Should I Wait for Sex Until My Vaginitis Is Cleared?
Many women experience vaginitis—an inflammation of the vagina that can result in discharge, itching and pain—at least once in their life.
Symptoms of vaginitis include vaginal itching or irritation, pain during sex, and light vaginal spotting or bleeding. In many cases, though, these symptoms are mild and easily treated. Generally, the condition varies from person to person.
However, a number of myths and misconceptions surround vaginitis.
If the symptoms are indeed mild enough and you feel well enough to have sex, you might wonder if it is safe to do so.
Can sex cause vaginitis?
In most cases, vaginitis isn't caused by sex, unless you have trichomoniasis. As trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), it can be spread through having sex without a condom; this includes vaginal, anal and oral sex.
That's why it's very important to get tested as soon as you show any symptoms.
Only 30 percent of people with trichomoniasis have symptoms, so you could spread the infection unknowingly. As this infection is more common in women, it's vital that they attend routine Pap smears, which can sometimes detect trich.
Treatment for trichomoniasis usually involves taking antibiotics for five to seven days, and most people respond well to it.
Once you and any sexual partners have been treated and the infection is gone, you can resume sex. This could take up to a week, but you should always wait until your doctor says it's safe to do so.
While the other causes of vaginitis, such as bacterial vaginosis (BV) and vaginal candidiasis (yeast infection) aren't directly caused by sex, they may still increase your chances of developing it. This is because any kind of sexual activity can introduce bacteria into the vagina, which can cause a bacterial imbalance, possibly leading to an infection.
In some cases, this is unavoidable. However, you can lower your risk by avoiding douching and scented products, wearing breathable underwear made from cotton, wiping front to back and changing your underwear after exercising.
Is it safe to have sex while living with vaginitis?
For all cases of vaginitis that don't involve trichomoniasis, it's safe to have sex, according to Monte Swarup, M.D., an OB-GYN based in Arizona and founder of the information site Vaginal Health Hub. Some women may prefer to wait until after treatment or until their symptoms disappear before having sex, but this is a preference.
In some cases, symptoms may clear more quickly by avoiding sex, Swarup added. This result varies from person to person, so take notice of any pain, irritation or discomfort that occurs during sex. If you have a worsening of symptoms, it's best to wait.
Can vaginitis be passed on during sex?
If you're wondering if BV or a yeast infection can be passed on during sex, then you don't need to worry.
"Vaginitis itself cannot be passed from one partner to another during sex, although if it is being caused by an STI, the STI can be transmitted," Swarup explained. "It is best to make sure that you don't have an STI before having sex."
While it's rare, there is a small chance of passing on a yeast infection during sex, so you should consider this before engaging in any sexual activity. If you are worried, you should use a condom during intercourse and avoid oral sex until the infection clears up.
Can sex make vaginitis worse?
If your symptoms are mild, you might not experience any pain or discomfort during sex. But for moderate to severe cases, it might be best to avoid it.
"Having sex while you have vaginitis may be uncomfortable and your vaginal inflammation might get worse," Swarup said.
The most common symptoms of vaginitis are a burning sensation in the vagina, itching and unusual or foul-smelling discharge. Understandably, having sex can make these symptoms worse when you have an active infection. It also may be unpleasant for you.
However, this doesn't apply to everyone. If you have mild symptoms or your symptoms have nearly cleared up, you can try having sex. If it's not painful or uncomfortable, you should be fine. Speak to your doctor if your symptoms worsen.
Should you wait until after treatment to have sex?
Depending on the cause of your vaginitis, it could clear up with the right treatment in a week or less. For some people, it's worth waiting that short time before having sex to prevent any discomfort.
"It's best to see your OB-GYN and find out what is causing your vaginitis," Swarup said. "Depending on the cause of your vaginitis, you might be able to have sex without worsening symptoms."
Don't try to self-treat at home since you won't know the cause and this can delay proper treatment. Always go to your doctor if you have any signs of vaginitis; it's nothing to be embarrassed about.
If you are experiencing signs or symptoms, telehealth makes it easy to connect with a doctor who can answer your questions and evaluate your situation. Many physicians offer video visits, which are a good way to see a doctor quickly. And if follow-up testing is required, you've established a relationship.
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