Can exercise cause vaginal pain?

We all know exercise is important for good overall health so isn’t it ironic that exercising can cause some unpleasant vaginal discomforts? Exercising can create conditions that cause vaginal irritation and allow harmful microbes to thrive. If you experience vaginal pain during or after exercising, don’t worry. A few simple changes can make a big difference. Don’t let vaginal pain and irritation keep you out of the gym!

What are the common causes of exercise related vaginal pain?

Many of us are familiar with the discomforts of friction, pressure and moisture that our workout can generate but we often overlook the fact that these can affect our vaginal health. Generalised pain in the vulva region, redness, swelling and itch are common vaginal irritations associated with exercise.

These types of discomforts could easily be caused by wearing tight, poorly fitting or synthetic workout wear which traps sweat and moisture and can cause pressure and friction-related vaginal pain. If you do aerobics, run, jog, cycle or spin, your clothing may be putting pressure on and rubbing against your vulva. This causes friction that can damage and irritate the delicate skin in your intimate area.

You may notice an increase in vaginal discharge during or after exercise. This is normal, particularly if you use exercise bikes or sweat a lot. Many women sweat heavily in the genital area while working out. If your clothing doesn’t wick or breathe, it traps in moisture. This can make irritation worse, creating perfect conditions for a vaginal microbial infection.

Vaginal yeast infections love warm, moist conditions. If you have itching and thick, white ‘cottage cheese’ discharge you probably have a yeast infection. Other microbial infections, such as BV (bacterial vaginosis) come with thin greyish discharge and a bad, fishy smell. Take action if you recognise these symptoms - they can often be easily treated with effective selfcare products.

With a few simple changes and attention to hygiene pre- and post-workout, you can avoid most, if not all these common, exercise-related vaginal health problems.

Make these simple changes to avoid exercise related vaginal pain

Wear the right clothing to work out: Review your full exercise wardrobe. Synthetic, tight leggings or workout pants might be your preference, but many of these items aren’t made of breathable fabric and can cause friction during exercise. Avoid wearing a thong and choose cotton underwear. Looser workout clothes, made from natural materials that allow moisture to escape and evaporate, are a better choice. If you insist on a tight fit - choose a cotton mix or another breathable, natural fabric.

Keep it clean! If possible, shower straight after your workout. If that’s not possible at the gym, gently wash your vaginal area and at the very least change your sweat-soaked clothes, panties and pants before heading out or home. Practice good vaginal hygiene at all times.

Apply a protective cream or balm: This can help avoid friction burns and chaffing in the intimate area. Talcum powder is no longer recommended. A thin layer of emollient cream, such as Vaseline does a better job. Apply before exercising. After your workout -particularly if you use an exercise bike – apply a Multi-Gyn compress to give immediate, cooling relief to your external intimate area.

Try something different: Cycling puts pressure on your vulva – so why not mix it up a little and try some other activities to see if your condition improves.

Don’t ignore your symptoms: Some vaginal itching or irritation after a hard workout isn’t unusual. If it persists, don’t wait for it to go away on its own. You may have a microbial infection.