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‘My Vagina Smells and Is Itchy, Is That Normal?’

Advice for a young person about why their vagina smells and itches.

My name is D and i am 13 in 10 days. I started my period a couple of days before my 12th birthday. For the last year or so i have had a really bad smelling vagina, it seems to smell most when im nervous or really hot. I also have white discharge all the time and can often make me itch or feel raw. Is this normal? What can I do to help it? I have heard of vagisil, how old do you have to be to buy that? Im too embarrassed to go to my local doctors, friends or family members, Thanks:)

Hi D

Thanks for your question. Sorry it’s taken a while for me to get back to you.

This is one of those times where I’m going to give you a bit of information but I really think you should probably speak to a doctor, friend or family member. More on this in a bit but first the information.

Vagina Smell

So all vaginas have a smell and they differ from person to person. Sometimes a vagina doesn’t smell very much and other times it smells a lot. This can vary over the menstrual cycle (from the start of your period till before the next one) but also if you’re hot or stressed. It might be that you don’t know this or you don’t know what your vagina usually smells like. However if it’s smelling unusually badly then it could be a sign of something else (see below).

White Discharge

And all vaginas have white discharge (you may notice it changing in colour and texture during your cycle), this is totally normal. The vagina cleans itself (clever vagina) and it’s the discharge that does that. The vagina has it’s own healthy bacteria and pH levels (science thing) that keeps it clean so there is no need to clean inside your vagina yourself. However discharge which is causing pain or itchiness could be a sign of something else.

The Something Else

The symptoms you describe could be something else. You haven’t mentioned it but I guess you haven’t had sex with anyone (these symptoms are sometimes signs of an STI) which mean that it might be either thrush or BV. They are very common and it’s very likely that someone in your family has had it or knows someone who has. There are even adverts on the telly about thrush.

These are quite common infections and are caused by the bacteria or the pH levels in your vagina being disturbed – often through washing. Sometimes people really don’t like the smell of their vagina or the discharge so they spend a lot of time washing it with soap – this actually makes things worse not better because it stops the vagina cleaning itself.

These infections are easily treated and can be prevented but it’s probably not something that you can deal with by yourself. There’s more information about some of your symptoms and what it *might* be here (remember I’m not a doctor, so I don’t know).

The Bit Where I Encourage You To Tell Someone In Real Life

To get treatment you need to tell someone I reckon. There are treatments that you can buy from a pharmacy but I think they will encourage you to see a doctor or to speak to your parents instead.

You could go to a young people’s sexual health service or a Brook Centre near you (click here to see what services are near you). Young people’s clinics and Brook Centres aren’t allowed to tell anyone that they’ve seen you unless they think that you are at serious risk of harm. They are also free. However I also think that they would encourage you to speak to an adult you know and trust too.

It can be really hard to talk about sex in real life. It sometimes feel easier to ask sex educators you don’t know on the internet (*waves*), but sometimes we have to do things that are difficult and this is one of those times. But how?

  • Pick the right person to ask. Who can you talk to? Who do you think might be the most supportive?
  • Pick a good time to ask. Find a bit of private time. A lot of people like to talk about this stuff when they are being driven somewhere (not on the bus though) or if they are washing the pots together.
  • Practice what you are going to say “I have an itchy smelly vagina and I think I might have thrush” or “I think I might have thrush.” You could also just write it down and pass it to the person. Or send them a link to this page.

However you do it though, please do it 🙂 and let me know how it goes in the comments below.

Here’s some more Bishness that might help you

Talking to Parents About Sex some advice on how to ask for advice

Going to a Sexual Health Service more about what going to a clinic might be like

Vagina more about discharge and smells

© Justin Hancock, 2014

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