Most women have experienced some sort of vaginal pain, but how do you know when to see a doctor? The list below covers some of the ailments we face as women and what could be the cause. You should always take care of your reproductive health with annual visits to your gynecologist, but sometimes an extra trip is needed. If you are experiencing pain or issues that you don’t think are normal, do not hesitate to get an exam.
#1 Painful Cramps
Many women experience painful period cramps during their menstrual period. Cramping can begin a couple of days before menstruation and usually lasts around 2-4 days. While cramping is something experienced by many women, it is crucial to know that extreme cramping is not normal. If you think your period pain is above what is considered normal, you should make an appointment with your OBGYN to rule out medical conditions like:
- Endometriosis: Endometrial cells, the tissue that lines the uterus, can grow outside the uterus on other organs.
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): This infection is transmitted sexually and can spread from the vagina to the uterus.
- Uterine Fibroids: These are noncancerous growths inside the uterus that often develop during childbearing years.
- Adenomyosis: The inner lining of the uterus can grow into the muscle wall of the uterus and most often develops during the childbearing years.
#2 Vaginal Odor
Vaginas can have many smells, and these smells can give you a hint as to what is happening inside. Tangy, coppery, or sweet are smells that shouldn’t raise the alarm. If you are experiencing a foul or fishy odor, this could indicate a bacterial infection. Bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis are two common bacterial infections that need to be treated by a gynecologist. Bacterial vaginosis (BV) can be caused by many natural imbalances in the healthy flora of the vagina. Sexually transmitted infections, like trichomoniasis, are curable with antibiotics, but you will need to see your doctor to be tested. Unprotected sexual activity resulting in a change of vaginal odor warrants a trip to your OB GYN.
#3 Change in Vaginal Discharge
Throughout the month, you may notice a change in the amount, color, or texture of your vaginal discharge. It is normal for discharge to vary as you move through your cycle. Right after your period, you may have very little, and right around ovulation, you may have a high amount of discharge that has an eggwhite consistency. Abnormal discharge may be recognized if:
- It is heavier or thicker than what it varies typically month to month
- The discharge is pus-like
- It has a cottage cheese appearance
- The odor is foul or fishy
- The color is greenish, yellowish, or blood-tinged
#4 Irregular or Heavy Menstruation
A myriad of health conditions can cause irregular or heavy menses. Visiting a gynecologist to receive a complete analysis of your reproductive system and physical health can be required. Your doctor will do a Pap smear, and in some cases, an ultrasound may be needed to take a more detailed look. Reason for irregular or heavy menstruation may include:
- Being over or underweight
- Cancerous or precancerous cells leading to cervical cancer
- Thyroid gland abnormalities
- Fibroid tumors or polyps
- An abnormal pregnancy or miscarriage
- Hormonal imbalances
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
#5 Urinary Incontinence or Blood
With age can come urinary incontinence, but it could also be caused by an obstruction or urinary tract infection. An obstruction can occur from urinary stones that form in the bladder. A urinary tract infection happens when any part of the urinary system becomes infected. These infections cause pelvic pain, blood in urine, and pain with urination. Your doctor can prescribe an antibiotic to treat it before it develops into something more serious, like a kidney infection.
#6 Birth Control Prescribed by Gynecologist
Some women experience side effects from their birth control and will need to experiment to find out which one works best for them. In some women, birth control can cause weight gain, nausea, mood changes, breast tenderness, and more. The side effects can vary based on the type of hormone used and the dosage. Different brands also offer perks that may be valuable, like a pill that also reduces acne. Your gynecologist will be able to help you choose a pill that works with your body safely.
#7 Painful Sex
If you are experiencing painful sex, you should see a doctor to address the problem. It can cause emotional distress in a relationship or be a sign of another physical condition. Pain can happen if there is not enough lubrication in the vagina. Another common condition is called vaginismus. This condition is an involuntary spasm of the vagina, sometimes caused by anticipated fear. Other causes could be from sexually transmitted diseases, pelvic inflammatory disease, fibroids, or cysts on the ovaries. You will need to visit your health care provider for a pelvic exam to rule out these conditions.
#8 Vaginal Itching or Redness
Vaginal itching is an uncomfortable situation. Female reproductive systems are sensitive, and chemical irritants like soaps and tampons could cause itching and redness, or the cause could be symptoms of an infection. Your doctor can help you rule out diseases like bacterial vaginosis, a yeast infection, or an STD. Some vaginal infections can happen without sexual activity. It is recommended to see a gynecologist if you have any symptoms or between the ages of 13 and 15 as a first reproductive health check.
#9 Missed Periods
The go-to answer for missing a period is pregnancy, but it could happen for many other reasons. These reasons range from hormonal imbalance, stress, low or high body weight, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or other women’s health issues. Keep a record of what you are experiencing to help your doctor determine the cause.
#10 Dull Persistent Pain
Persistent pain in your reproductive organs could mean many things. It is even possible for more than one to cause discomfort at the same time. Your doctor will check for conditions like adenomyosis, endometriosis, fibroids, interstitial cystitis, ovarian cysts, and pelvic organ prolapse. Even irritable bowel syndrome can play a part in creating pain in the vagina and the surrounding area.
If you are wondering about your feminine health and are experiencing any of the above-mentioned issues, please call us to schedule an appointment. Board-certified Dr. Jeffrey Lodge and his experienced staff have an excellent reputation in the community for obstetrics and gynecology.