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Why Do I Have a Sharp Pain in My Vagina?

If you have a sharp, stabbing pain in your vulva, it may be a sign of a health problem. Pelvic or vulvar pain is called vulvodynia.

This can be due to a variety of things. Some of them are sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like chlamydia and gonorrhea.

It can also be due to irritants such as topical products and sitting for long periods of time.

1. Yeast Infection

A sharp pain in the vulva (the internal organ and the skin and labia that form the outside genitalia) could be due to:

Yeast infections are very common and affect about 75% of women at some point. They are caused by the fungus Candida albicans and can be quite uncomfortable from itching to pain to thick, smelly discharge. The infection can be spread by mouth-to-genital contact and also through sexual activity. It’s possible to get a yeast infection even when using barrier methods, like condoms. Hormonal changes during pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause or sex can change the balance of bacteria in the body and allow Candida to grow uncontrollably. Taking antibiotics or having a weakened immune system can also let the fungus in.

Yeast infections can cause the same symptoms as some STIs (sexually transmitted infections) like chlamydia and gonorrhea, so it’s important to see a doctor to make sure it’s not an STD. If left untreated, it may turn into a pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) that can damage the reproductive organs and lead to infertility.

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2. Herpes

A lot of sexually transmitted infections, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, cause pelvic and vulvar pain. It’s important to see your OB-GYN and discuss STI testing with your partner. These infections can damage the reproductive organs and lead to infertility if they are not treated.

If you have genital herpes, you may also experience chronic vulvar pain. It’s known as vulvodynia, and doctors are not sure what causes it. Some vulvodynia treatments include ice packs, topical anesthetics, antidepressants, and acupuncture.

If you have genital herpes, your doctor will probably prescribe antiviral medicines to reduce the severity of outbreaks and help you avoid infecting others. The medicines can help you heal faster and get rid of your herpes cores more quickly. You can take herpes medication on a daily basis to suppress the virus and prevent herpes outbreaks.

3. Trauma

A sharp pain in the vulva (vulva, vaginal opening, clitoris and labia) could be caused by an infection; irritation from hygiene or birth control aids; inflammation from an injury or surgery; or a medical condition like pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, a pelvic tumor, bladder or bowel issues, scar tissue or ovarian cysts.

Non-obstetric traumas that can cause pain in the vulva include being kicked or kneed in the groin, sports injuries, a car accident or jet ski injury. Sexual assault, sex abuse or non-consensual sex can also lead to sexual dysfunction and painful intercourse.

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Pregnancy can also trigger a painful sensation in the vulva known as lightning crotch. This happens when the fetus drops lower into the pelvis to prepare for labor and delivery. It’s not common and only some women experience it. Often, people with vulvodynia experience emotional trauma along with their physical symptoms. Hutcherson says that for her patients, healing can involve talk therapy and building an intimate relationship with the body through things like erotica or pelvic massages. Sometimes, she has her clients bring a trusted partner into the process.

4. Urinary Tract Infections

A urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when bacteria or other micro-organisms infect the urethra, bladder, and/or kidney. This condition is common in women, but it can affect men and babies too. Women with this condition often experience a sharp pain in their pelvic region. The pain is usually triggered by a touch in the area, such as inserting a tampon or sexual intercourse.

UTIs can be very irritating and uncomfortable, but the good news is they respond quickly to antibiotic treatment. Make sure to complete the full course of antibiotics to ensure your symptoms improve and that you don’t get a more serious illness like sepsis.

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It’s important to use a safe lubricant when having sex, but vulva pain may also be caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as gonorrhoea, herpes, and chlamydia. Some STIs have no symptoms at all, but can damage the reproductive organs and cause infertility. See your doctor to find out if this is the case for you.

5. Cancer

There are six types of gynaecological cancer that can cause sharp stabbing pain in your vulva. The most common is squamous cell carcinoma which begins in the flat cells that line your vagina. Another type of vulvar cancer is clear cell adenocarcinoma which starts in gland cells, and a rarer form of vulvar cancer is melanoma which starts in the skin cells that give your vulva its colour.

Vulvar cancer is less common than cervical cancer. But like with cervical cancer, it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible if you experience unexplained symptoms.

Your doctor may want to do a pelvic exam and a Pap smear (Pap test). They may also use a tool called a speculum to feel for lumps or abnormalities. They’ll ask you questions about how long you’ve been experiencing the pain and how intense it is. Your doctor may also suggest that you keep a pain diary to help identify patterns of when and where the pain occurs. Then your doctor can determine what is causing it and the best treatment plan for you.