Vagina sports injuries are totally a thing. And injuries aren't the only thing that can happen to your lady parts after a long run or yoga flow. There are a plethora of unusual things working out can do to your vagina. But why is this such a heavily guarded secret? Many woman have at least one (usually more) vagina horror story about exercise gone south, pun intended. At the very least, we should be embracing sweaty gym vaginas as a sign of victory, nay triumph! No body shame here.
As a Planned Parenthood clinic manager with a Responsible Sexuality Educator certificate, I've learned that workouts can be really rough on the vajay and the surrounding areas. Some of the damage that patients had was severe enough to need medication and some of it was minor stuff that looked (and probably felt) worse than it actually was. If you've already been through the trenches of workout vagina, may this article bring you a sense of solidarity and some handy tips for keeping things on the up and up. If you're getting ready to start an exercise routine, absorb these tips like a sponge because there's nothing worse than a [read]RED?, itchy, inflamed sports vagina.
Oh, and feel free to pass these tips on to ladies you meet in the locker room. Sharing is caring. Suffering... not so much.
1. Yeast Infection
It's the consistent and prolonged exposure to moisture that tips your vaginal flora into yeast infection territory. This can be anything from too much time in a wet bathing suit to too much time in sweaty, tight workout shorts. To prevent this kind of infection, wear breathable workout gear like cotton or items specifically designed to breathe and wick away moisture. Let everything air out overnight by sleeping naked if you can. And change out of your bathing suit as soon as your swim ends.
2. Inflammation (Saddle Sore)
If you've ever crashed on the couch with an ice pack on your crotch after a tough spin class or bike ride, you understand inflammation. When the pain and irritation comes from aggressive bike riding, it's sometimes [it's]CUT called saddle sore. Good posture on the bike, plus padded bike [bike]CUT shorts can solve most of your issues with saddle sore. Some women find that once they get used to their new cycling routine, it goes away.
3. Sweat & Other Gunk
Swimming, sweating, and grinding it out at the gym can lead to all kinds of gunky situations. First, vagina sweat is totally normal. Even if you leave the gym looking like you peed your pants, it's totally [okay]OK. Pads and panty liners aren't very breathable, so if you're embarrassed, try breathable cloth menstrual pads or period underwear. They contain soft, cotton or flannel that will absorb your sweat. But really, it's totally fine to let it all sweat out.
Sometimes sweat mixed with dry skin or too much friction can make for gunky residue, especially in the folds where your legs connect to your body. Just clean these areas thoroughly so you don't get an irritation rash. If you do, just make sure to wash and air out thoroughly after your workouts. Apply a little antibiotic ointment or vaseline if your rash breaks the skin or starts getting weepy. That might also be a good time to see your doctor.
4. Bumps & Ingrown Hairs
The constant friction a workout can cause irritated hair follicles and ingrown hairs. Sometimes even just a little pimple can swell and fill up with infection until it's a painful, puss-filled nightmare. Try trimming instead of shaving to avoid the ingrown hair problem altogether. If you do get a [gross]CUT cyst-like ingrown hair or out-of-control pimple, use a hot compress or try a sitz bath. Apply antibacterial ointment. Don't pop it, as it can pop from the underside and push infection into your bloodstream. If you think it needs drained, see your doctor.
5. Cuts, Scrapes, & Bruises
If it can happen to your knee, it can happen to your vagina. A good fall can scrape, dent, cut, and bruise your vagina enough to get you out of the workout game for a few days (or weeks) until you heal. Basic first-aid rules rules apply here, such as keeping wounds clean and covered and keeping bruises or strains iced. [I just wanted to mention it so you didn't have to feel embarrassed if it's happened to you.]CUT
6. Vaginal Prolapse
Prolapse is when parts of your vagina escape from your body. It's a rare condition, but if you've experienced prolapse, it can be brought on or made worse by strenuous abdominal exercises. If you think you might be prone or have had experience with prolapse in the past, YOUR DOCTOR MIGHT RECOMMEND skipPING sit-ups, ab machines, and certain Pilates moves. Exercises with leg lifts are also off limits. Replace them with knee lifts and gentle heel slides instead.
7. Friction Burns
Friction burns are sometimes called chub rub. They happen from skin on skin contact and they're made worse by excess moisture, such as sweating during exercise. You can use vaseline or powders to help soothe the skin and prevent chafing. Try changing up your workout gear, too. For example, trade in your shorts for some breathable athletic leggings. Make sure to keep the area as clean and dry as possible.
Don't let any of these vagina woes keep you out of the gym. Sometimes they happen no matter how prepared you are. Just do what you gotta do and get back in the game with no shame.
Images: Giphy (7); Pexels