancy. Here are some common treatments that your doctor or midwife may recommend:
- Antifungal medication: If a yeast infection is causing the itching, your doctor may prescribe antifungal medication such as miconazole or clotrimazole. These medications are available as creams, suppositories, or oral tablets.
- Antibiotics: If bacterial vaginosis or a UTI is causing the itching, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics such as metronidazole or amoxicillin. It's important to finish the full course of antibiotics, even if symptoms improve, to ensure that the infection is fully treated.
- Moisturizers or lubricants: If vaginal dryness is causing the itching, your doctor may recommend using a moisturizer or lubricant to help alleviate discomfort. It's important to use a safe product during pregnancy that doesn't contain any harsh chemicals or fragrances.
- Corticosteroid cream: If the itching is caused by inflammation, your doctor may prescribe a corticosteroid cream such as hydrocortisone. This cream can help reduce swelling and itching but should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare provider.
- Avoiding irritants: If sensitivity to products such as soap or laundry detergent is causing the itching, your doctor may recommend avoiding these products or switching to gentler alternatives.
PRO MAMA TIP: It's important to always follow your doctor's recommendations and not use any over-the-counter products without consulting your healthcare provider. In some cases, untreated vaginal itching can lead to a more serious condition, so seeking treatment as soon as possible is important.
I hope this blog helped you learn more about vaginal itching during pregnancy. Got some tips to share? Send us a message! We'd love to hear from you. Don't forget to stay updated on Instagram!