Vaginal Itching During Pregnancy: Signs, Causes & Treatment

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Vaginal itching during pregnancy is a common discomfort most women experience. Certain infections or exposure to chemical products can trigger vaginal itching. Some women may develop other symptoms depending on the causative factors. You should contact the healthcare provider to take medications and avoid further complications.

Read on to know about the causes, symptoms, treatment, complications and preventive measures for vaginal itching during pregnancy.

Symptoms Of Vaginal Itching During Pregnancy

Vaginal itching may occur during pregnancy

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The symptoms of vaginal itching may vary depending on the underlying cause. If the vaginal itching is due to an infection, the following symptoms might be prominent (1), (2), (3), (4):

  • Change of vaginal discharge color is a sign of bacteria or yeast infection. The vaginal discharge is clear or milky white with no apparent smell. A white or opaque grayish discharge indicates bacterial or yeast infection. The discharge might turn yellow or green during heavy vaginal discharge during pregnancy.
  • Itching, burning, redness in the vagina.
  • Unpleasant smell in the vagina, especially after intercourse.
  • Pain while peeing or intercourse.
  • Recurring urinary tract infections.

Causes Of Vaginal Itching During Pregnancy

Some possible causes of vaginal itching during pregnancy are:

1. Bacterial vaginosis

A healthy vagina houses a colony of healthy bacteria. However, there is an imbalance between good bacteria and pathogenic microbes during pregnancy, leading to bacterial vaginosis (2). It therefore makes you prone to acquiring sexually transmitted infections (STIs) during the infection period.

2. Yeast infection

Vaginal itching during pregnancy could be due to yeast infection

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During pregnancy, the hormonal changes make it favorable for yeast growth in the vagina (3). Candida species cause the condition called Vulvovaginal candidiasis (5). The yeast, which is already housed in the body, can increase and cause vaginal itching. It occurs in nearly one million women across the US and is frequent during pregnancy.

3. Increase in vaginal discharge

Vaginal discharge typically increases during pregnancy (6), and might turn sticky, jelly-like pink mucus towards the end of the pregnancy. The increase in vaginal discharge might also be due to a thrush infection.

4. Vaginal dryness

Vaginal Dryness is a common problem among women and may affect during breastfeeding, hysterectomy, or under certain medications (4).

5. Sensitivity to products

The vaginal skin is sensitive and is prone to allergic reaction or irritation from chemicals, vaginal sprays, douches, or spermicidal products (7). Some skin types can also be sensitive to lotions, lubricants, soaps, detergents, and fabric softeners. Regular use of over-the-counter medication can also cause vaginal irritation.

6. Urinary tract infection (UTI)

UTIs may cause vaginal itching during pregnancy

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UTI is one of the most common forms of infection affecting women during pregnancy (8). Although vaginal itching is not commonly associated with UTI, at times, two infections can occur simultaneously. However, UTI makes it harder for a pregnant mother as it increases the chances of pregnancy complications.

7. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

STIs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, can cause vaginal itching and painful irritation. However, these conditions are treatable under timely diagnosis and medication (9).

8. Pediculosis

Pediculosis caused by crab lice can cause itching around the pubic hair (10). You can contract this infection by using public urinals and unsafe sexual intercourse.

Signs To Visit A Doctor

You may visit a health care provider if you are feeling uncomfortable or see any of the following symptoms of the illness (1):

  • Unusual vaginal discharge of different colors, consistency, and smell
  • Vaginal and burning itching sensation.
  • Swollen vagina
  • Vaginal bleeding

Treatment For Vaginal Itching During Pregnancy

The treatment for intense itching depends on the diagnosis and suggestion of the doctor. It is not recommended to take over-the-counter medications for the disease during pregnancy. However, some treatment plans to reduce vaginal itching during pregnancy are (5), (10):

  • The infection from bacterial vaginosis can go away without treatment, and in some cases, antibiotics would do.
  • The antifungal medication, such as topical azole antifungal treatment, is recommended for fungal infections. It may effectively reduce the fungal infection within seven days.
  • The itching from pediculosis is treated with medication. However, it is not safe to use self-medication or lice preparations.
  • Maintaining personal hygiene and regular cleaning of clothing, bedding, and towels can help prevent vaginal infections.
Maintain personal hygiene and regular cleaning of clothing, bedding to prevent vaginal infections.

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  • Abstaining the use of chemical products in the vagina can help reduce vaginal itching during pregnancy.

Complications Of Vaginal Itching

Some complications involved in delayed or no treatment for vaginal itching include (11):

  • Untreated bacterial vaginosis can lead to low birth weight or preterm babies.
  • Vaginal infection during pregnancy can lead to severe complications, such as premature labor, miscarriage, or premature birth.

Ways To Prevent Vagina Itching During Pregnancy

Some of the preventive measures to stop vaginal itching are (1), (2), (12), (13):

  • Avoid douching: Douching is the process of cleaning the vagina using a medicated liquid or a stream of water. The practice of douching during pregnancy can increase the chances of infection and other complications during pregnancy.
  • Practice monogamy: Single partner relationships can reduce the risk of STIs.
  • Use latex condoms: Following safe practices, such as using condoms while having a sexual act, can help prevent vaginal infections.
  • Avoid cosmetic products: Avoid using feminine cosmetic products, such as deodorants, sprays, powders, scented soap, perfumed bath products, or perfumes in the vagina. Using them could lead to a conducive environment for bacterial and yeast growth.
  • Use cotton underwear: Cotton helps trap moisture and reduce unwanted bacterial growth in the private area.
  • Use water-based lubricants: To prevent dryness-induced vaginal itching, use water-based lubricants during intercourse.
  • Avoid sugars: Avoiding sugar in the diet can reduce the risk of contracting yeast infections.
  • Have yogurt: Yogurt consumption can reduce the risk of recurrent vaginal yeast infections; however, there is little evidence to support this claim.
Yogurt helps prevent vaginal itching during pregnancy

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. When does vaginal itching start during pregnancy?

Most women experience vaginal itching in the second trimester (14).

2. What happens if a yeast infection goes untreated while pregnant?

Yeast infections during pregnancy are common and rarely cause any problems. The infection is easy to treat; however, if left untreated, it may pass to your baby’s mouth during delivery, which is called “Thrush,” and is treated with Nystatin.
Moreover, if the infection is persistent, in rare cases, it may pass through the vagina or the blood to your baby and cause complications such as chorioamnionitis or prematurity (14) (15).

Vaginal itching during pregnancy is a common illness during pregnancy. There are several possible causes, and it is vital to seek medical help during pregnancy. Once the source of infection or the reason for irritation is identified, it is easy to treat vaginal itching with medication or home remedies.

Key Pointers

  • Bacterial vaginosis, yeast infection, vaginal dryness, urinary tract infections, and pediculosis are causes of vaginal itching during pregnancy.
  • If vaginal itching is accompanied by burning, redness in the vagina, change in vaginal discharge color, swollen vagina, or bleeding, talk to a doctor promptly.
  • The treatment for the itching depends on its cause and the severity of accompanying symptoms.
  • No treatment or delay in treatment could cause complications, such as low birth weight or preterm babies.
  • Avoiding cosmetic products like vaginal sprays, abstaining from douching, and wearing cotton underwear can help prevent vaginal itching during pregnancy.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Vaginal discharge in pregnancy.
    https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/vaginal-discharge/
  2. Bacterial Vaginosis.
    https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/3963-bacterial-vaginosis
  3. Yeast Infections.
    https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/5019-yeast-infections#symptoms-and-causes
  4. Vaginal dryness.
    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaginal-dryness/
  5. Vaginal yeast infections during pregnancy.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2654841/
  6. Vaginal discharge in pregnancy.
    https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/vaginal-discharge/
  7. Vaginitis.
    https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9131-vaginitis
  8. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) during pregnancy.
    https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/urinary-tract-infections-utis-during-pregnancy
  9. What could be causing my vagina to itch and a burning sensation when I urinate?
    https://familydoctor.org/common-sexually-transmitted-infections-stis/
  10. Why Does Your Vagina Itch in Pregnancy? How to Cope?
    https://www.newkidscenter.org/Vaginal-Itch-During-Pregnancy.html
  11. Vaginal Yeast Infections.
    https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw61044
  12. Vaginal yeast infection (thrush): Overview.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK543220/
  13. True or False: Eating Yogurt Can Help Reduce Your Risk of Vaginal Yeast Infections.
    https://www.winchesterhospital.org/health-library/article?id=157013
  14. Yeast Infections During Pregnancy.
    https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-complications/yeast-infections-during-pregnancy/
  15. Yeast Infections During Pregnancy | Complications of Untreated Infection.
    https://www.birthinjuryhelpcenter.org/yeast-infections.html
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Anshuman Mohapatra

Anshuman Mohapatra is a biotechnology scientist with more than six years of research experience in analytical chemistry and biotechnology. He has submitted his PhD thesis at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT Guwahati) and served as a research fellow (JRF/SRF) during his PhD tenure. His research interest includes analytical chemistry, neurobiology and lipid disorder diseases. Three of his research...
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Dr. Niraj Krishnamurthy Yanamandra

(MD)
Dr. Niraj Yanamandra has over 24 years of experience as an Ob/Gyn with special interests in minimal access surgery (Laparoscopy and Hysteroscopy). Currently based out of Hyderabad, India, he previously worked as a consultant at Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London.  In addition to training in minimal access surgery and pelviscopic surgery, Dr. Niraj trained in robotic surgery at North...
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