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It’s normal to experience itchiness before, during, or after your period. This itchiness could be felt in the vagina (i.e. inside your body) or on the vulva, which means around your vagina, labia, and general pubic area. There are a number of potential causes for this issue.
In this article, we’ll talk about some of the reasons your vagina and vulva might be itchy before your period.
Some people experience cyclic yeast infections. Cyclic vulvovaginitis is a burning and itching sensation on the vulva and inside the vagina that occurs at the same stage of every menstrual cycle. Some people may experience it before or during their period. Sexual activity can make it worse
Cyclic vulvovaginitis is caused by a yeast infection, often because of a Candida fungus overgrowth. Candida grows naturally in your vagina, which is kept in check by Lactobacillus, or“good bacteria” in the vagina.
Throughout your menstrual cycle, your hormones fluctuate. This can affect the pH balance of your vagina, which in turn affects the natural bacteria in your vagina. When the bacteria can’t function properly, Candida fungus grows out of control.
Other than itching, the symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection include:
- swelling around the vagina
- burning during urination or sex
- clumpy, whitish-gray vaginal discharge that may look like cottage cheese
Vaginal yeast infections can be treated with topical or oral antifungal medication. It can often be bought over the counter (OTC). It is best to see a doctor if you get yeast infections often.
Bacterial vaginosis, also known as BV, has many symptoms in common with yeast infections. The main noticeable difference is that BV is often characterized by a foul, fish-like odor.
Additionally, while yeast infections often involve white or gray discharge, BV often involves greenish, yellow, or gray discharge. Other symptoms of BV include pain, a burning sensation during urination, and vaginal itching.
BV can be spread from one person to another through the sharing of sex toys. It can also be caused by douching. Like yeast infections, BV can be caused by hormonal fluctuations due to pregnancy or menstruation — so if you’re itchy during your period, BV may be the culprit.
If you have BV, it’s important to see a doctor immediately as it needs to be treated with antibiotics.
If your vulva or vagina is itching, a sexually transmitted infection (STI) might be the cause. Trichomoniasis, known as “trich,” is a very common STI that can lead to itching. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that
The symptoms of trichomoniasis often appear between 5 and 28 days after infection, but the CDC notes that
- burning during urination or sex
- frothy-looking vaginal discharge that smells foul
- vaginal bleeding or spotting
- frequent urination
Trichomoniasis can be cured with antibiotics. If you think you have trichomoniasis, speak to your doctor.
If you often feel itchiness during your period, your pads or tampons may be to blame. You might get a rash from your pad, especially if it’s made from irritating materials.
Tampons can also cause itching by drying out your vagina. To prevent this from happening, change your tampons frequently and avoid using highly absorbent tampons, unless totally necessary. Another option is to use pads instead of tampons every so often.
In place of tampons and pads, you can use menstrual cups or washable, reusable pads or underwear.
Other products might also cause your vulva and vagina to itch. For example, scented soaps, gels, and douches can often affect the pH level of your vagina. The scents and additives in these products could irritate the sensitive skin in your pubic area. When this happens, it can lead to itchy and uncomfortable symptoms.
Clean your vulva with warm water whenever you bathe. You don’t need to clean the inside of your vagina — even with water — as it cleans itself naturally. If you want to use soap on your vulva, use mild, colorless, unscented soap, but remember, it’s not totally necessary.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD, is a group of mental and physical symptoms that begins about a week before your period, and can often extend to the end of your period. It’s often described as “extreme PMS,” and the symptoms are often similar to PMS but more severe. The emotional symptoms of PMDD can include:
- anger and irritability
- crying spells
- panic attacks
The physical symptoms can include:
- nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting
- breast tenderness
- pain in muscles or joints
- sleep issues
If you suspect you have PMDD, speak to a doctor or another healthcare provider. You may benefit from therapy, medication, or support groups. There are also many natural treatment options for PMDD that may help.
If you have other symptoms during your period, it’s especially important to visit a doctor. These symptoms could include:
- green, yellow, or gray vaginal discharge
- vaginal discharge that resembles cottage cheese or froth
- pain or burning during urination or sex
- a swollen vulva
- foul-smelling discharge, or a foul fishy smell emanating from your pubic area
Yeast infections can be diagnosed by your doctor. Your doctor might diagnose it simply by sight or by listening to your symptoms.
They may also take a swab of the tissue inside your vagina and send it to a lab to confirm whether it’s a yeast infection, and identify which kind of fungus is infecting you.
In the case of BV, your doctor might take a swab of your vagina to view under a microscope in order to identify the bacteria.
Trichomoniasis can be diagnosed by examining samples of your vaginal fluid. It can’t be diagnosed based on the symptoms alone.
There are a number of home remedies for itching during menstruation. These include:
- wearing loose-fitting cotton underwear and avoiding tight jeans and pantyhose
- avoiding douches and washing your vulva without scented products
- taking a baking soda sitz bath
- using unscented pads, washable pads, absorbent underwear, or a menstrual cup instead of tampons
You could also use hydrocortisone cream, which can be bought over the counter. It can be used topically on skin, but should not be inserted into the vagina.
If you have a yeast infection, your symptoms will improve if you use over-the-counter antifungal creams and medications. There are also a number of home remedies for yeast infections that you can try, including:
- plain Greek yogurt inserted into the vagina
- taking probiotics to balance the natural flora of your vagina
- using a vaginal suppository that includes diluted tea tree oil
- adding half a cup of apple cider vinegar to your bath and soaking for 20 minutes
If you have recurrent yeast infections, you may need stronger, prescription medications to clear up the infection. Talk with your doctor if this is a consistent problem.
While home remedies can ease itchiness during your period, it’s important to see a doctor if you suspect you have BV, an STI, or recurrent yeast infections, as these often require specific prescription medications.
You should also speak to a doctor if your itching is severe or if it isn’t going away on its own.
If you suspect you have PMDD, it’s also important to speak to a healthcare provider, such as a doctor or therapist.
Itching before and during your period is relatively common and probably nothing to worry about. Most of the time, it can be treated at home. However, if you suspect you have an infection or if the itching isn’t subsiding, it’s best to talk to your doctor.