Swollen Labia: Common Causes and Effective Natural Treatments

Swollen Labia: Common Causes and Effective Natural Treatments
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Although it can be an embarrassing problem to talk about, many women are affected by swollen labia. The lips or folds of skin at the opening of the vagina help to protect the vagina as it is a very sensitive area. Swelling in the labia minora or labia majora can happen if you have a yeast or bacterial infection, allergic reaction to chemicals, or if cysts develop in the vulva. However, pregnancy and sexual intercourse can also cause the lips at the vaginal opening to swell.

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Any kind of swelling in the labia will cause discomfort that can affect your daily activities. An infection can cause itchiness and burning sensation that give you a constant urge to scratch between your legs. Or, conditions that cause swollen labia can cause discomfort, pain, and even discharge.

In many cases, natural remedies are effective treatments for the symptoms of swollen labia. For example, natural ingredients like tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar, and coconut oil have antifungal and antibacterial properties that act as a natural antiseptic to soothe itchy labia and kill off infections. Even an everyday product like raw natural yogurt can help to improve your vaginal health and help to treat swollen labia.

In this article, you will learn the various reasons why swelling occurs in the labia and what natural remedies are effective in reducing swollen vaginal lips.

Swollen Labia – Possible Causes and Effective Natural Treatments

Yeast infection

A vaginal yeast infection is a common reason for swollen labia that is itchy and may have discharge. A healthy vagina needs a delicate balance of yeast and bacteria cells. If this balance is disrupted, then an overgrowth of Candida albicans fungi can infect the labia, vulva, and vagina.

Dr. Kathleen Romito on WebMD says that symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection are severe itching and vaginal discharge that is clumpy, white, but odorless. The yeast infection will also cause irritation and redness around the vaginal opening.1

There are various natural remedies to treat a vaginal yeast infection and reduce itching and swelling around the labia.

Tea tree oil for yeast infection

You can use the antifungal properties of tea tree oil to get rid of a yeast infection that is causing your vaginal area and labia to swell and itch. The journal Skin Pharmacology reported that tea tree oil kills off various fungal strains, including Candida albicans.2 Also research has shown that a natural way to treat vaginal Candidiasis is to insert tea tree oil suppositories into the vagina.3

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Coconut oil to treat vaginal yeast infections

Virgin coconut oil can also be used to treat the symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection such as severe itching in the genital area, vaginal discharge, and pain when urinating. Applying virgin coconut oil to the vaginal opening can help to reduce swelling around the labia, cure discharge, and soothe itching, and pain. In fact, research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food showed that coconut oil was as effective as fluconazole in clearing yeast infection symptoms. Fluconazole is an antifungal medication commonly used to treat yeast infections.4

How to use tea tree oil and coconut oil for swollen labia

You can make your own natural antifungal treatment at home to treat a swollen labia which is a result of a vaginal yeast infection. This is what you should do:

  • Gently warm 1 tbsp. virgin coconut oil and add 2-3 drops of tea tree oil and mix well.
  • Soak a tampon in the tea tree oil remedy to absorb the oil.
  • Insert the tampon into your vagina and leave for 2 hours to kill off the yeast infection and reduce swelling in the labia.
  • Please remember to do a skin patch test to make sure you’re not allergic to tea tree oil or coconut oil.
  • Repeat the coconut oil treatment twice daily until the swelling in the labia minora and labia majora is completely gone, and you don’t have any itching and pain.

Alternatively, you can use the tea tree oil and coconut oil mixture as a healing ointment for your vaginal swelling. This is what you should do:

  • Apply a thin layer of the coconut oil remedy to your vaginal area to reduce the swelling, itchiness, and treat the infection that is causing discharge.
  • Apply the remedy 2-3 times a day until all signs of the infection are gone and you no longer have any discomfort and swelling your labia.

Apple cider vinegar to reduce symptoms of yeast infection

Raw unprocessed apple cider vinegar is an effective natural treatment for easing the discomfort of a vaginal yeast infection. Applying a solution of apple cider vinegar to your vulva will help to reduce swollen vaginal lips, soothe itchiness, and get rid of infections. Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid which helps to lower pH levels naturally and thus helps to stop vaginal itching.

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Studies into the beneficial effect of acetic acid on yeast infections have shown that it is an effective antifungal agent. For example, the journal Acta Microbilogica Bulgarica reported that acetic acid effectively kills off most strains of yeast.5 Other studies have shown that acetic acid can help to control the growth of Candida albicans.6

How to use apple cider vinegar to reduce labia swelling

It is very easy to make an apple cider vinegar solution to kill off yeast infections that cause the labia to swell and itch. This is what you should do:

  • Dilute equal parts of raw apple cider vinegar and water (never use undiluted ACV as it can burn the skin).
  • Soak a tampon in the cider vinegar remedy and insert into your vagina for 30-60 minutes to help kill off the yeast infection.
  • Remove the tampon and rinse the swollen vaginal area with warm water and pat dry.
  • Use the apple cider vinegar-soaked tampon 2-3 times a day until the swelling in your labia is completely cured.
  • Remember to do a skin patch test first of all to make sure that you don’t have an allergy to apple cider vinegar.

Yogurt to treat vaginal yeast infections

Consuming yogurt containing live bacteria can help to restore the normal bacteria balance in the body and treat vaginal yeast infections. You can consume yogurt or use it as a topical application. You can find detailed information in my article about yogurt for yeast infection: the complete guide.

Vaginitis

One cause of swelling in the labia minora or labia majora is vaginitis. Vaginitis is inflammation of the vagina, labia, and vulva and can affect women and girls of all ages. Some of the types of vaginitis that result in swollen labia are bacterial vaginosis, sexually transmitted diseases, and yeast infections.

According to Dr. Irina Burd on MedlinePlus, common symptoms of vaginitis or vulvovaginitis are inflammation and swelling of the genital area, itching around the labia, foul odor (“fishy” vaginal odor), and discomfort when urinating.7

To get rid of the genital discomfort and swelling caused by vaginitis, you should treat the underlying cause of the inflammation.

However, doctors on WebMD recommend some ways of preventing the symptoms of vaginitis.8 These are:

  • Avoid using perfumed products in or around your vagina.
  • Only take antibiotics if you really have to.
  • Don’t douche.
  • During your period, change the tampons at least 3 times a day. Don’t leave tampons in for more than 8 hours.

Bacterial infections

Bacterial infections can cause bacterial vaginosis which will cause the area around your labia to swell and become inflamed. Your vaginal health is dependent on the proper balance of bacteria in your vagina.

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Doctors from the Cleveland Clinic say that if the balance of bacteria in the vagina becomes disrupted, too much “bad” bacteria will grow in your genital area causing bacterial vaginosis (BV). This will result in a discharge that has a bad odor, burning when you pee, and swelling of your vagina lips.9

It’s important to visit your doctor if you have signs of a bacterial vaginal infection. Doctors aren’t sure of the best ways to prevent BV, however, you should eat healthily, exercise regularly, and manage stress levels to boost your health in general and boost your immune system.

You can also look after the health of your vagina and prevent inflammation and swelling by using raw, natural yogurt. A study published in 2012 found that probiotic natural yogurt can help to treat bacterial vaginosis in pregnant women. In fact, in the trial, probiotic yogurt was just as effective as clindamycin, a pharmaceutical drug often used to treat BV. It was found that applying yogurt to the vagina helped to treat bacterial vaginosis.

How to use:

To use raw yogurt to help restore the balance of good bacteria to your vagina and reduce labia swelling, this is what you should do:

  • Apply raw yogurt directly to your swollen labia to ease itching and reduce the swelling.
  • Or, dip a tampon in raw yogurt and insert into your vagina. Leave for 2 hours to help get rid of the BV symptoms.
  • Repeat the yogurt application 2 times a day until the swelling in the vaginal area is completely gone, and you don’t have any pain or itching.

If you notice that your symptoms get worse, you should visit your health care practitioner as soon as possible.

Bartholin’s cyst and abscess

Swelling of your vagina lips could be caused by an abscess or a cyst. The Bartholin’s glands are located on either side of your vagina and they secrete fluid that helps to keep the vagina lubricated.

Dr. Sarah Marshall on WebMD says that if these glands become blocked, fluid will build up. This can create a lump in the vaginal area causing the folds of skin at the vaginal opening to swell. You may also experience discomfort and pain when walking or sitting.10  

How to treat labia swelling caused by a Bartholin’s cyst:

To get rid of swelling around your labia caused by a cyst of abscess, this is what Dr. Sarah Marshall recommends:11  

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  • Make a sitz bath by filling a bathtub with warm water, making sure that your vaginal area is covered.
  • Soak for 10-15 minutes to help increase blood flow to the swollen vaginal area that can help to drain the cyst.
  • Repeat the sitz bath daily until the cyst has gone and you don’t have any pain and swelling in the vaginal lips.

If the cyst doesn’t drain and continues to cause pain, you should visit your doctor who can remove the cyst. You should also visit your doctor if you notice that the labia becomes red and swollen around the cyst as this can indicate an infection or labial abscess.

Allergies

One reason for swelling in the folds of skin at your vaginal opening without discharge is an allergic reaction. The allergy could be caused by clothing, food, or a foreign object that has come into contact with your genitals.

The American Academy of Family Physicians says that allergic reactions to latex (condoms), sperm, tampons, or medication can cause labia swelling. Depending on the type of allergic reaction, you may have itchiness, redness, and pain along with the swelling at your vaginal opening.12

To prevent swelling in the labia majora or labia minora caused by an allergic reaction, you should try to identify the allergen and then avoid contact with it in the future.

Pregnancy

If you are pregnant, you may notice that your labia swell and this is a natural occurrence. Many pregnant women notice that vaginal swelling happens during the second and third trimester. Clear watery discharge during early pregnancy is also completely normal and you shouldn’t worry about it.

The reason for the vaginal lips swelling is that more blood flows to the vaginal area causing the weakened muscles there to swell.

You can help to relieve the swelling by placing a cold compress to your genitals. This can help to, not only reduce the size of your labia, but also provide relieve from itching and discomfort.

Swollen labia after intercourse

Many women experience swelling in their labia and vaginal region after sexual intercourse. The tissue at the opening of the vagina is very sensitive and friction can cause irritation and swelling. The swelling usually goes away on its own after the intercourse.

However, any of the causes of labia swelling mentioned in this article could also be a reason why your vaginal lips are slightly larger after having sex.

Applying a cold compress can help to reduce any inflammation around your genitals after intercourse. If you find that sexual intercourse frequently causes discomfort around your labia, you could try using lubricants to avoid irritation of the sensitive tissue in the vagina.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

Most sexually transmitted diseases cause some amount of swelling, redness, and itchiness in your labia and vaginal region.

Dr. Traci Johnson on WebMD says that many symptoms of STDs are similar to yeast infections. However, if the cause of swelling around your genitals is caused by STD, you need treatment by a professional medical doctor. This is important to prevent the infection from getting worse and spreading the STD to other people.

Genital Crohn disease

An inflammatory bowel disease can be a reason for swollen vaginal glands that cause the labia to look bigger. The condition is called genital Crohn disease.

According to dermatologist Dr. Calum Lyon at York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, granulomas can affect the skin around the genitals and block the lymph vessels there. This can cause swelling on just one side of the labia or on both labia sides at the same time.13

If you have inflammatory bowel disease and you notice swelling, skin tags, or abscesses around your vaginal lips, you should visit your doctor for a checkup and receive the proper treatment.

Read my other related articles:
1. Foods That Improve Your Vaginal Health
2. Natural Remedies for Vaginal Dryness
3. How to Get Rid of Vaginal Odor: The Best Natural Remedies

Article Sources

  1. WebMD. Vaginal yeast infections.
  2. Skin Pharmacol. 1996;9(6):388-94.
  3. Phytother Res. 2015 Oct;29(10):1628-33.
  4. J Med Food. Dec 2009, 10(2): 384-387.
  5. Acta Microbiol Bulg. 1990;25:24-30.
  6. J Appl Oral Sci. 2008 Nov-Dec;16(6):385-90.
  7. MedlinePlus. Vulvovaginitis – overview.
  8. WebMD. Vaginitis.
  9. ClevelandClinic. Bacterial vaginosis.
  10. WebMD. Bartholin gland cyst.
  11. WebMD. Bartholin gland cyst.
  12. WebMD. Yeast infection? Or something else?
  13. DermNetNZ. Genital Crohn disease.
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