Vaginal swelling may happen from time to time, and it’s not always a cause for concern. Periods, pregnancy, and intercourse can all cause swelling in the vaginal area, including the vaginal lips (labia).

Sometimes, swelling may be the result of another condition, disease, or disorder. In these cases, it’s important to understand what’s causing the swelling and what can be done to treat it.

If you develop a fever of 101°F (38°C) or higher, begin experiencing severe pains, or start bleeding heavily, seek emergency medical treatment.

Keep reading to learn more about some of the most common causes of vaginal swelling and what you can do to ease your symptoms.

Chemicals in everyday products like laundry detergent and bubble bath can irritate the sensitive skin of the vagina, vulva, and labia. So can perfumed products and harsh toilet paper.

If you’ve switched to a new product or developed a sensitivity, you may experience swelling, itching, and burning around your vagina.

What you can do

Stop using a product you think might be affecting your vagina. If the irritation clears, you should avoid the product to avoid future swelling and discomfort. But if the swelling remains, you may need to talk with your doctor. They may prescribe a cream to help ease the swelling and other symptoms.

Items you use directly in or around your vagina can also irritate the tissue and lead to itching, irritation, and swelling.

This includes feminine hygiene products like:

What you can do

Stop using the product you think might be responsible for the irritation. If you aren’t sure, consult your doctor. If the swelling stops after you cease using the product, you know the guilty culprit. If the swelling remains or gets worse, see your doctor.

If the vagina isn’t properly lubricated during sexual intercourse, the friction can cause discomfort during sex and create problems after.

Likewise, trauma from sexual assault may cause vaginal swelling, pain, and irritation.

What you can do

In most cases, you won’t need treatment. Use an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever until the swelling and sensitivity ends.

Rough intercourse can tear the skin inside the vagina, so watch for signs of infection, such as discharge and fever.

If you’ve experienced sexual assault or were forced into any sexual activity, you should seek care from a trained healthcare provider. Organizations like the offer support for survivors of rape or sexual assault. You can call RAINN’s 24/7 national sexual assault hotline at 800-656-4673 for anonymous, confidential help.

A careful balance of good bacteria to protect the vaginal environment and keep tabs on potentially bad bacteria and other organisms keeps the vagina healthy. Sometimes, the bad bacteria grow too rapidly and outnumber the good bacteria. This can lead to symptoms of bacterial vaginosis (BV).

In addition to swelling, you may experience:

  • itching
  • burning
  • a fishy odor or discharge

BV is the vaginal infection in women ages 15 to 44, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s not clear why BV develops, but it’s more common in people who have sex. However, people who’ve never had sex can develop it, too.

What you can do

Some people won’t need treatment for BV. The bacterial balance may restore itself naturally. If symptoms are bothersome, these home remedies may help.

If you’re still experiencing symptoms after a week, you should see your doctor. They may prescribe an antibacterial medication. These medications may be taken by mouth, or you may use a gel that’s inserted into the vagina.

A yeast infection occurs when one or more Candida fungal species (commonly Candida albicans) grows beyond typical amounts in the vagina. women experience at least one yeast infection in their lifetimes.

In addition to swelling, a yeast infection may cause:

  • discomfort
  • burning
  • pain during urination
  • uncomfortable sexual intercourse
  • redness
  • cottage cheese-like discharge

Check out our color guide to vaginal discharge to see what’s normal and when you should see your doctor.

What you can do

Yeast infections can be treated with either OTC or prescription antifungal medication therapy. If you’ve had a yeast infection before, you may be able to use an OTC antifungal treatment to help clear up your symptoms.

But if this is your first yeast infection, you should see your doctor for diagnosis. Many other conditions are easily confused with a yeast infection, and if you don’t treat it properly, a vaginal infection could worsen.

An inflamed cervix (cervicitis) is often the result of a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

It’s caused by STDs like:

However, not everyone who develops cervicitis has an STD or other type of infection.

Some women may have cervicitis and show no symptoms at all. But in addition to swelling, cervicitis can also cause:

  • pelvic pain
  • bloody or yellow vaginal discharge
  • spotting between periods

What you can do

There isn’t one standard course of treatment for cervicitis. Your doctor will decide the best option for you based on your symptoms and the underlying cause of the inflammation.

At your doctor’s office, you’ll have a physical examination that will likely include a pelvic exam where they collect a swab of fluid from on top of or near the cervix area for analysis, to look for a possible infectious cause. Prescription medications, including antibiotic and antiviral medications, may help clear the inflammation and end symptoms if cervicitis was caused by an infection.

Genital herpes, which is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), is one of the STDs in the United States. According to the CDC, HSV infections are present in more than ages 14 to 49 years old.

In people who are infected, genital herpes causes clusters of small, painful blisters. These blisters tend to burst, and they may ooze a clear fluid. After they burst, the spots turn into painful sores that may take at least one week to heal.

In addition to swelling, you may also experience:

  • pain
  • fever
  • body aches

Not everyone with genital herpes will have an outbreak of blisters. Some people won’t have any symptoms at all, and others may see a bump or two they mistake for an ingrown hair or pimple. Even without symptoms, you can still pass the STD to a sexual partner.

What you can do

Treatment cannot cure genital herpes, but prescription antiviral medication can shorten and prevent outbreaks. Anti-herpes medication taken every day may also prevent the risk of sharing the herpes infection with a partner.

Pregnancy changes a lot about a woman’s body. As the fetus grows, pressure on the pelvis can cause blood to pool, and other fluids may not drain well. This can cause swelling, pain, and discomfort in the vagina. Learn other ways pregnancy may affect vaginal health.

What you can do

Lying down or resting frequently may help ease the drainage issues while you’re still pregnant. Once the baby is delivered, the swelling should end. However, if other symptoms occur — or the swelling and discomfort is too burdensome — talk with your doctor.

Gartner’s duct refers to the remnants of a vaginal duct that forms in a fetus. This duct typically goes away after birth. However, if a remnant remains, it could become attached to the vaginal wall, and cysts can develop there.

The cyst isn’t a cause for concern unless it begins to grow and cause pain, or becomes infected. An infected cyst can form an abscess. The cyst or abscess may be felt or seen as a mass outside the vagina.

What you can do

The treatment for a significant Gartner’s duct cyst or abscess is surgery. Removing the cyst or abscess should eliminate symptoms. Once it’s removed, symptoms should disappear.

Bartholin’s glands are located on either side of the vaginal opening. These glands are responsible for producing lubricating mucus for the vagina. Sometimes, these glands can become infected, fill with pus, and form abscesses.

In addition to vaginal swelling, a cyst or abscess can cause:

  • pain
  • burning
  • discomfort
  • bleeding

What you can do

Treatment for Bartholin’s cysts or abscesses isn’t always necessary. A small cyst may drain on its own, and symptoms will disappear.

A sitz bath — a warm, shallow tub filled with warm water and sometimes salt added in — may ease pain and discomfort. You can sit in the bath several times a day for up to a week to ease symptoms. You can buy online or at your local pharmacy.

However, if the signs and symptoms become too burdensome, your doctor may suggest putting you on antibiotic therapy to treat the infection. They may also suggest surgical draining of the cyst. In more severe cases, a Bartholin’s gland may need surgical removal.

Swelling in the vagina from time to time may not be a cause for concern.

You should see your doctor if:

  • other symptoms occur, such as fever or chills
  • your symptoms last for more than a week
  • the swelling becomes too painful

Your doctor may conduct a pelvic exam to look for a cause. They may also perform blood tests or specimen sampling to help detect possible STDs, and a tissue biopsy may need to be performed.

Until you see your doctor and have a diagnosis, refrain from sexual intercourse. This can help prevent sharing an STD with your partner.