External Vaginal Itching

Dominique W. Brooks
Pregnant woman

External vaginal itching can be very uncomfortable, especially during pregnancy. The condition may arise out of a number of different problems but, in most cases, it is easily treatable.

Causes of External Vaginal Itching

External vaginal itching is technically vulvar itch, affecting the external region of the pubic area. Vulvar itch can have various causes, and it can be very difficult to distinguish from an internal itch.

Vulvovaginitis

Vulvovaginitis has a number of different possible causes, and the sources of the problem have a wide spectrum of severity. Women who experience this type of itchiness typically experience inflammation as well. Possible causes include but are not restricted to the following:

  • Chlamydia trachomatis
  • Candida infection
  • Gonorrhea
  • Bacterial infection

Vulvitis

Vulvitis is specific to the vulva, related to inflammation and itchiness in this region. Vulvitis, like vulvovaginitis, is not a specific condition, but a symptom of an underlying problem. These are a few of the possible conditions that can cause this symptom:

  • Bacterial infection
  • Fungus
  • Eczema
  • Allergic reactions

Lactobacillus

Lactobacillus sounds like a serious infection, but it is healthy bacteria that live in the vagina and the small intestine. The bacterium is a probiotic since it may be used for medicinal purposes in some situations. During pregnancy, these bacteria can grow excessively, causing irritation.

Skin Irritants

A simple irritant can cause external vaginal itching. Any element that does not occur naturally in the body has the potential to lead to an allergic reaction. Consider some common substances that could be irritating to the vaginal region:

  • Perfumed or colored toilet paper can leave residue in the area. This potential irritant typically causes external vaginal itching with no discharge.
  • Bubble bath can easily cause itchiness and irritation because it can disturb the pH levels in the vagina. The soap has a drying effect on the delicate skin and, if it isn't rinsed off completely, the vaginal area can become irritated.
  • Douching is a seemingly natural way to cleanse the area, but it can lead to an irritating pH imbalance. This increases the risk of developing a yeast infection.
  • Feminine hygiene sprays can irritate the skin. The perfume and chemicals in these products offer fragrance but they can lead to drying and itchiness.
  • Workout attire that is wet with sweat can cause external vaginal itching. Changing clothes right after a workout ensures that irritation from this source does not occur.
  • Wet bathing suits are another culprit, and you should change as soon as possible after swimming. The moisture can lead to irritation, and chlorine is a very strong chemical that can irritate the skin very easily.
  • Synthetic materials can lead to external vaginal itching. Exchange panties made of these materials with ones made of cotton.
  • Spermicidal creams or gels are unnecessary during pregnancy, and they can cause irritation. Since the products have a drying effect, there may be no discharge readily apparent.

Sometimes treatments for internal vaginal itching associated with yeast infections can lead to external vaginal itching without any discharge. Antifungal treatments for yeast infection can cause dryness and irritation on the external area of the vagina.

External Vaginal Itching and Pregnancy

Vaginal itch during pregnancy is very uncomfortable, especially as the pregnancy progresses. Any number of problems ranging from allergic reaction to perfumes to gestational diabetes may cause the problem.

Yeast Infections

Hormonal changes have a dramatic effect on the body, including changes in pH levels in the vagina. The pH imbalance can lead to itchiness, which can then lead to a yeast infection. Additional sugar in the region can lead to a yeast infection because yeast thrives in an environment that has higher sugar levels. This is especially problematic during the third trimester. After the baby is delivered, the itch commonly disappears since the environment has less sugar as hormone levels balance.

A product like Monistat may treat a yeast infection, but it is necessary to discuss this option with your physician before applying the cream. The doctor can determine the proper dosage for treatment and, in some cases, she may recommend an oral medication to treat the condition. Other treatment options are available as well.

Gestational Diabetes

Women who develop gestational diabetes may experience itchiness as well. Imbalances in blood sugar levels can lead to itchiness, including itching in the vaginal region. No discharge may be present with this type of itch, and any woman at risk for diabetes should be tested whenever vaginal itch occurs, whether discharge is present or not.

Treatments for Vaginal Itch

In order to treat the itch successfully, it is necessary to rule out any possible infections including yeast infections or any other underlying medical conditions. Treatment of the cause is the best solution. Your physician may prescribe antibiotics, antifungals, or steroid creams to help manage vaginal itch. A topical anesthetic like lidocaine can alleviate skin irritation, but it is important to discuss using this approach with your physician during pregnancy.

Home remedies may be helpful for relieving these symptoms.

Home Remedies for Vaginal Itching

Simple home remedies for external vaginal itching include avoiding the potential irritants that can lead to itchiness. Those who want immediate relief as well as preventative measures can consider some of the following approaches after talking to a doctor. Itching is among the pregnancy related problems that should not be ignored.

  • A saline bath involves little more than adding table, Epson, or rock salt to a bath. Avoid using scented bath salts. Soaking in a warm (not hot) saline bath can relive itchiness but it is important to ask your doctor before using this approach. Some sources suggest that dangerous side effects may occur. The salt may take too much water out of the skin, so it is helpful to bathe briefly, especially during pregnancy. Hot water should be avoided completely.
  • Adding vinegar to bathwater can help to alleviate external itchiness, but brevity is important in this approach too. Like douching, too much soaking in a vinegar and water mix can cause a pH imbalance.
  • Applying a small amount of yogurt on the affected area may help, but this approach should not be used if the itchiness is caused by excessive growth of lactobacillus. The yogurt can make the condition worse since it encourages the growth of the probiotic bacteria.
  • Baking soda mixed with a few drops of water makes a paste that can help alleviate the itchiness. A baking soda bath may help as well.
  • In some cases, a simple cold washcloth can offer relief.
  • Always wipe from front to back. Some suggest using a cool compress after each visit to the bathroom to remove all traces of urine from the area.
  • Scratching may be very tempting, but it can irritate the area, causing tissue damage.
  • Stay cool by wearing cotton underwear, and make sure to allow the area to get some air for a few minutes every day.
  • Avoid intercourse until the symptoms have waned and use lubricants when sexual activity resumes.

The external itchiness may have problematic causes in some cases. It is critical to speak with a physician about the condition. This is especially important if you experience fever, vomiting, or abdominal pain.

Talk to Your Doctor

Clearly communicating any concerns about discomfort is important during pregnancy. Itchiness may not seem like a serious problem, but it is better to communicate these details whether you have a high risk pregnancy or not. Itching can be a sign of more serious -- and potentially dangerous -- conditions like gestational diabetes or an infection. Your physician can help you manage vaginal itching with prescription and/or home therapies while keeping you and your baby safe.

External Vaginal Itching