Three Common Vaginal Problems You May Someday Experience

How to Recognize Yeast Infections, Trichomoniasis, and Bacterial Vaginosis

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Most women experience vaginal problems at some point in their life. The three most common vaginal issues women deal with are vaginal yeast infections, trichomoniasis, and bacterial vaginosis.

Vaginal Yeast Infections

Yeast is the most common cause of vaginal infection. This type of infection is caused by a fungus and affects the vagina and the surrounding vulvar area.

Three out of four women have at least one vaginal yeast infection during their lifetimes.

The symptoms of vaginal yeast infections include itching; a thick, white vaginal discharge that may look like cottage cheese; pain during sexual intercourse; redness; burning; soreness; swelling; and general vaginal irritation. Not every woman experiences all of these ​symptoms.

Some women experience frequent yeast infections, so they are familiar with the symptoms and the course of treatment recommended for them. But if this is the first time you are having such symptoms, it's important to see your doctor in order to get a formal diagnosis and rule out other possibilities. You don't want to begin treating yourself when there's a chance your symptoms could indicate something else entirely. The treatment for a yeast infection won't cure an STI or bacterial vaginosis, putting you at risk for complications from those conditions.


Trichomoniasis is the most common curable sexually transmitted infection (STI). The time between exposure to trichomoniasis and the onset of symptoms can be anywhere from five to 28 days. While some women don't experience any symptoms, other women have symptoms such as a yellowish-greenish vaginal discharge, a foul vaginal odor, pain during sexual intercourse, pain during urination, vaginal itching and general irritation and, in rare cases, ​pelvic pain.

If you suspect you may have trichomoniasis, you should discontinue sexual intercourse and see your doctor immediately. If your doctor diagnoses trichomoniasis, your sexual partner(s) should be diagnosed and receive treatment if necessary. Sexual intercourse should not resume until both you and your partner are treated and symptom-free. If it is not treated, you are at a higher risk of getting HIV if you are exposed.

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common cause of vaginal discharge in women during their reproductive years. It is not an infection. Rather, BV develops when the normal balance of bacteria that colonize in the vagina gets thrown off by overgrowth. While there is not a definitive answer about what causes BV, a few factors are known to raise your risk of contracting it, including having a new or multiple sexual partners, using vaginal douches, having an intrauterine device (IUD), and failure to practice safe sex by not using a condom during every act of sexual intercourse.

The most common symptom of BV is a fish-like vaginal odor, as well as an abnormal vaginal discharge that is white or gray and that can be either watery or foamy.

A Word From Verywell

Be sure to discuss any vaginal discomfort and symptoms with your doctor at your regular checkups, even if they are minor.

For any irritating symptoms, see your doctor to ensure you get the correct treatment.


Bacterial vaginosis. Published April 18, 2017.

Trichomoniasis. Published June 12, 2017.

Vaginal yeast infections. Published August 3, 2017.