Q: What’s wrong with my vagina?
A: Oh shit, that’s a bartholin cyst.
The Bartholin Glands are two little glands on both sides of our vaginal opening– the most overlooked MVPs our vagina has. Their purpose? They make us wet!
While mostly they’re open and making sure everything runs smoothly, there’s potential for those openings to get clogged or infected. And that is called a Bartholin cyst.
Bartholin cysts are what happen when those glands get clogged up and those trapped fluids build up and create a marble-sized lump on the outside of our vagina (on either side of the opening). Most of us have had these; many of them come and go without much drama and sometimes even unnoticed– and sometimes not. These bad boys, when infected, raise hell.
A year ago I got my first Bartholin cyst, and not knowing what it was, I ignored it. The next day after a busy day of running around, the cyst was inflamed, huge, and mad as hell. Some people who have had children and bartholin cysts have said the cyst is more painful; so you can imagine the pain I was in. Freaked out of my mind and still not knowing what it was, I made my way to the ER (knowing any OB/GYN appointment was weeks away from available).
The doctor diagnosed it as a bartholin cyst and told me I had to have it cut open and drained. The pain and fear of the procedure were the perfect cocktail for the worst vaginal problem I’ve ever had. The doctor admitted the procedure and the aftermath were less than pleasant. After much needed Vicodin, the quick and mildly painful procedure began. The doctor sliced the cyst open and drained it, and put a catheter in the opening to let the rest of the juices make their way out. The catheter was the worst part for me; it was a weird little rubbery tube coming out of the outside of my vagina. It gave me the heebie-jeebies to the point of fainting. The next couple days consisted of a bed confined pity party, but eventually I was healed.
Here’s the thing with these suckers– once you get one, you’re prone to them (so lucky, right?!). The good news is they rarely escalated to where my first one got. There’s no precise cause or remedy to these mysterious lumps, but here’s what helps me keep mine at bay. Showering after sex has helped big time, it just rinses out all those pores and glands. When I feel I have a Bartholin cyst, my best friend is a hot water bottle. I sit with one as often as I can, and sleep with one between my legs. You can also ice those little suckers if they’re feeling hot and inflamed; if not, sitting in a hot bath with salts can also help keep them under control and encourage them to go down. I’m newly in love with acupuncture as it has helped keep both my Bartholin cysts and yeast infections away. Acupuncture can help keep these cysts at bay but also try booking a session when you feel one sneaking up– it can help escort that little trouble maker away.
As a general rule for these, if you detect one possibly growing or is painful, you want to see a OB/GYN right away. But if they’re not painful or annoying, you don’t need to worry about them. •
Molly-Margaret Johnson is a Brooklyn based artist. While she is not a doctor, she is excited to share her vaginal experiences with others in hopes to answer questions and end taboos.
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