How's your vagina? The five signs something could be wrong down there

It might not always seem obvious when something is wrong with your vagina but there are some key signs to be looking out for.

Along with 'why does my pee smell?' and 'what's causing my tongue pain?', common vagina problems are one of the most searched topics online. 

It might not always seem obvious when something is wrong with your vagina but there are some key signs to be looking out for.

Consultant Gynaecologist Anne Henderson says it’s crucial to know what’s going on down there: ‘One of the main reasons people don’t treat infections is because they don’t know they have one as they simply don’t know the symptoms.’

It’s important to check your intimate area several times a year to check for any changes. But what should we be looking out for?


Whilst discharge tends to be a healthy bodily function, Anne explains that problems with discharge can start ‘when you have an overgrowth of certain bacteria or pathogens’.

‘If you have a heavy white discharge, this may be thrush presenting itself. At the beginning, it is often very thick; severe thrush can be like cream cheese or cottage cheese. It can have also have obvious particulate lumps in it.’

Anne adds that runny, watery, or grey discharge can indicate bacterial vaginosis (BV), caused by specific garnerella bacteria.

‘Self-tests such as Canestest Self-Test for Vaginal Infections will help you quickly identify if your pH levels have changed and if you are experiencing thrush or BV. Once you have your diagnosis, you can effectively treat any changes’, adds Anne.


The reasons for it itching can vary from an infection such as thrush, to a reaction to underwear or clothing. Vaginal itching can also be caused by vaginal dryness, often onset by the menopause.

Anne explains: ‘If you have vaginal itching, wear cotton underwear rather than polyester. Try and use non-bio washing powders rather than aggressive washing powders, because if that’s on your underwear, you’re putting that directly on the vulva.’

As well as this try using organic sanitary tampons, which are less likely to cause irritation and adverse symptoms in the delicate genital area.’


Pain during sex shouldn’t be ignored, ‘particularly if it has never happened before,’ says Anne.

She adds: ‘If you are experiencing pain due to vaginal dryness, it could be a symptom of the menopause or a hormonal imbalance due to a lack of oestrogen. This can be treated effectively with local oestrogen replacement, which is very safe and not absorbed systemically into the body.’

Pain during sex could also indicate thrush. Pain AND bleeding may even indicate an STI or cervix inflammation, so do see you’re GP.

Change in odour

Whilst vaginal odour does change throughout the month, it’s important to start getting to know what’s going on down there and what’s normal for you.

‘If you notice a dramatic change combined with an increase or change in discharge, it may represent a problem, which needs to be checked out,’ says Anne.

‘A change in discharge combined with a fishy odour could likely be Bacterial Vaginosis. If you suspect you have BV, you should be able to treat symptoms quickly within a week with a pH balancing gel, such as Canesbalance BV gel.’


Don’t be too worried as most lumps or bumps on the vulval area are benign and harmless.

‘However, in very rare cases, new lesions can indicate more serious pathology, including vulval pre-cancer or cancer,’ explains Anne.

‘Vulval cancer can present either as an ulcer or open sore which is commoner than a lump or cystic swelling. The affected area can also be uncomfortable, with burning discomfort and itching, but some cases are asymptomatic. Changes such as this should always be checked promptly by your GP.’

Lucy Gornall is the former Health & Fitness editor at Future and a personal trainer specializing in pre and post-natal exercise.