Why You Get Itchy Down There Before Your Period
It’s totally normal but here are a few things you should know.
If you are the owner of a vagina, vulva, labia, and the rest of the parts in that area, then you already know that there’s always something happening in that region. For a good chunk of our lives, a lot of that has to do with menstruation. As you probably (hopefully) remember from health class, menstruating involves more than the roughly four or five days of bleeding each month — it’s a whole cycle that can have a wide variety of effects on our body any time it damn well pleases. This includes having an itchy vagina before your period.
When people use the term “vagina,” they often mean “labia” (the folds of skin around the vaginal opening) or “vulva” (the whole outer part of the genital area, including the opening of the vagina, labia, and the clitoris). In this case, when someone says they have an itchy vagina before their period, they’re likely referring to their vulva rather than the inside of their vagina (although that’s a possibility as well).
So, to make things easier, let’s stick with referring to it as an “itchy vagina.” Still, we wanted to make sure we explained the difference (and that you knew that we knew the difference between the parts). Anyway, here’s what to know about having an itchy vagina, vulva, or labia before your period, including what causes it, how to treat it, and when to see a doctor about it.
Causes of an Itchy Vagina Before Period
First of all, having an itchy vagina, vulva, and/or labia before your period is completely normal. And yes, your period can cause vaginal itching. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), glands in the cervix and the walls of the vagina produce clear mucus — the amount of which varies, depending on the stage of a person’s menstrual cycle. Hormone levels in the body cause this. And, in addition to the discharge (which is also normal), hormone levels can cause vulvar itching.
There are a few other possible explanations for itching before your period, though.
Some people experience cyclic vulvovaginitis, a burning and itching sensation that occurs at the same stage of every menstrual cycle. The culprit? A yeast infection, brought on by fluctuating hormones that affect the pH balance (and subsequently, bacteria) in your vagina. Signs of a yeast infection may include:
- Itching and irritation in the vagina and vulva
- Burning, especially during sex or while peeing
- Redness and swelling of the vulva
- Vaginal pain, soreness, or rash
- Vaginal discharge with a cottage cheese-like appearance
Also known as BV, bacterial vaginosis mimics many of the same symptoms you might find with yeast infections. A major difference? With yeast infections, the discharge typically has no odor. With BV, a foul, fish-like odor is present. Also, BV often results in greenish, yellow, or gray discharge.
A far more infrequent cause of an itchy vagina before a period is a condition called “progestogen hypersensitivity” or “autoimmune progesterone dermatitis.” According to the NIH’s Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD), the precise cause of progestogen hypersensitivity is unknown, but it involves a person having skin reactions with symptoms starting three to 10 days before their period begins and stopping once their period is over. These symptoms can include:
- A rash
- Swelling, itching, and hives
- Red/flaky patches
- Open sores
- An asthma-like reaction
Irritation and/or Chafing
Irritation could be to blame for the itching you experience “down there” before your period. Anyone who has had a pad migrate a little during use knows the sheer annoyance of pad rash. And tampons can dry out your vagina, also causing itching and irritation.
Another source of irritation that can make you feel the need to scratch? Hair growth. If you’ve shaved or waxed and your hair starts to come back in, that regrowth can make you feel extra squirmy — particularly before your period, when hormone fluctuations make the area even more sensitive.
*Here are a few other things that may lead to an itchy vagina to keep in mind:
- underwear made from synthetic fibers
- latex condoms
- underwear washed in irritating laundry detergents or fabric softeners
- using colored or scented/perfumed toilet paper.
- bubble baths
- swimming in a chlorinated swimming pool or hot tub
- an allergic reaction to sanitary napkins
- the friction caused by biking or horseback riding for an extended period of time
- wearing pantyhose that do not have a breathable cotton crotch area
- wearing a wet bathing suit for a long period of time
How to Treat an Itchy Vagina Before Period
If having an itchy vagina, vulva, and/or labia before your period is a routine part of your menstrual cycle, this isn’t something you’re going to be able to cure at home. But some things can help, according to the NIH. These include:
- Rinsing only with water (avoiding soap) to clean yourself.
- Soaking in a warm-but-not-hot bath, then drying yourself thoroughly afterward. This means instead of using a towel to dry, you should air dry or gently use the lowest warm or cold air setting on a hairdryer.
- Avoiding douching and using hygiene sprays, fragrances, or powders in the genital area.
- Wearing loose fitting and cotton undergarments or pants.
- Adding plain Greek yogurt to your diet.
- Taking probiotics to help keep your vagina's PH balanced.
- Skipping the bath bomb and adding a little bit of baking soda or a cap full of apple cider vinegar to your bath instead.
When It’s Time to See a Doctor
If your symptoms are limited to some mild itchiness in your vulvar area before your period, you probably have nothing to worry about. But if you have symptoms beyond that — including itchiness that continues throughout your menstrual cycle — it’s a good idea to discuss that with your doctor. The same thing goes for spotting abnormal discharge that is brown or green in color and/or has a foul or fishy odor: symptoms that can indicate you have some type of vaginal infection.
Additionally, contact your healthcare provider right away if you have:
- Symptoms of a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis
- Symptoms of progestogen hypersensitivity
- Fever or pain in your pelvis or belly area
- Been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection
And as always, if you’re on the fence about whether to talk to your doctor about something, it’s a good idea to go ahead and mention it. It may be nothing at all, but finding that out can give you peace of mind.
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