A Comprehensive List of Common Vagina Problems and What to Do About Them

Having a vagina is hard, you guys. On top of the whole sexism thing, it just physically is a bit of a difficult thing to take care of. What follows is a list of everything that can go wrong with your Lady’s Area, as well as what you can do about it. Good luck, sisters.

Yeast Infections
Perhaps the most common vagina problem and definitely the vagina problem that has ruined cottage cheese for most of us. Some are more prone to them than others, and as someone who is very, very prone, may I just say: yogurt helps, probiotic supplements help, gentle, pH-friendly soaps help. Shoving a clove of garlic up there does not help, and will just make your vagina smell like a pizza. If you’re dealing with insane itching and chunky discharge and you know what a yeast infection feels like for you, grab some Canesten and don’t worry about it. If this is your first time with these symptoms or you have them more than once every few months, head to your doctor.

UTIs aka Urinary Tract Infections
Ow owowowowoowowowoww. Guys, pee after sex. Every time. They do not show this bit in movies or on TV, but you cannot skip straight to sweet cuddles after a sex sesh. Head to the bathroom, have a pee, wipe the area with warm water. UTIs feel basically like your urethra is made of hell fire. If it hurts to pee, head to your doctor for some antibiotics (why you cannot get UTI medication over the counter I will NEVER know). Also drink tons of water and, if you can get a hold of it, plain cranberry juice (none of this “cocktail juice blend” biz).

Bacterial Infections
So, your vagina is full of bacteria all the time, it is just usually full of “good” bacteria. When the balance is thrown off for whatever reason—new soap, change in frequency of sex, new exercise regime, just whatever—you can end up with bacterial vaginosis, which mostly means your ‘gine will be producing a cloudy, fishy-smelling discharge. It can also make your pee smell. Cute. This will clear up almost immediately with medication but again, you gotta head to the doctor to get it.

Ingrown Hairs and Infected Follicles
Ahhh, “Is it Herpes??”. An important member of the gynecological disaster family. Basically, these are blocked follicles that have become infected and filled with pus. The most common culprit is careless or overly-frequent hair removal which, duh, is traumatic for the area. While it looks like a big angry pimple, please do NOT try to squeeze or “pop” an ingrown hair. Rather, pat the area with a warm, damp towel and if the hair is visible, pull it out with a pair of tweezers. If you can’t see a hair, do not go digging, it might be an infected gland, or possibly, a cyst (see below). Simply place that warm damp towel on there for a few minutes and then leave it to air out. Then maybe go easy on the shaving for a while.

You can get these on the inside or outside of your body, and might not even be aware of them—sometimes they hurt, sometimes they’re just a lil lump, often filled with a clear fluid. If the cyst doesn’t hurt and is benign, it may just go away on its own. However if it’s hurting you or your doctor is concerned about it, you will probably be dealing with “drainage,” which sounds gross and is gross but ultimately is not that big a deal.

Bad Periods
We talkin’ crazy heavy flow, crazy bad cramps. Bad periods SUCK and can be truly debilitating. If you have really intense periods, one option is to talk to your doctor about what kinds of birth control will have what kinds of effects on it. The Mirena IUD, for instance, can lighten periods, while the copper IUD can worsen cramps. With really bad periods, I feel comfortable recommending a 100% Do What Your Body Feels policy. Want chocolate? Have some. Want to lie down? Do it. If you’re dealing with a tampon-AND-backup-pad situation, you deserve special treatment. Talk to your doctor about cramps management via medication and invest in some nice heating pads you can pop in the microwave and reuse.

STIs can take many forms, and treatment can range from “take one pill” to “you’re going to be using weird creams for the rest of your life.” Whether you’re experiencing a bad pee smell, a cluster of suspect bumps or sores, or just a ton of itching/pain, get thee to the doctor. Also, get regular STI tests! Guys. You are supposed to get them every time you have a new partner, no matter how safe you guys were being. Consider really doing that! Lots of sexual health clinics exist to help you get in, out, and tested quickly so you and your partners can have peace of mind. And remember: no glove, no love. Also remember: Google is lying to you, probably. You are not dying and most herpes outbreaks do NOT look like that.

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