health

'Is this normal?': Four signs something isn't quite right with your vagina.

We’ve all been there.

That moment of pulling your undies down when you’re about to use the toilet, noticing something unusual – be it weird coloured period blood, smelly discharge or a strange lump or bump – and silently wondering, “Is this normal? Should I be worried right now??”

And let’s face it, hopping on top of that cold exam room bed and spreading your legs for your doctor or gyno to take a closer look at your potentially unhealthy vulva isn’t exactly at the top of most women’s Favourite Things To Do lists.

But ignoring your vagina’s sophisticated system of red flags for signalling something’s up can have far worse consequences than those few minutes of discomfort lying on top of that crinkly paper in your doctor’s office. Which is why you need to know what to take note of and what’s not worth getting stressed over. Here are the top four symptoms you definitely shouldn’t ignore next time you drop your underpants…

1. Dryness

Our vaginas are awfully clever things. They’re designed to constantly self-lubricate, keeping bacteria at bay and making sex all smooth sailing…if you get our drift!

So if your vagina is regularly dry, particularly during intercourse, resulting in burning, stinging and general discomfort during penetration, or even tampon insertion, you should book in to see your gyno.

There are several factors that can contribute to persistent vaginal dryness, including anxiety, certain medications like antidepressants, menopause, hormonal imbalances and vulvodynia, most of which are easily treatable with lifestyle changes, and in some cases medication. Your gyno can also recommend a vaginal gel or lubricant to ease discomfort in the meantime.

2. Blood

Specifically, blood that shows up directly after, or during, intercourse. Unless you’re currently menstruating, or have recently started on a new contraceptive pill (many of which can cause light breakthrough bleeding), blood that appears post sex should definitely be cause for concern.

In many cases, your partner may have simply accidentally scratched the delicate tissue inside your vagina, however bleeding during sex can also be a sign of a vaginal infection or STI, so even if you’re fairly convinced the cause of yours is innocent, it’s best to book in to see your doc anyway, just to be safe.

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3. Blisters and strange bumps

If you’re a fan of Brazilian waxing, chances are you’re no stranger to ingrown hairs, which can show up as pimple-like lumps around your vulva and are typically harmless and easily treatable with gentle exfoliation and an in-grown hair cream.

However if you’ve recently spotted a new lump or bump that looks quite different from what you’re used to seeing down there after a wax, it could be a sign of something more serious. Small painful sores or ulcers can indicate herpes, while a mole that changes colour or texture in your pubic area may indicate cancer and a painless sore could suggest syphilis or another STI. In any case, it’s worth getting your doctor to take a look as soon as you notice any changes.

4. Discharge with a foul odour

No vagina is odour-free, nor should it smell like roses down there. A slight smell is perfectly healthy and normal. However a sudden change in the smell of your discharge, particularly if it’s especially strong in odour, is typically a red flag that something’s up.

A strong or foul vaginal odour is one of key signs of bacterial vaginosis, or BV, according to a 2011 study in the International Journal. If you’re pregnant, it’s especially important to have a check-up with your doctor as soon as you discover any kind of change in your vagina’s natural smell, as women with bacterial vaginosis are at an increased risk of delivering prematurely. BV also increases your chance of contracting an STI and can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease.

So long story short: if all doesn’t smell well down there, make an appointment to see your gyno as soon as possible.

This post originally appeared on SheSaid.com and was republished here with full permission.

Check out these related articles from SheSaid.

Here’s What The Color Of Your Period Blood Means

6 Things You Need To Start Doing To Your Vagina

7 Types of Vaginal Discharge That Definitely Aren’t Normal

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