Relieve Genital Pain

Ana Labate (

Ana Labate (

Remedies That Relieve Genital Pain in Women

Ladies, have you ever worn too-tight jeans that rubbed your crotch raw…developed an itchy all-over rash that really did go everywhere…or had a sore or an infection (or even a cut from shaving the bikini area) that made your private parts painful or tender?

When discomfort occurs “down there”—especially when there is an open sore or when pain is accompanied by other symptoms that could indicate an infection, such as a fever or vaginal discharge—of course you need to contact your doctor so he or she can diagnosis the complaint and prescribe treatment. To relieve simple chafing or other minor injuries or irritations, though, there often are steps you can take at home that bring relief, said Joel M. Evans, MD, gynecologist and director of the Center for Women’s Health in Stamford, Connecticut. In some cases, the remedies suggested below also can alleviate discomfort while you wait for your doctor-prescribed treatment to take effect.

Complaint: A cut or sore in the genital area…

If you’ve nicked yourself shaving your bikini area or otherwise injured your genital area, you’ll need to give yourself some TLC for a few days to let the problem heal—not easy in an area where everything rubs together. If you’ve got genital herpes, you’ll have already discussed how to handle outbreaks with your doctor, such as by taking oral antiviral medication. But with herpes sores, as with cuts, it’s important to keep the area very clean, Dr. Evans said.

To that end, after using the toilet, wipe yourself thoroughly but gently with moistened toilet paper, then pat the area dry with clean toilet paper. Dr. Evans did not recommend using disposable premoistened wipes because these may contain irritating chemicals.

To soothe sores or cuts as they heal, Dr. Evans suggested the twice-daily application of a topical ointment containing aloe, calendula or shea butter. If your discomfort is severe or extremely distracting, ask your doctor about using a prescription topical cream that contains a painkilling agent, such as lidocaine, for a few days.

Complaint: External itchiness, irritation, inflammation or rash…

Chafing (for instance, from very tight pants or overzealous cycling) and allergic reactions or sensitivities (to laundry products, personal-care products, clothing fabrics, even toilet paper) are two main reasons why women can end up with a hot, itchy rash or other type of irritation in the genital area. Your first order of business is to do some detective work to figure out the cause. “Go over everything you’ve done in the past few days that is different from your normal routine,” Dr. Evans suggested. If you identify a possible suspect, such as a new type of shower gel or new brand of laundry detergent or toilet paper, your course of action is clear—stop using it!

In the meantime, for relief, apply an ice pack to the affected region for 15 minutes or so two or three times daily. You can use an icy gel pack (available at drugstores)…create your own ice pack by placing ice chips in a plastic bag and wrapping it in a towel…or use a bag of frozen peas (peas are small enough to mold comfortably to the shape of your body). Whatever you use, do not apply the ice pack directly to the skin because this could damage the skin—instead, put a thin cloth between you and the ice pack.

It’s also helpful to take a cool oatmeal bath once or twice daily—the oatmeal soothes, moisturizes and coats irritated skin. You can buy ready-made oatmeal bath products (such as Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment Colloidal Oatmeal Skin Protectant or a similar generic brand)…or make your own by running a cup of whole oats through the blender and adding them to the bath water. Soak for 10 to 20 minutes, using only your hands to wash yourself (no soap, washcloth or loofah, which could cause further irritation). Then dry off gently but thoroughly.

Until the area is healed, wear all-cotton underwear (no thongs)…opt for thigh-high or knee-high hose rather than pantyhose…and stick with loose-fitting cotton clothing as much as you can. Avoid panty liners and pads, which can trap moisture, slowing down healing.

Complaint: Internal vaginal itching or irritation…

Though a common culprit here is a recurrent or chronic yeast infection, you don’t want to make assumptions. “It’s best not to use an over-the-counter anti-yeast product on your own because you cannot be sure that you have a yeast infection without going to the doctor. Yeast infections are often confused with bacterial infections, and the treatments are vastly different,” Dr. Evans said.

Until you can get to the doctor’s office, for temporary relief, try taking frequent baths or sitz baths (using a plastic bowl that sits on top of your toilet seat so you can soak your pelvic area without getting your whole body wet). Use cool water, and soak for about 10 to 20 minutes two or three times daily. “Bathing helps soothe the internal irritation and the itching because it dilutes the offending agent,” Dr. Evans said.

If it turns out that you are prone to chronic or recurrent yeast infections, for long-lasting relief, you and your doctor will need to work together to determine the underlying cause and find a solution. For example, you might start by trying to identify a trigger, such as latex condoms, and see whether switching to a nonlatex brand helps. Lifestyle changes—such as avoiding sugar, white flour and alcohol…reducing stress…and getting more sleep—also may help with chronic yeast infections. Your doctor also may suggest one week of nightly use of a natural douche or vaginal suppositories made with boric acid to help correct the vaginal pH. Products that Dr. Evans often recommends to his patients include Arden’s Powder Vaginal Cleansing Douche and Yeast Arrest boric acid suppositories.

Important: If you notice any painless genital symptom—lesion, bump, cyst, discharge—that does not go away within a few days, contact your doctor. Certain sexually transmitted diseases and genital cancers cause no pain at the outset but absolutely must be treated.

Source: Joel M. Evans, MD, clinical assistant professor, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York City, and founder and director, The Center for Women’s Health, Stamford, Connecticut. Dr. Evans is the coauthor of The Whole Pregnancy Handbook (Gotham).

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