Why Is My Vagina Itchy After Sex? The Common Causes of Vaginal Irritation, and How To Fix It

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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. This week’s topic: Why your vagina may be itchy after you have sex.

Q: This is embarrassing, but I feel like my vagina is always ... itchy. I've been to the OB/GYN and I don't have any STIs, but it seems like after sex I'm always itchy a few days after. What is going on? Is there anything I can do to decrease my itchiness? Do you think it means something is off in my body?

A: Ah, vaginas! They feel so good until suddenly... they don’t anymore. And that's OK! Learning more about how to care about your vagina and vulva is a process, since we're so rarely taught this info in sex ed. First thing's first: there's nothing embarrassing about wanting to know more about why your parts are doing what they're doing. There are a number of reasons why your vagina might be feeling itchy after sex, even up to a few days later. Let’s check out some of the most common ones.

Common Culprit #1: You Could Have A Latex Allergy

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If you’re using condoms, chances are they are made from latex rubber (that’s why they call ‘em rubbers, after all). Less than 1% of folks in the U.S. are thought to be allergic to latex, but that number goes up for people who regularly come into contact with the stuff, (like healthcare workers who use latex gloves daily and the people who manufacture it). The more mild symptoms of a latex allergy can include itching, red skin and hives, or rash, but if you’re really allergic, you can have difficulty breathing or even go into anaphylactic shock. So pay attention to your body while you’re boning, and stop if you experience any of those symptoms — then talk to your doctor.

If you think latex condoms might be the culprit, pick up some latex-free condoms and see if the switch makes a difference. Polyurethane condoms are available pretty much wherever latex ones are sold. Just like latex condoms, they have been shown to block both sperm and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Because polyurethane is less stretchy than latex, some research shows that these condoms are slightly more likely to break or slip off, so be aware of that. Lambskin condoms are also a latex alternative, but while lambskin is a proven contraceptive, it is more porous than latex or polyurethane, which means they are less effective at STI prevention.

Possible Culprit #2: You’re Not Wet Enough

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If you aren’t wet enough during sex, you can actually be getting microabrasions inside your vagina while you’re knockin’ boots. If you’re really dry, this will be painful, but if you’re just a tad bit under-lubricated, the microabrasions can make you feel itchy afterwards. Vaginal dryness can occur for a number of reasons. Your body could be having trouble creating its natural lubrication (something that happens to a lot of people on the Pill or on antidepressants) or you might not have done enough foreplay to really get into the groove.

While vaginal dryness could end up being something you need to discuss with your OB/GYN, there are also some easy home remedies. Go to your local sex shop and purchase a bottle of personal lubricant (or order some online if you’re shy). Whether you’re using it with a partner, on a vibrator, or on your fingers, lube will help you get into that sexy slippery sentiment. Just remember to check the label to make sure that your selection is condom-friendly (that means water- or silicone-based, not oil-based).

Also, give your body time to get excited. Make sure you're engaging in foreplay with your partner, even if you only have time for a quickie. But other than actual lube, communication is the best lubrication. Remember that sex is supposed to be fun, and if you’re hurting, you may not be having as much fun as you could be.

Possible Culprit #3: Your Vagina's Biome Is Unbalanced

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Your reproductive canal is actually pretty good at taking care of itself — in fact, vaginas are self-cleaning! It's home to a bunch of microorganisms that work symbiotically with your anatomy. However, your vagina is not all-powerful and its pH balance can still get knocked out of whack (where whack is anything other than in the 4 - 5 pH range).

Your vagina get unbalanced by a number of things you probably encounter on a regular basis, including menstruation (because blood is pH neutral), tampons that have been inside you for too long, and diet (including sugar and gluten, which make you more acidic). Antibiotics can knock out the good flora while they’re destroying whatever unwanted bacteria you’re taking them to vanquish. Finally, semen is very basic, and can push you right out of balance, because Mother Nature is a cruel mistress. Most soaps or any vaginal douches can also mess with this balance.

So, what do you do to get your netherbits back on track? First, you're going to want to go to the doctor or buy an at-home pH test to find out whether your vagina is too acidic or too basic. If your vagina is too acidic, it means the conditions for the good flora in your vagina are overly perfect (you overachiever, you!) and that their numbers are expanding rapidly, growing into an overgrown garden of acidic delight. Symptoms include itchy or red vulva and vagina, vaginal discharge described as either “watery thin” or “curd-like thick”, and discomfort when you have sex or pee. Increase the pH of your vagina back to its typical levels by adding more yogurt or probiotics to your diet, and consult your doctor if symptoms persist.

If your vagina is too basic, its natural defenses against bacteria are weakened. This can cause yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. If in addition to an itchy vulva and vagina you have irregular discharge (often described as “cottage cheese-like"), you might have one of these bacterial pests. There are over-the-counter remedies for yeast infections. You can also ask your doctor for a one-day antibiotic or medication for BV.

These are a few common issues that can cause an itchy vagina or vulva, but if your symptoms don't go away after trying these home-care methods, talk to your doctor about other treatments that can help. Because no one deserves an itchy vagina.

This post was originally published on October 13, 2014. It was updated on August 14, 2019.

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