Alternative Names: Itching – Vaginal Area, Pruritus Vulvae, Vulvar Itching.
Persistent itching of the vaginal and vulval areas may be due to chemicals such as detergents, infections, pregnancy or menopause.
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Causes and Development
Itching During Pregnancy. Some women may experience some vaginal itching during pregnancy, not just itching on the outside of the body. This itching may be caused by a sexually-transmitted disease, or an infection, but is more commonly caused by a (normal) change to the vaginal PH level. Yeast infections during pregnancy are also very common and can be the cause of moderate to severe itching.
Causes of itchy skin in general can include:
- Dry skin (xerosis), caused by not drinking enough water or by depleting the skin of its natural oils through overuse of soap or other agents
- During pregnancy, a liver abnormality called intrahepatic cholestasis (pooling of bile salts)
- During pregnancy, a reaction to prenatal vitamins (this does not mean you should stop taking them)
- Chicken pox
- Fifth's Disease
- Reaction to medication(s)
Diagnosis and Tests
Diagnostic tests such as Pap smear, vaginal culture or biopsies may be performed to determine the cause.
Treatment and Prevention
Before trying to treat vaginal itching with over-the-counter or home remedies, you should consult your doctor or midwife to rule out the possibility of any STDs. If it is determined that your itching is being caused by a change in your PH level (for example during pregnancy), there are several things you can do to try to relieve the itch:
- Run a bath and add baking soda to it
- Try adding goldenseal, Aveeno Oatmeal Bath Treatment or Vagisil Cleansing Foam to your bath
- Make a paste of baking soda and water to put on the itchy areas
- Place a cold compress on the itchy area
- There is a possibility that having sexual intercourse may help due to the lower PH levels of your partner's semen
- Don't use soap, alcohol or anything else that will dry out the affected area.
There are many other things you can try to do to help prevent (and help treat) the vaginal itching from appearing or returning during your pregnancy:
- Keep yourself clean and dry
- Change out of wet clothing, especially wet bathing suits or exercise clothing, as soon as possible after completion of the activity
- Always wipe from front to back to keep bacteria away from your vagina
- Avoid feminine hygiene sprays and douches – despite the popular belief that they may help, they often worsen itching
- Eat yogurt with live cultures or take lactobacillus acidophilus tablets when using antibiotics
- Use scent-less soaps and detergents
- Lose weight if you are overweight
- Keep your blood sugars under good control if you have diabetes
- Wear clothing that is not tight or binding, especially in the crotch. Panties should be cotton; avoid wearing nylon panties or hose that decrease the airflow to the vaginal area.
- Avoid wearing panties when possible, for example just a nightgown in bed
- Take warm baths free of perfumed bubble bath, and use soap for sensitive skin to wash
- Avoid scratching – that will only make it worse
- Avoid overexertion, heat, and excessive sweating
- Delay sexual activity until your symptoms get better or at least use a lubricant, such as K-Y Lubricating Jelly, during intercourse
- Hydrocortisone creams are not usually recommended since they can contribute to the breakdown of the skin, causing continued itching.
- Lidocaine gel is good for relieving vaginal itching during pregnancy because it is a pure anesthetic.
- If you have a genital yeast infection, one of the over-the-counter yeast infection creams such as miconazole (Monistat) or clotrimazole (Gyne-Lotrimin), or vaginal suppositories, should quickly relieve the itch as well as the other symptoms of vaginal yeast infections.
- Some women find relief from vaginal itching during pregnancy just by using a yeast infection cream externally once or twice a day.
Seek medical attention if...
If you try but can not succeed in keeping your vaginal itching at bay, consult your doctor to discuss other causes of itchy skin and what you can do about it. If you have a rash that will not go away, or is accompanied by a fever, you should consult your doctor.