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6 Down-There Symptoms Women Shouldn't Ignore

While some vaginal aches and pains are totally normal, others need medical attention. Here’s how to tell the difference.

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It may be easy to convince yourself that lower belly aches and pains are just other annoying symptoms of, well, being a woman. But sometimes pain, discomfort and other icky, sometimes embarrassing, symptoms could be a sign of something more serious.

That’s why we spoke with Renee Cotter, MD, an OBGYN with West Hills Hospital & Medical Center in California to learn more about the down-there symptoms women should never ignore.

Medically reviewed in August 2019.

Bloating and Pelvic Pain

2 / 7 Bloating and Pelvic Pain

Having occasional constipation, drinking carbonated beverages and developing excessive gas after eating certain foods may cause you to feel bloated. But if you can rule out diet or a minor intestinal problem, you should probably schedule an appointment with your OBGYN. Bloating can sometimes indicate an ovarian tumor or ovarian cancer, explains Dr. Cotter.

You also need to talk to your healthcare provider (HCP) if you’re experiencing bloating with pelvic pain. This dangerous duo could signal diverticulitis or another gynecological problem, Cotter adds.

Abnormal Bleeding

3 / 7 Abnormal Bleeding

A single episode of spotting doesn’t necessarily spell trouble, but if it’s a “heavy, persistent, prolonged or painful problem” you should have it checked out, says Cotter. Your HCP will likely perform an ultrasound and a Pap test, look for polyps in the cervix and uterus and run labs to check for hormone problems.

However, “postmenopausal bleeding is always a concern,” and you should make an appointment with your OBGYN as soon as possible, Cotter advises. “Our first concern is to rule out cancer,” she adds. Your HCP will examine you for cervical and endometrial (uterine) cancer, as well as endometrial/cervical polyps and other irregularities.

Discharge

4 / 7 Discharge

“All women should have some discharge,” says Cotter, and it varies based on your age and method of birth control.

  • If you are not on birth control, discharge should have “the consistency of a raw egg white” before and at ovulation, and become “thick, smooth and white” after ovulation.
  • If you are on oral contraceptives, you will have a thick, white discharge all month long.
  • If you have an IUD, you'll have a slightly heavier discharge.
  • If you are menopausal and not on hormone replacement therapy, you may experience “atrophic vaginitis, [which] causes a yellow-mustardy discharge” or little discharge at all.

Talk to your HCP if discharge is an abnormal color or smells, or if it is painful or itchy.

Frequent Urination

5 / 7 Frequent Urination

“Frequent urination is a common complaint in women,” says Cotter. While drinking too much caffeine or alcohol may cause women to pee more often, overactive bladder (OAB) could also be the culprit.

If a woman has OAB, her urge to go is so strong that she may have an accident before getting to the bathroom. Stimuli like the sound of running water or a shower may also cause accidents, Cotter says.

On the other hand, constantly feeling the need to pee could indicate a urinary tract infection, while an increase in frequency may be a sign of diabetes or fibroids. Bottom line: Talk to your HCP if you have the urge to go more often than usual.

Itching

6 / 7 Itching

That persistent, embarrassing itch down there may be a yeast infection. Its usual triggers include certain antibiotics, eating too much sugar and hormonal problems. Yeast infections may cause a “cottage cheese-like discharge [that is] white or green,” says Cotter. Luckily, OTC meds can treat the infection.

However, itching accompanied by a burning sensation could signal bacterial vaginosis, which causes a “watery, smooth and white discharge that smells fishy,” and should be examined by your HCP, Cotter adds.

If you’re feeling itchy down there and have been diagnosed with HPV, you should see an HCP; it could be a symptom of vulvar cancer.

Pelvic Pain

7 / 7 Pelvic Pain

Sure, a little pain down there is practically a given during your time of the month, but persistent pelvic pain could be a symptom of endometriosis.

Endometriosis occurs when the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus. That extra lining is actually trapped in the body, so it may cause cysts on the ovaries or develop scar tissue and adhesions. This causes intense pelvic pain, especially during menstruation.

Other reasons you may have pelvic pain include adenomyosis (when tissue lining the uterus grows into the uterine wall), pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids, Cotter says.

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