We at Bustle love giving you tips for how to tap into your sexual potential and troubleshoot when things aren’t going your way in the bedroom. But what about finding solutions to those stressful sexual health situations that inevitably crop up when you’re getting down? Emma Kaywin, a Brooklyn-based sexual health writer and activist, is here to calm your nerves and answer your questions. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. This week’s topic: why your vagina feels swollen.
Q: I woke up yesterday morning and noticed that my vagina felt … swollen. Like, not swollen shut or anything, but just tender and maybe puffy? I can’t really tell but it feels off. I had sex a couple days ago but it wasn’t super rough or anything out of the ordinary, and I didn’t notice anything right after so I don’t think it was my body reacting to that. But now I’m starting to worry because the feeling’s not going away. Are there any STDs that have this side effect?
A: Body changes can be super stressful, particularly if we don’t know why they are happening or what they mean. When your most tender of parts starts feeling off, it’s easy to jump to the most stressful conclusion. Luckily, of the many reasons why your vagina could be feeling swollen, most are easy to take care of. Let’s check out all the potential culprits so you can get the care you need!
1. You Have A Yeast Infection
A primary culprit of a swollen vagina is a yeast infection, which is caused by an overgrowth of a natural fungus called candida that your body always has inside it. If your vaginal pH becomes too basic, this fungus thrives and the result for you is, well, unpleasant. Symptoms of a yeast infection can include vaginal itching, discharge that looks like cottage cheese, pain during sex or urination, and a feeling of swelling. If you think this might be the reason for your swollen vagina, you can go to a drugstore to get a vaginal pH test to see if your vaginal pH is too basic.
Luckily, yeast infections are easily cured — there are a bunch of home remedies you can check out, there’s over the counter antifungal creams you can use, and if you really can’t kick it on your own, your doctor can give you an antifungal pill.
2. You're Dealing With Bacterial Vaginosis
Another totally normal thing that happens to humans with vaginas is bacterial vaginosis (BV). Like yeast infection, this vaginal situation occurs when your vaginal pH is too basic, which means you can test for it easily. However, the symptoms of BV are different — your discharge will be thin, gray or white colored, and smell fishy. It can also cause your vagina to feel swollen.
Luckily, BV often goes away by itself. If that doesn’t happen, your doctor can give you medication to clear it up.
3. You Have Trichomoniasis
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted parasite that can infect your vaginal area. If you get this tiny unwanted guest, your labia could get itchy and swollen, and you might also notice that your vaginal discharge has turned yellow or green and smells more intense than usual. If you notice these symptoms, you need to go to your doctor to get tested to be sure. If you have this parasitic infection, your doctor will give you some medication to clear it up.
4. You're Having An Allergic Reaction
Did you know that lots of vaginal products have chemicals in them that vaginas don’t actually like? Weird, I know, but true. If you notice swelling or other discomfort in your nether regions (like itching or redness) you could be allergic to the stuff you’re putting around there. Steer clear of perfumed feminine hygiene products like soaps, sprays, or douches, and use an unscented detergent for your underwear.
5. Your Vagina Is Infected
When things get infected, they often get swollen. So it stands to reason that if your vagina gets infected, you’ll notice swelling. Things that can cause infection include if one of the glands that create all the lubrication that makes sex fun gets blocked, or if you get an ingrown hair or bug bite in there (hey, anything can happen). If the infection isn’t treated, you could end up with a cyst or abscess. Luckily, your doctor will be able to treat your infection.
6. You Have Genital Herpes
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted virus that affects your nerves and causes blisters to pop up sporadically in your genital region. It can cause swelling in this area as well. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for the herpes virus, but you can take medication to manage symptoms. To know if you have this sexually transmitted disease, go get tested.
7. You're Dealing With Cellulitis
Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection that can be very painful and requires immediate medical attention, because it can spread across your body. If you have cellulitis, you might notice that your skin is red, tender, swollen, painful, warm, or blistering. While this condition usually shows up on legs, it can also end up in your vagina, causing swelling and significant pain. If this sounds like what you’re dealing with, go see a doctor immediately to get the care you need.
8. You Had Rough Sex
Finally, some people do get swollen vaginas after rough sex or sex where you didn't use enough lube. If you're jostling your parts around, your body's gonna have some sort of reaction. So if you did have a rough romp a couple nights ago, or you didn't think it was all that rough but maybe it went on for a long time, or you were dealing with a penis or toy larger than you're used to, or you didn't stop to lube up enough, give your vagina a night or two off. She deserves it!
The Bottom Line
If you’re feeling swollen, look for any other symptoms, and then share them with your doctor. She should be able to figure out what’s going on with you. Then get the treatment you need, if some is available, so you can go back to living your life.