Vaginal Swelling: What It Is and Why a Swollen Vulva Happens

Fact Checked Medically reviewed by Tanja Premru-Sršen


Here’s something that we can all agree on: vaginal swelling isn’t a good experience. Depending on the severity, it can be anything from a nuisance to something needing serious medical attention.

If you want to be prepared should something like this happen, keep reading. We’ll cover its most common causes and how you can manage this condition.

What Causes a Swollen Vulva?

Vulvar swelling may or may not be serious, depending on the cause. If you want to avoid it, knowing what causes it is the best place to start.

All these factors may cause swelling on your vulva.

Rough Vaginal Intercourse

The vaginal area usually swells during sexual activity due to increased blood flow. But a combination of factors can cause the vagina to swell for more than a couple of hours after the session.

When there’s a lot of friction and not enough lubrication, vaginal irritation may occur. Rough intercourse can also result in tiny tears in the vaginal opening, contributing to some discomfort.

Usually, this isn’t anything to worry about. Any irritation that happens because of rough sex will resolve itself after a few hours.

But if it lasts more than that, see a doctor to make sure it’s nothing serious. You can also help ease the pain by using a water-based lubricant before any penetrative sexual encounter.

Yeast Infection

Vaginal yeast infections happen when there’s an overgrowth of the Candida fungal species. Here, the vaginal wall gets inflamed, causing a variety of symptoms.

The most common symptom is the presence of a cottage cheese-like, lumpy discharge. And as with any vaginal infection, there’d always be some form of inflammation—leading to a swollen vulva.

But don’t worry! As soon as you treat the yeast infection, everything should go back to normal.

Bartholin’s Cyst

Bartholin’s glands are found on both sides of the vaginal opening. When they get clogged, you get fluid buildups that eventually become Bartholin’s cysts.

Normally, these are soft but not painful at all. But if you leave them like that, they can enlarge to the point that sitting, walking, and sexual intercourse make the vulva painful.

If you experience any other symptoms with your Bartholin’s glands, seek the help of a healthcare provider immediately. The cysts may have developed into abscesses and painful blisters at that point.

Allergic Reactions

Your nether regions’ allergic reactions can cause your vulva to swell. In such cases, vaginal swelling subsides on its own. It’s good news because it means it’s nothing serious.

But if you’re prone to these allergic reactions and noninfectious vaginitis, you should be mindful of the products you’re using that come in contact with your genitalia. Condoms, feminine products, scented soaps, and laundry detergent may contain chemicals that irritate your intimate areas.

If chemicals are responsible, your swollen vaginal area should get better once you get rid of the offending products. Otherwise, you may need an antihistamine to remedy the situation.

Bacterial Vaginosis

When the bacterial balance in your vagina is disrupted, you may develop bacterial vaginosis.

For some women, it doesn’t come with any symptoms. Meanwhile, others experience various symptoms, including vaginal swelling, unusual discharge, and a burning sensation while urinating.

To treat bacterial vaginosis, you have to restore the balance between good and bad bacteria.

So if you’re experiencing any of the mentioned symptoms without a clear cause, going to a healthcare provider is your best option. They can figure out how to best treat bacterial infection.


There’s an increased blood flow and pressure in your pelvic region during pregnancy. This pressure only gets greater as the baby grows.

Because of this, you experience a general swelling on your hands, feet, and even your vulva. Your vulva, in particular, may develop prominent blood vessels just under the skin. These create the appearance of a swollen vulva.

In this case, you usually have nothing to worry about. If other symptoms accompany it, we advise you to monitor your situation more closely.


To improve your cardiovascular health, you may have decided to go cycling. But if you’re not used to it, you may get saddle sores—a phenomenon that occurs when you put too much pressure on your vulva.

Although it’s not guaranteed, proper cycling positioning can significantly reduce the pressure.

Symptoms of Swollen Vulva

The most obvious symptom of a swollen vagina is puffiness. You may also have redness and other symptoms, like abnormal vaginal discharge, painful urination, and maybe even bleeding.

But you have to remember that having a swollen vulva is often a reaction to the outside environment. There will always be an underlying cause.

Therefore, the symptoms depend on the underlying cause. If you decide to see a doctor, take note of all signs, regardless of whether or not you think they’re associated with your swollen vulva.

How Long Does It Last?

How long your vaginal swelling lasts depends on the underlying issue as well.

For example, pregnancy-caused vaginal swelling would most likely last until your body has recovered from giving birth.

A non-serious allergic reaction may also cause the vulva to swell. But typically, it would subside after a few hours.

Meanwhile, swelling from a bacterial or viral infection would probably not go away unless adequately treated.

What are the Treatments?

To reduce swelling, you may try the following:

Home Treatment

If the swelling comes with some discomfort, cool ice packs on the area will help address both swelling and pain. Gently massaging the site may also bring you positive results.

Also, wear loose clothing to avoid putting pressure on the vaginal area.

Over-the-Counter Medication

Is the pain a little more than you can bear? OTC pain medication can help you go through the day more efficiently.

If you suspect an allergic reaction causes it, look for antihistamines to remedy the situation. The swelling should subside when you remove its source.

Prescription Medication

Under certain circumstances, you’d need to go to the doctor to address the swelling. And depending on their assessment of your medical situation, they’d give you prescription antiviral, antifungal, or antibacterial medication.

Follow your doctor’s advice to the letter to permanently relieve your swollen vulva and any other vaginal symptoms you may be experiencing.

Final Thoughts

A swollen vagina is your body’s way of telling you that something’s wrong.

Listen to your body. And when in doubt, don’t hesitate to go to a healthcare provider for medical advice and treatment.