Itching or discharge...ways to approach

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What might cause a change in the odor of your vulva? Is all itching a yeast infection or BV? What are some steps you might take before calling your doctor?
 
We get these questions fairly often, and right now, in the time of physical distancing because of COVID-19, many women are trying to figure out what to do if they experience a change in odor or itching. Many health care providers are not seeing patients right now and are prescribing medications (diflucan for yeast, Flagyl for possible BV) without actually testing to see if the person has either of these.
Before you get prescription medications, what could you do? 
First, if you are experiencing a change from a more sweet odor to a more musky one, you may be experiencing a rise in your vaginal pH. Your vagina has a collection of bacteria that live there and keep the vagina healthy and in balance. Many things can change this balance:

  • menopause 
  • stress
  • a rise in blood sugars
  • an increase in bodily inflammation caused by diet, lack of exercise, exposure to environmental toxins (think lawn or other chemicals)
  • the use of coconut oil or other oils as a lubricant 
  • exposure to semen (which has a high pH and can also become irritating for some vaginas)
  • the use of lubricants with glycerin
  • the use of a pessary

You can take a step-by-step approach to addressing your change in odor or itch to help you decide when to call your health care provider.

First, if you have a white, thick discharge that looks like cottage cheese, and you have severe itch, call your health care provider. These are classic signs of a yeast infection and are best address by an anti-fungal medication, either topical (which you can get over the counter) or prescription.
If you have a mild itch or a musky smelland you are peri-, or post-menopausal, then you can start by putting a bit of a pH balanced lubricant (any of the ones we carry in our "moisturizing lubricants" category, on the vulva and massaging it gently into the skin, and then also putting about 1cc inside the vagina once you have laid down for sleep. You can use a small syringe without a needle to do this. If you do this every day you may re-balance the pH and also encourage moisturizing and blood flow to address the itch. 
If you notice the musky smell persists, but you don't have an itch, you can add internal vaginal massage using our FeMani Massage Wand or other smooth, throbby vibrator. This will bring blood flow to the vaginal walls and help with skin cell turnover. In turn that brings down your vaginal pH and can help your odor return to what you are used to.