When it comes to staying healthy “down there,” it’s a matter of paying close attention to your body. By noticing certain symptoms of serious problems right away, you can treat the cause of those symptoms effectively. Many symptoms can be caused by unsafe sex, bad hygiene habits, medications like birth control, hormonal issues, and age. Like any other health concern, you want to act fast to nip a problem in the bud as fast as possible.
Many women are hesitant to approach a healthcare professional for fear that they will be judged for their sexual activity, whereas others think that a little itch or a bit of pain may be normal. But that’s your lady parts on the line! It’s best to be 100% sure that everything is okay before brushing it off and being sorry when things get worse.
Common female reproductive system symptoms you should never disregard
Problems don’t go away by avoiding or ignoring them, so if you notice any of the following symptoms, see a doctor as soon as possible:
#1 It’s itchy. If you suddenly notice your southern regions are feeling itchy and irritated, you could be at risk of a yeast infection or an STI. It could also be characterized as vulval dermatitis, which can be caused by soap, detergent, or a fabric that produces an allergic reaction to your sensitive skin.
Depending on the cause, the itchy sensations could come with redness, inflammation, or a visible rash, which won’t go away simply by doing nothing. Get a pap smear and a full physical examination to rule out the possibility of an STI before it spreads or causes further complication.
White or red blisters that continue to spread signal a possibility of the herpes simplex virus. In this case, you should see a doctor immediately, and refrain from having sex, whether protected or unprotected, until you’ve been examined. If you’ve noticed the symptoms after having sex, then it’s also possible that you may have an allergic reaction to a condom, spermicidal ointment, lubricant, or even your partner’s sperm.
A condition called lichen sclerosus can also cause the symptoms of an irritating rash down there. However, the condition is rare but serious. Without medical attention, this could cause scarring and deformation of the sensitive vaginal skin, making going to the bathroom and having sex incredibly painful.
The itchiness can be a real pain, but your doctor can prescribe or suggest a topical product that can calm the uncomfortable itch and make the healing time bearable.
#2 It burns when you pee. If you start dreading using the washroom due to a painful burning sensation when you pee, you could have a urinary tract infection. A urinary tract infection or UTI is one of the more common complaints from women. UTIs are characterized by the frequent persistent urge to pee and a painful burning sensation that follows.
The condition is essentially a bacterial infection that can be caused by improper hygiene, sex, and also certain medications like antibiotics. While UTIs are fairly common, more so in sexually active women, they are still serious health concerns. If the infection is not caught and treated right away, it could travel up to the bladder through sex and develop into an even more dangerous condition called cystitis.
Vulvodynia is another potential cause of burning pain near the vaginal opening. This condition is not very common. However, it can be incredibly painful to function on a daily basis if you have this condition. It’s imperative to get a medical diagnosis if you notice this symptom of a potentially serious infection.
#3 It smells funny. If you’re noticing a foul smell coming up from down below to say hello, you could be dealing with a bacterial infection known as bacterial vaginosis. The main symptom of this condition is a sour or fishy smell that can be quite strong and pungent.
This condition is characterized by an abnormal production of bacteria in the vagina that causes inflammation. You will more likely notice the smell when using the bathroom, after or during sex, or during menstruation. This can be caused by leaving a tampon in longer than directed, douching more than recommended, smoking, and high levels of sexual activity.
Getting into the doctor’s office will help ensure that you don’t have to suffer the horrible smell for much longer. Your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic that will clear it up within a couple of weeks.
#4 Abnormal discharge. Vaginal discharge is a natural secretion that your body produces to cleanse the vagina and keep it at an optimal pH level. It’s normal for your discharge to change throughout your menstruation cycle, from watery and clear, to thick and cloudy colored.
However, when the discharge is the consistency of cottage cheese with clumpy white chunks, you have a more serious concern on your hands. This white clotted discharge is a characteristic of a yeast infection, which is caused by a fungus known as candida.
Yeast infections can be caused by a variety of things, including taking medication such as steroids, antibiotics, and pain medication, or caused by an illness, chronic stress, and/or drug abuse. This infection is contagious, and therefore, it’s supremely important to get treated before having sex with your partner.
Discharge that is abnormally excessive, frothy, greenish, or yellow, can indicate an STI such as trichomoniasis, chlamydia, or gonorrhea. These are even more serious conditions, and require immediate assistance to ensure no further complications. Brown discharge that is spotted throughout the month and not around the time of your period can be caused by a serious issue like cervical complications or fibroids. If you pay no attention to this problem, you could be ignoring cancer, or an issue that could cause infertility.
#5 It bleeds. If you notice red or brownish blood on your underwear or when you use the washroom, you could have a serious concern. Bleeding can be caused by hormonal imbalances, birth control, or menopause. Blood that only appears after intercourse can be a sign of a cervical problem or the human papilloma virus (HPV).
If you’re pregnant and notice bleeding, get yourself to a hospital immediately, as this could be a miscarriage. Bleeding can also signify an ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine fibroids, or endometrial cancer. For these reasons, vaginal bleeding should not be taken lightly or left to clear up on its own.
#6 It’s dry and uncomfortable. Vaginal dryness can be incredibly uncomfortable and downright painful, especially during sex. Dryness can be caused by hormonal imbalances, menopause, as a result of childbirth, medication, and breastfeeding. Some medical procedures, including chemotherapy, can cause vaginal dryness due to a decrease in estrogen, which is essential for lubrication.
Some chemicals in body wash, soaps, and detergents can have a drying effect on the vagina as well. Certain medications, such as those for allergies, asthma, and the common cold can negatively affect vaginal moisture.
Stress and anxiety are also linked to vaginal dryness. See your doctor to discuss any possible treatment option, or lifestyle changes that you can make. Sex may only exacerbate the problem by irritating the vaginal skin further and causing an infection due to the friction.
#7 Sex is incredibly painful. Dyspareunia is the medical term for painful sex, and it is a generally common concern for a large number of sexually active women. If the pain is severe, it could be caused by fibroids, endometriosis, scar tissue, ovarian cysts, and fallopian tube or uterine infections. It’s important to adequately describe the type of pain and its location as accurately as possible to your doctor. This will help ensure the quickest diagnosis and treatment options.
If you notice any of the above symptoms in your genitals or the area surrounding it, your best course of action is getting checked by a doctor. By not getting medical help right away, you could be causing more harm than good.
Many of the conditions listed here can have fatal consequences if left untreated. Be sure to pay attention to your body, and get a physical and a pap smear done regularly.