Vaginal and vulval health

The vulva is the outside part of the female genitals. At the top of the vulva is the mons pubis. Below the mons pubis there are two folds of skin called the labia majora (outer lips) and labia minora (inner lips).

Every vulva is unique in terms of shape, size, colourings and differences between the right and left labia. These differences are normal.

It’s a good idea to use a mirror to look at your own vulva. This will help you become more familiar with what is normal for you and notice any changes in thing like colour, bumps, thickening or thinning or the skin or dry skin.

The vagina is a muscular canal about 10 centimetres long that extends from the cervix (neck of the uterus) to the vaginal entrance. The vagina has three functions:

  • it is where the menstrual blood leaves the body during a period
  • it is where the penis is inserted during sexual intercourse
  • it is the birth canal (where a baby comes out of the woman’s body during childbirth)

Causes and symptoms

Common vaginal and vulval symptoms include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Skin cracking or splitting
  • Whitening of the skin
  • Vaginal inflammation or discharge
  • Lumps
  • Ulcers

Some common causes include:

  • allergy and hypersensitivity (soap, laundry detergent, toilet paper, sanitary pads, underwear)
  • skin conditions (dermatitis, psoriasis)
  • infections (thrush, genital herpes, genital warts)
  • vulvodynia (pain in the vulva)
  • vulval varices (varicose veins)

Diagnosis, management and treatment

If you have irritation, discomfort or other symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor as many issues can be treated and symptoms relieved.

To diagnose the cause, a doctor will take your medical history and conduct a physical examination. They may take urine samples, vaginal swabs or blood tests.

The treatment will depend on the cause of your vulval or vaginal problem and can include creams/ointments, avoiding certain products, lifestyle changes and medication.

Family Planning Tasmania Services

We can help by assessing and diagnosing your vaginal and vulval problems, and helping with management, which may include:

  • Medication
  • Creams/ointments
  • Avoiding certain products
  • Lifestyle changes

If you need assistance, advice or treatment for vaginal and vulval health or any other sexual or reproductive health issue, please make an appointment with one of our friendly doctors.

This content is provided for general information and education purposes only and does not take into account individual circumstances. It is not to be relied on in substitution for specific advice from a medical professional and Family Planning Tasmania does not accept responsibility for such use. Family Planning Tasmania has taken every effort to ensure that the information is up to date and accurate, however information and knowledge is subject to change. Family Planning Tasmania advises that you always consult a medical professional for individual advice.

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