7 Reasons Why Your Vagina Itches After Sex

It's not necessarily an STI.
PHOTO: BARABASA/GETTY IMAGES

Whether you've been having sex with the same partner for years or it's a one-night-stand, there are few things in the world that set off PANIC alarm bells as loudly as itching in your vagina after sex.

But there could be a variety of reasons your vagina is itchy after sex. Per Sonia Bahlani, MD, and ob-gyn Omnia Samra Latif Estafan, MD, here are some of them. 

1. Your PH is out of whack.

Having sex can often alter your vagina's delicate balance of pH levels, bringing on a feeling of itchiness, Dr. Bahlani explains. To avoid this, she recommends using a good, organic lubricant, like Uberlube or Good Clean Love. The best lube is water-based, which is compatible with any form of contraception, including condoms, explains Dr. Estafan.

The pH level of your vagina should be between 3.8 and 4.2 —aka slightly acidic. "This acidic environment is maintained by lactobacilli, or 'good' bacteria, which keep the vagina protected," says Dr. Estafan. "They create a barrier system that prevents the growth of unhealthy bacteria, and keep yeast at bay."

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(On a side note: Products with fragrance, perfume, sulfates, alcohol, parabens, and dyes can also change your vaginal pH.)

2. You might have an infection.

Changes in the pH levels of your vagina's microbiome signal there's been a decrease in "good" bacteria and an increase in bad, which can cause an infection, explains Dr. Bahlani. However, this doesn't automatically mean you have a sexually transmitted infection. More commonly, an infection is likely to be bacterial vaginosis or yeast, due to an overgrowth that affects your pH levels. 

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However, if your itching persists or occurs every time you have sex, you should see your gyno. Without a proper medical diagnosis, it can be hard to differentiate STI-based itching from itching that goes away on its own.

3. You might have an STI. 

Itching isn't an automatic sign of an STI, says Dr. Estefan, because according to the CDC, less than 5 percent of vaginal chlamydia infections and 50 percent of gonorrhea vaginal infections have symptoms. However, "any time there is a thought of exposure to an STI, [you] should be checked out," she says.

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4. You could be experiencing dryness. 

Not only does natural or bottled lubrication make sex feel more pleasurable, but it also helps prevent itchiness caused by having dry sex. And no, not being wet enough during sex isn't just an older women's problem. In fact, there are several reasons why you could be experiencing lubrication probs, including stress, certain meds you're taking, and various other factors.

5. Your vagina might be inflamed. 

This one can be harder to diagnose, says Dr. Bahlani, but inflammation can affect your vagina. This can be due to rough sex, says Dr. Estafan, or due to dermatological changes like lichen sclerosislichen planus, or vestibulodynia—a condition where sex becomes very painful, says Dr. Bahlani.

6. You could be having an allergic reaction. 

Known irritants like parabens and sulfates contained in condoms and lubes could be the reason you're itchy, says Dr. Bahlani. 

Another culprit? Spermicide, like Nonoxynol-9, which can cause sensitivities that sometimes present as latex allergies. Testing out non-latex condoms is also worth a try, in case you do have a latex allergy you were unaware of.

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7. You're going overboard with your cleaning. 

So you wanna clean yourself up before sex. That's great! But douching and using heavily-fragranced soaps and body washes on your sensitive vulva region is a big no-no. "It's understandable that women want to feel as clean as possible in that region, but sometimes, it can create more harm," explains Dr. Estafan. Even if you think you're using a super-gentle face cleanser that you paid a lot of money for (and therefore would never betray you), it's likely not doing you any favors if you're using it on your vagina. Facial products are likely to be pH balanced for your face, not your vulva—and as we've learned, changing the pH of your vagina puts you at an increased risk of yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.

How to Soothe Your Symptoms Between Now and Your Doctor's Appointment

Dr. Estafan says itching on the vulva itself (aka your skin that is not inside your vagina) can be cooled with cool water, applying a calming lotion such as organic coconut oil or baby diaper rash cream, cold compresses, or an over-the-counter anti-itch cream to the vulva area ONLY. 

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Gently wash the outside skin with water and then apply products with aloe vera (she recommends BioFemme's soothing gel) to also bring temporary relief. Then get your butt to a doc to see what's up.

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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.

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