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Hormonal shifts can cause vaginal itching before a period. Sometimes, however, the itching might be due to an infection, in which case the timing of the itchiness is purely coincidental.
Some common reasons a person might experience vaginal itching around their period include a yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis (BV), vaginal dryness, inflammation, and the use of certain period products.
Vaginal infections are not usually serious, though they sometimes need medical treatment. People who experience itching at the same point during every cycle may have a condition called cyclic vulvovaginitis.
In this article, learn about the causes of vaginal itching before a period, as well as some treatment options and home remedies.
The sections below will look at some potential causes of vaginal itching before a period in more detail.
Estrogen levels peak around ovulation, then fall rapidly in the days leading up to a period. This can cause vaginal dryness. Vaginal dryness may make the vagina feel painful and itchy, especially during sex.
A person approaching menopause may also experience vaginal dryness. Sometimes, women who have recently given birth also notice dryness while they are postpartum or breastfeeding.
There is evidence to suggest that menstruation increases skin sensitivity.
A study from 1991 found that people on day one of their menstrual cycle were much more likely to experience skin irritation when their bodies had exposure to an irritant stimulus than at later points in their cycle.
This could be due to inflammation. Inflammation levels rise and fall during a person’s menstrual cycle. Researchers suggest that this could be why some people with chronic illnesses notice that their symptoms get worse before or during their period.
If a person has allergies, skin irritation, or a skin condition, it is possible that inflammation levels before a period could make their symptoms worse and cause itching. However, this is still a growing area of research, so scientists do not yet understand the connection fully.
Some people experience irritation related to the menstrual products they use.
Tampons can absorb natural vaginal lubrication, making the vagina feel dry and itchy. Similarly, scented products may cause reactions in people with sensitive skin or allergies.
If the irritation only happens when a person gets their period, this may mean that the period products they use are the culprit. A person can try switching to unscented pads or silicone menstrual cups. These products are less likely to cause dryness or skin reactions.
Yeast infections are a type of fungal infection. It is normal to have some yeast on the skin, but too much can cause an infection.
Yeast infections are common and can happen at any time during a person’s menstrual cycle. If the vagina and vulva are itchy and there is a thick, cottage cheese-like discharge, a person may have a yeast infection.
Cyclic vulvovaginitis is a chronic infection that reoccurs before or during a person’s period.
A person with cyclic vulvovaginitis may experience symptoms such as:
- burning, itching, or stinging just before a period
- symptoms that worsen after sexual activity
- few or no symptoms between periods
Several factors can contribute to this condition, including anything that changes the vagina’s complex bacterial balance. Antibiotics, hormonal contraceptives, chemical products, and some chronic illnesses may play a role.
Doctors treat this condition by finding the cause of the imbalance and treating the infection.
BV is a bacterial infection of the vagina. It is also the most common type of vaginal infection in females aged 15–44.
Many people with this infection notice a strong fishy odor, especially after sex. Sometimes, the symptoms are worse at certain points in a person’s cycle, such as before a period.
Some people with BV notice only an odor, but others may experience:
- itching or burning
- thin, white or gray discharge
Doctors do not always understand what causes BV. However, they do know that changes in a person’s vaginal flora and practices such as douching can increase the likelihood of developing it.
Sexually transmitted infections
These infections do not usually get worse before or during a person’s period. However, some people may notice symptoms for the first time before their period.
Most STIs are treatable. If a person has any symptoms of an STI, they should see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
A doctor may examine the vagina and vulva for discharge, irritation, and injuries. They may also take a swab of the vagina to test for different types of infection.
If there are no obvious signs of infection or injury, the doctor may recommend that the person keeps a diary of symptoms and lifestyle factors, so that they can identify the cause of the itching.
Some companies now offer home test kits that can help diagnose a yeast infection or BV. However, if symptoms do not improve with home treatment or they get worse, it is important to see a doctor.
There is no specific treatment for inflammation-related itching during a period. Some people may find that vaginal moisturizers help. These moisturizers can also ease vaginal dryness.
For irritation, switching to unscented period products, using tampon alternatives, and avoiding harsh soaps may help.
Yeast infections usually respond to over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal treatments. However, some people may need an oral antifungal to treat a chronic or recurring yeast infection.
People with cyclic vulvovaginitis may require more aggressive treatment. A doctor may prescribe topical creams and oral antifungals simultaneously. In some cases, a person will need to continue with treatment for several months after symptoms subside.
For BV and STIs, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics. Different infections respond to different antibiotics, so it is important to get an accurate diagnosis and a prescription for the correct antibiotic.
A number of home remedies may help reduce the severity of vaginal itching before a period. However, the methods that help will depend on what the cause is.
It is important to note that home remedies cannot cure STIs or serious infections.
For yeast infections and BV, probiotics may help. Probiotics contain species of beneficial bacteria and come in oral and topical forms.
However, research into their effectiveness is inconclusive, and they will not cure a severe vaginal infection.
Vaginal lubricants and moisturizers
Some people find relief from vaginal dryness and inflammation by using vaginal moisturizers. Moisturizers are different than lubricants because they offer long-term moisture, not temporary lubrication for sexual activity.
A number of strategies may help reduce the risk of vaginal irritation before a period, including:
- wearing cotton underwear
- using nonirritating, nondrying period and hygiene products
- treating or managing conditions that can increase the risk of vaginal infections, such as diabetes
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who have never had sex rarely experience BV, which suggests that sexual activity could contribute to a person developing the condition.
Limiting sexual activity, limiting the number of sexual partners, avoiding douching, and using condoms may help prevent BV. Using condoms is also crucial for preventing STIs.
Using a topical probiotic or eating probiotic foods such as yogurt may help a person keep their vaginal flora in balance. However, there is not yet enough evidence to prove that this can prevent yeast infections or BV.
If a person has any symptoms of an infection — such as a bad odor, discharge, or pain — they should see a doctor.
Infections such as BV can make it more likely that a person will develop an STI. BV can also affect pregnant women and is associated with premature birth and a low birth weight.
Some STIs also have long-term effects on the body and can affect a person’s fertility.
However, if a person only experiences irritation or itching without any symptoms of an infection, they can try OTC treatments and home remedies for dryness and inflammation first.
If OTC treatments do not work, or if the symptoms go away and come back, a person should seek medical treatment.
Having an itchy vagina before a period could indicate that someone has inflammation, irritation, or vaginal dryness. Trying OTC remedies such as vaginal moisturizers may help ease symptoms.
Making some lifestyle changes, such as switching period products, may also help prevent itching.
Sometimes, however, vaginal itching occurs due to infections or chronic conditions. If a person experiences continuous itching that does not improve with OTC treatments or that occurs with other symptoms, they should see a doctor.
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