And now, an important message from your vagina…
I think I’ve figured out why women so often ignore signs of trouble down in their nether regions.
For one thing, it’s not like other ailments that are easy to bring up with our friends and coworkers (“I have a headache, got any aspirin?” flows a lot better than, “There’s a strange cheesy substance coming out of my vagina, what do you think it is?”).
But I think the real reason we don’t always pay attention when there are signs that something’s wrong “down there” is because we’re so afraid of what it could be. And we should not let that stop us when our body is sending an SOS. So many issues with our vaginas are incredibly treatable, from the reliably itchy and uncomfortable yeast infection to things like sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) — which of course no one wants to have, but we’re so much better off knowing what’s going on. And let’s face it, if (I repeat, if) something is seriously wrong, it’s always better to catch it as soon as possible, blast it with modern medicine and healthy living, and stop it from becoming worse.
Step one is to know your vagina. What does it look like? How does it feel? What’s normal for you? Then pay attention when your body tells you that’s something’s up — like these six symptoms you should never ignore…
1. Abnormal vaginal bleeding
Menstruating women generally experience vaginal bleeding once a month. But if you’re experiencing spotting or bleeding off-cycle (or when you’ve ostensibly stopped menstruating because of pregnancy, birth control, or menopause but experience bleeding anyway), it’s an indication that something is going on, possibly an infection or inflammation, fibroids, or a hormonal imbalance.
2. Vaginal itching, burning, or change in color
When you’re feeling an itching or burning sensation down there, it could be the classic symptoms of a yeast infection or sexually transmitted disease (STD). Or maybe the laundry detergent you’re using is causing irritation, or you’ve put something in your vagina that you shouldn’t have, such as a douche (the vaginal cleanse type, not the dickhead who ghosts you after a one-nighter) or flavored lube.
3. Excessive urination
If you’ve been knocking back lattes all morning (or cocktails all evening!), it makes sense that you’ll be following up with lots of trips to the bathroom. But if in general you’re peeing more than usual (or your bladder just feels weirdly full), the reasons could range from a urinary tract infection to interstitial cystitis. So what exactly counts as “a lot” of peeing? Well, let your gut tell you, or go by what urologists define as too much: peeing more than eight times in 24 hours.
4. Abnormal discharge
Vaginal discharge is absolutely normal. Sure, discharge varies depending upon factors like the time of the month, level of arousal (or lack thereof), and circumstances such as breastfeeding. But some types of discharge aren’t considered normal; take notice if your discharge is a different texture, watery or like cottage cheese, tinged with blood, if there’s a change in color, and if it smells bad.
5. Unusual period blood
Whether it’s during your cycle or not, any period blood that deviates from your normal should be investigated. That includes a flow that’s heavier or lighter than usual, lumpy, or strange-smelling. Darker or grey blood is also a warning sign of an underlying condition.
The description of “pain” varies — it could be a dull ache, a crampy feeling, or sharp stabs of discomfort. Maybe it’s external and easy to identify, like a blister, or it feels internal and harder to pin down. Whatever the type of pain, check it out so you can rule out (or treat) pain-related problems in your vagina like an STD or other type of infection.
SHESAID editor, Nadia explains why you might have difficulty achieving an orgasm, and how to fix it…
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Images via etsy.com and giphy.com.
Luisa is SHESAID's beauty writer and a New Yorker who has been writing and editing professionally since 1997, when she started working at New York magazine. Since then, her work has appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, New York, USA Today, Family Circle, Glamour, and many more. Follow Luisa on Twitter.