Sometimes, a person may experience an itchy vagina during their period. The medical term for vaginal itching is vaginal pruritus.
Vaginal itching during a period can occur as a result of normal hormonal changes during menstruation. It may also signal a sensitivity or allergy to sanitary pads, tampons, or other hygiene products a person may use during their period.
This article outlines some potential causes of vaginal itching during a period and at other stages of the menstrual cycle. It also covers some home remedies and treatments for vaginal itching and provides information about when to see a doctor.
Two common causes of vaginal itching during a period are hormonal changes and sensitivities or allergies to products such as tampons.
The vagina contains a delicate balance of different bacteria and yeasts. Changes in hormones can lead to changes in the relative levels of these microorganisms in the vagina. This can lead to vaginal itching.
Hormonal changes can occur for a number of reasons, including:
Sensitivities and allergies
Vaginal itching can occur as a result of sensitivities or allergies to products that come into contact with the skin around the vagina.
Some hygiene products that could cause vaginal itching during a period include:
- sanitary pads
- soaps and deodorizing sprays
Other products that could cause vaginal itching more generally include:
- underwear made from synthetic fibers
- underwear washed in harsh laundry detergents or fabric softeners
- latex condoms
Vaginal itching may become worse with repeated exposure to a product that causes sensitivity or irritation.
The following conditions can cause vaginal itching at any stage of the menstrual cycle, including during menstruation.
Vaginal yeast infections
A vaginal yeast infection is a type of fungal infection caused by the yeast Candida. This yeast usually lives harmlessly inside the vagina.
However, certain factors can cause the yeast to multiply excessively. These factors include:
- uncontrolled diabetes
- certain medications
A vaginal yeast infection may cause the following symptoms:
- itching and irritation around the vagina
- soreness or stinging during urination or sexual intercourse
- white vaginal discharge that has the consistency of cottage cheese
Bacterial vaginosis is an infection that occurs when there is an imbalance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the vagina. People with bacterial vaginosis may experience vaginal itching and a gray or white vaginal discharge that has a fishy odor.
Bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal infection among women aged 15–44, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Also, according to the Office on Women’s Health, it is twice as common among African American women than it is among white women.
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis.
Experts estimate that trichomoniasis accounts for around 15–20% of vaginitis cases. Vaginitis is the medical term for inflammation and irritation of the vagina.
Around 70% of people who have trichomoniasis do not experience any symptoms. However, if symptoms do occur, they may include:
- genital itching, burning, or soreness
- redness or other discoloration around the genitals
- discomfort when urinating
- an increased volume of vaginal discharge
- vaginal discharge that has a fishy odor
Dermatitis is the medical term for a group of conditions that cause inflammation of the skin.
One 2014 review notes that around half of all cases of chronic vulvovaginal itching are due to allergic or irritant contact dermatitis. These types of dermatitis can occur as a result of poor hygiene or exposure to harsh chemicals and other irritants.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes skin cells to divide and multiply at a rapid rate. These cells then build up on the skin, resulting in patches of irritation.
Plaque psoriasis is characterized by patches of red, crusty, or flaky skin covered with silvery scales. The patches can be itchy or sore.
Inverse psoriasis typically develops in the folds of the skin. The affected skin may appear red, smooth, and tight.
Doctors do yet not know what causes lichen sclerosus. However, topical steroid creams can usually help alleviate itching and other symptoms.
Lichen planus is an autoimmune condition in which inflammatory cells attack a protein within the skin and mucous membranes. The condition affects moist areas of the body, such as:
- the mouth
- the vagina
- the area around the vulva
People with lichen planus of the vulva may experience the following symptoms:
- an itchy rash
- a pattern of lacy white streaks
- painful and persistent ulcers
- yellow or blood stained vaginal discharge
- painful intercourse
Atrophic vulvovaginitis is a condition in which the vaginal tissues become dry, tender, and easily inflamed. The condition develops as a result of low estrogen levels, and it is common among postmenopausal females.
Some potential symptoms of atrophic vulvovaginitis include:
- vulvar or vaginal itching
- vulvar or vaginal dryness
- vaginal burning
- pain during sex
- skin splitting at the entrance of the vagina
Vaginal itching can also be a symptom of the following gynecologic cancers:
If cancer is the cause of vaginal itching, the itch is unlikely to go away after a person’s period has ended.
Extensive use of the following medications can also lead to vaginal itching in some cases:
- immune-suppressing drugs
Certain home remedies can help treat and prevent vaginal itching. These remedies aim to:
- limit sources of irritation
- reduce excess moisture and associated fungal growth
- maintain an optimal balance of microorganisms inside the vagina
Some specific home remedies include:
- not douching, as douching can cause an imbalance in the amount of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the vagina
- taking probiotic supplements, to help restore levels of “good” bacteria in the vagina
- wearing cotton underwear, which is less likely to trap moisture against the skin
- not using soaps that contain perfumes and other irritants
- using fragrance-free laundry detergent and avoiding the use of fabric softeners
- bathing in warm water, as opposed to hot water, to avoid irritating the sensitive skin around the vagina
- soaking in a lukewarm bath with 4–5 tablespoons of baking soda, to help soothe vaginal itching
The treatment options for vaginal itching during a period depend largely on what is causing the itching.
Some potential treatment options include:
- antibiotics, for itching caused by bacterial vaginosis or other bacterial infections
- antifungal creams and pessaries, for yeast infections
- topical steroids, for irritant dermatitis
- topical estrogen, for atrophic vulvovaginitis
- antihistamines, for contact dermatitis and psoriasis
Often, vaginal itching during a period will clear up on its own within a few days. If there is no improvement after a couple of weeks, however, a person may wish to see their doctor.
A person should also see their doctor if they have any of the following:
- repeated bouts of vaginal itching
- vaginal discharge that has a foul smell or an unusual color or consistency
- sores or inflamed skin around the vagina or vulva
- a preexisting health condition, such as diabetes
Pregnant women should see their doctor about vaginal itching or any other vaginal symptoms that they experience during pregnancy.
Experiencing vaginal itching during a period is common.
This symptom may be linked to normal hormonal changes that occur during menstruation. It may also signal a sensitivity or allergy to certain products a person uses during their period.
Some other causes of vaginal itching include imbalances of bacteria and yeasts inside the vagina, certain skin conditions, and some medications.
Vaginal itching during a period tends to go away on its own within a few days. However, if the itching persists, it may be best to see a doctor for a diagnosis and appropriate treatment.