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Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Vagina Monologues: What Your Vagina Might Be Telling You

In "The Vagina Monologues," a popular play written by Eve Ensler, she asks, “If your vagina could talk, what would it say, in two words?” It’s probably for the best that this much-maligned body part can’t actually speak, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t communicate. Below we talk about what your vagina might be telling you.


What You Smell

All healthy vaginas have a smell that changes throughout a woman’s cycle. There are several types of bacteria (flora) in the vagina that help to keep it healthy and at the right pH (acidity) level. Your vagina’s pH level changes in response to a range of factors such as where you are in your cycle, stress, activities, foods you’ve eaten and more. As the pH level changes, you’ll notice short-term shifts in the vagina’s smell, most of which are perfectly normal.


An unusual, unpleasant smell can indicate a problem. If you detect a foul, fishy or musty odor that doesn’t go away, you should see your health care provider. The most common causes are bacterial vaginosis (BV), an infection caused by an imbalance of flora, and trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a parasite. Both of these can be treated with antibiotics.


We advise against using douches, soaps and other scented products to change your vagina’s natural smell. These products can change the pH level of your vagina, increasing the risk of infection, and masking a potential problem. Your vagina does not require washing, and the external vulva area should be regularly and gently cleaned with warm water and mild, unscented soap.


What You See

Your vaginal discharge also changes in color and texture throughout your menstrual cycle. At the beginning and end of your cycle, the discharge is likely white and sticky. It tends to thin out and become clear and watery as you near ovulation or if you are sexually aroused. During ovulation, it becomes stretchier and stickier. Just before and after your period, you may experience spotting, which is due to brownish or red blood in the discharge.


The discharge is one of the mechanisms the vagina uses to clean itself and is perfectly natural. The amount differs by person and can be affected by several factors, including birth control and pregnancy.

However, if you notice the color of your discharge changes to dark yellow, green or gray; if it

becomes unusually thick or lumpy; has a foul smell or is accompanied by pain; you should see your women’s health professional. In addition to the two infections mentioned above, it could indicate a yeast or another type of infection, one of several STDs or pelvic inflammatory disease, all of which require treatment.


How You Feel

The final way your vagina can communicate a problem is through how it feels. Itching, burning and pain all require evaluation by a women’s health provider, especially when accompanied by a foul odor or changes to your discharge as described above. Talk to your provider as well about pain during sex or when urinating.


We also recommend you take note of any bumps, lumps, rashes or irritations in the vaginal area when you are showering or seated on the toilet. Many of them are perfectly normal and range from things such as harmless cysts, varicosities (small, swollen veins), ingrown hairs, skin tags or other skin conditions. However, if you experience pain or other symptoms, or they don’t go away within a week or two, you should see a health professional to rule out anything more serious, like STDs or cancer.


It Never Hurts to Ask

As you can see, what your vagina might be telling you can be quite a lot; you just have to pay attention. If you do, you will learn to understand what is normal for you, which makes it more likely you’ll “hear” when there might be a problem.


As we always say, there are no silly questions, so if you are concerned about any signs or symptoms that seem unusual, call us to schedule an appointment.