- Vaginal Odor: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment
- Causes of Vaginal Malodor
- Diagnosis and Medical Treatment of Vaginal Odor
- How to Prevent Vaginal Odor with Self-Care
- Some General Queries
- Does douching help in getting rid of vaginal odor?
- Are home remedies safe and effective in getting rid of vaginal odor?
- Is vaginal odor during pregnancy common?
- Can having multiple sexual partners cause vaginal odor?
- Can menopause cause vaginal odor?
- Do yeast infections cause vaginal odor?
- Is it normal for the vagina to smell during a period?
- When to See the Doctor
- Final Word
- Expert Answers (Q&A)
- Top 10 Ways on How to Get Rid of Vaginal Odor
- 11 Weird Causes Of Body Odor & What To Do About It
- 1. You’re Simply Too Stressed
- What To Do
- 2. You Need To Scrub Your Nether Regions
- 3. You Don’t Change Your Undies
- 4. Your Birth Control Is Causing Problems
- 5. You Have A Nutritional Deficiency
- 6. Your Bowels Are To Blame
- Keeping your fiber intake to about 25 grams per day should be just the right amount, according to WebMD.
- 8. You Had Fries For Dinner
- 9. You’re About To Get Sick
- 10. You Partied A Bit Too Hard
- 11. You Wear Too Much Deodorant
- Is My Discharge Normal? 10 Things Your Vaginal Discharge Might Be Trying To Tell You
- 1. “You’re Dehydrated”
- 2. “You’re Mad Stressed”
- 3. “Your pH Balance Is Off”
- 4. “You Have A Sexually Transmitted Infection”
- 5. “You Have Pelvic Inflammatory Disease”
- 6. “You’re About To Get Your Period”
- 7. “You’re Ovulating”
- 8. “You’re Pregnant”
- 9. “You’re Just On Hormonal Birth Control”
- 10. “You’re Turned On!”
- The Bottom Line
- Vaginal Discharge
- People with a Disability
- Reproductive and Sexual Health
- Sex and the Law
- Sexual Diversity
- Sexually Transmissible Infections & Blood Borne Viruses
- Talking About Sex
- I don’t want to get pregnant
- Translated Reproductive and Sexual Health Resources
- What Causes the Brown Discharge?
- Can I Reduce the Risk of Brown Discharge?
- Molasses to Pennies: All the Smells a Healthy Vagina Can Be
- 1. Tangy or fermented
- 2. Coppery like a penny
- 3. Sweet like molasses
- 4. Chemical like a newly cleaned bathroom
- 5. Skunky like BO or a smoked herbal, earthy scent
- 6. Fishy or that fillet you forgot about
- 7. Rotten like a decaying organism
- When you should see a doctor
- Smells change, and that’s OK
Vaginal Odor: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment
In this article:
- The vagina has an inherent scent that is mildly musty, and it can undergo slight changes and become more noticeable at different points during the menstrual cycle.
- The treatment for vaginal odor depends upon the underlying cause. Hence, it is important to seek medical advice rather than self-treating.
- The vagina does not require intensive cleaning. It is equipped with glands whose secretions naturally wash away the bacteria and other impurities from the vaginal walls.
- Proper feminine hygiene primarily entails changing your innerwear daily and keeping your vagina free of excessive sweat or moisture.
- Douching and the use of scented vaginal hygiene products such as deodorants, powders, and gels can irritate or damage the vaginal lining and invite infections.
Normal vaginal secretions and sweating can make your private parts smell a certain way, which is referred to as vaginal odor. Adult women, in particular, have vaginal secretions that smell slightly musty, which should not raise any cause for concern.
Moreover, the pungency of the odor can increase or decrease at different points during the menstrual cycle.
Sex usually leads to the secretion of strong-smelling vaginal discharge, which makes the odor particularly noticeable.
A vagina that becomes distinctly malodorous in regular everyday life could indicate an underlying infection or problem that needs attention.
The abnormally unpleasant smell is usually accompanied by other signs of vaginal discomfort such as irritation, burning, itching, and discharge.
You may consider using a vaginal douche or deodorant to banish or camouflage the smell, but these personal hygiene products can be extremely harsh for the delicate lining of the vagina when used regularly.
Using these over-the-counter products may subdue the odor temporarily, but they can end up aggravating the irritation and other vaginal symptoms in the process.
Causes of Vaginal Malodor
Vaginal odor can stem from an underlying vaginal infection or a noninfectious cause.
Infectious causes of vaginal odor
Bacterial vaginosis: The vagina is naturally populated with multiple strains of good bacteria that exist in perfect equilibrium to form a healthy vaginal microbiome.
The overgrowth of any of these bacteria can disrupt the natural flora balance in the vagina and thereby pave the way for infections.
Bacterial vaginosis is one such infection that frequently affects women. This infection is caused by a buildup of Gardnerella vaginalis, which is perhaps the most dominant strain of vaginal bacteria.
People with bacterial vaginosis usually experience the following symptoms:
- Strong fishy odor
- Vaginal discharge that has a watery, thin consistency, foamy appearance, and white, dull gray, or greenish color
Trichomoniasis: Trichomoniasis, commonly referred to as “trich,” is a parasitic infection that is transmitted from one person to another through sexual contact. This sexually transmitted infection is caused by a tiny protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis.
Although fairly prevalent in both men and women, this infection is usually hard to detect as it does not present any typical symptoms. The disease can manifest differently in different people, but the symptoms are usually more pronounced in women.
Some common symptoms associated with trichomoniasis include:
- Abnormally fishy-smelling discharge from the vagina
- Unusually thin or runny vaginal discharge
- Increased volume of vaginal discharge that may be clear, white, yellowish, or greenish
- Itching, burning, redness, or soreness of the genitals
- Discomfort when passing urine
Forgotten foreign bodies: The prolonged presence of a foreign object, such as a tampon, sex toy, shred of condom, and contraceptive device such as a cap or sponge, in the vagina can be a source of genital contamination.
When you insert any object in the vagina, make sure to remove it later and thoroughly wash the genital region to get rid of any remnants.
Sometimes, you may not even realize that something is stuck in the vagina, such as a split condom, which is why it is recommended that you sanitize it properly.
If an object is left in the vaginal cavity for too long, it can become a breeding ground for germs, which can lead to an infection.
Leaving a foreign body in the genital area for too long can give rise to the following symptoms:
- Unusually strong foul smell from the vagina
- Yellow, green, pink, grey, or brown discharge from the vagina
- Vaginal itching
- Pain or discomfort when urinating
Rectovaginal fistula: A rectovaginal fistula refers to a structural malformation that typically affects the female population. It is an abnormal tunnel-like passage or tract that forms between the rectum and the vagina, usually as a result of complications during childbirth.
The fistula allows fecal content, gas, and other materials from the rectum to trickle into the vagina while being excreted out of the body. This introduces infection-causing bacteria and other germs into the vaginal area and eventually gives rise to a foul vaginal odor.
Women with a rectovaginal fistula usually experience the following symptoms:
- Discolored rotten-smelling discharge from the vagina
- Recurrent vaginal infections
- Pain during intercourse
Noninfectious causes of vaginal malodor
Excessive vaginal sweating: The accumulation of sweat in the genital area can make your vagina smell especially bad. This problem is particularly common in people who are overweight or obese as well as those who have a natural tendency to perspire profusely.
Poor vaginal hygiene: Women who do not practice basic feminine hygiene regularly are more likely to develop a foul vaginal odor. Changing your underwear daily, washing or wiping the genital area properly, and avoiding the excessive use of chemical-based vaginal perfumes, powders, or deodorants are some bare-minimum steps to keep your vagina free of malodor.
Digestive or urinary problems: People who suffer from chronic constipation, fecal incontinence, or poor bladder control tend to give off an unusually strong and fishy vaginal smell.
Trimethylaminuria: Some people are born with a rare disorder called trimethylaminuria, or ‘‘fish-odor syndrome,’’ which is another cause of abnormally offensive vaginal odor.
This condition is characterized by the deficiency of a certain enzyme that conversely triggers the excessive release of a rancid-smelling compound called trimethylamine in the urine, breath, sweat, and vaginal fluids.
When the vaginal discharge and sweat combine, the unpleasant fishy smell of trimethylamine becomes increasingly pronounced and gives rise to a strong genital malodor.
People with this inherited condition may experience varying degrees of vaginal odor, which usually worsens during the menstrual period. In many cases, the odor may only surface during puberty and resolve on its own thereafter. (2)
Vaginal cancer: Vaginal malodor can also be symptomatic of primary vaginal cancer, especially if it is accompanied by a bloody vaginal discharge that is unrelated to your normal menstruation.
Cervical cancer: Your vagina can also turn unusually smelly in the wake of cervical cancer.
The cervix refers to the lowermost part of the uterus that connects it to the vagina. The growth of a cancerous tumor in this narrow stretch of tissue can cut off the oxygen supply and cause apoptosis or cell death.
As a result, the tumor becomes infected and causes a continuous discharge of discolored, foul-smelling, blood-containing secretions that trickle out through the vagina.
Diagnosis and Medical Treatment of Vaginal Odor
Vaginal malodor can stem from a wide range of causes. Thus, the first step toward treating this problem is to determine its underlying factors.
The doctor will collect a sample of your vaginal discharge and examine it under a microscope to pin the culprit. He/she may also run a few additional tests to reach a more conclusive diagnosis.
The doctor will then recommend the appropriate treatment strategy to address the root cause of the vaginal odor.
How to Prevent Vaginal Odor with Self-Care
Follow these tips to maintain feminine freshness at all times and prevent bad vaginal smells from occurring:
- Proper genital hygiene demands that you use a minuscule amount of mild fragrance-free soap and copious amounts of water to wash your vagina clean during every bath or even otherwise.
The vaginal skin is extremely sensitive and can react negatively to chemical-laden feminine hygiene products. The use of perfumed soaps, powders, and deodorants to get rid of vaginal smell can actually unbalance the vaginal flora and pH.
- As vaginal smell tends to be particularly intense after sexual intercourse, make a habit of washing the genital area with mild soap and water once you are done.
- Try to keep your genital area free of excessive moisture or sweat at all times to prevent yeast growth. To that end, it is important to wipe your genitals after a bowel release or urination.
If you experience increased vaginal perspiration, simply wash and wipe the nether regions from time to time. Even after taking a bath, you must allow the genital area to air dry before you put on your underwear.
- If you wish to keep yourself safe from sexually transmitted diseases that lead to vaginal malodor and other serious health concerns, it is necessary that you use proper protection such as female condoms during sex.
Another important precautionary measure that can minimize the risk of sexually transmitted infections in sexually active individuals is limiting the number of sexual partners. It is always better to be familiar with your partner’s sexual history.
- Always wipe from front to back when cleaning the genital area to push the fecal matter and other germs away from the vagina rather than toward it.
- Wear a fresh pair of underwear every day and change out of wet, damp, or dirty underwear as soon as possible to preserve your vaginal health and hygiene.
When buying underwear, make sure that it is made of a breathable fabric. Underpants that are 100% cotton are the ideal choice as they allow proper air circulation within the genital area, which helps to keep the vulva sweat-free and moisture-free.
- When you are having your period, make sure to change your pads or tampons frequently.
- Do not wear the same panty liner for too long.
- Minimize your intake of refined carbohydrates, caffeine, and sugary drinks, all of which can stimulate yeast production.
- Include yogurt and other probiotic sources in your daily diet to restore the healthy balance of bacteria in the body.
- Maintain proper fluid intake throughout the day to flush out toxins and harmful bacteria from the body and, thereby, minimize the risk of odor-causing infections.
Some General Queries
Does douching help in getting rid of vaginal odor?
Douching is another name for vaginal irrigation, which involves flushing the inside of the vagina with a jet of water or other mixtures of fluids. There is a wide variety of vaginal douches available commercially that come in the form of prepackaged liquids.
This intravaginal cleansing method has become quite popular across all ages of women, from teenagers to older females. According to the US Department of Health & Human Services, one in every five women that figure in the age bracket of 15 to 44 years practices douching in the United States alone. (1)
However, an overwhelming majority of doctors advise against this seemingly harmless cleaning method.
Douching has been associated with several deleterious side effects, and its benefits remain unsubstantiated by research.
Washing the vaginal area with a high-pressure stream of antiseptic fluids can irritate its delicate lining, cause pelvic inflammation, and introduce germs and infections.
By compromising the integrity of the vagina, long-term douching can make one vulnerable to the following risks:
- Vaginal infections such as bacterial vaginosis and candidiasis
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Vaginal swelling or irritation
- Difficulty conceiving
- Unbalanced vaginal flora (2)
Given that your vagina is essentially self-cleaning, there is no need for you to resort to such controversial techniques.
However, one 2011 randomized controlled trial suggested that short-term douching with tap water may help reduce vaginal malodor that occurs without any discernible cause.
The study was conducted on 140 women with perceived vaginal odor. This makes it clear that the positive effect of douching only applies to its short-term use. (5)
Are home remedies safe and effective in getting rid of vaginal odor?
To successfully treat vaginal odor, you must first understand what is causing it and then adopt a treatment approach that specifically targets the underlying cause.
Thus, self-treating foul vaginal smell with various home remedies and other nonprescription methods without addressing the root cause will only provide temporary relief at best.
You must first consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis and then proceed with the recommended treatment, which includes both medicinal interventions and self-care measures to banish the problem for good.
Certain home remedies can even end up exacerbating your condition. So, it is best to err at the side of caution and consult a doctor before trying out a new remedy.
In one study, 35 women with different sexual preferences and a history of recurrent bacterial vaginosis tried various home remedies and self-help therapies.
The interventions included douching, taking salt or vinegar baths, and the topical and oral administration of yogurt and garlic to relieve their symptoms and eliminate the vaginal malodor that is characteristic of bacterial vaginosis. However, most of them failed to register any significantly positive outcomes. (3)
Is vaginal odor during pregnancy common?
Pregnancy can alter the vaginal pH and, thereby, induce changes in the genital odor. The odor changes are usually too subtle to be detected by the affected woman.
Unusual vaginal odor is therefore a normal occurrence during pregnancy and does not require medical attention, unless it is accompanied by a burning or itching sensation in the genitals.
Can having multiple sexual partners cause vaginal odor?
Having multiple sexual partners inadvertently puts you at an increased risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections and diseases, many of which can give rise to a foul vaginal odor.
Two of the most common ailments that are spread through sexual contact are trichomoniasis and bacterial vaginosis. Both of these conditions are associated with an offensive vaginal odor.
Can menopause cause vaginal odor?
Menopause is followed by a natural decline in the production of female hormones including estrogen.
Thus, it is common for postmenopausal women to develop an estrogen deficiency, which eventually paves the way for the progressive deterioration of the vaginal and urinary tract muscles, also known as urogenital atrophy.
The thinning of the vaginal walls, in particular, can lead to a series of distressing symptoms. These include increased dryness, soreness, and irritation in the vagina and vulva, pain and burning during urination (dysuria), excessive vaginal discharge, and vaginal odor. (4)
Do yeast infections cause vaginal odor?
Unlike most vaginal infections that are typically associated with a strong fishy smell, a yeast infection generally triggers vaginal discharge that is mostly odorless.
In some cases, the overgrowth of candida fungus in the vaginal area can produce a mild yeasty smell that is barely noticeable.
Thus, a yeast infection can make your vagina smell slightly different than usual, but it does not result in the characteristic fishy odor that is defined as vaginal malodor.
Is it normal for the vagina to smell during a period?
The intensity of vaginal odor can vary during the course of the menstrual cycle. The changes in vaginal odor are largely due to the periodic fluctuations in the vaginal microflora and acidity levels.
The vagina gives off a faint musty smell at all times, but the odor tends to be most pungent before the onset of a period, especially on days when you are ovulating.
Once the period begins, the menstrual blood and the inner lining of the womb combine with the vaginal bacteria to produce a distinct smell.
Increased sweating often makes the problem worse, especially in women who are on the heavier side.
It is normal to have a slight fishy vaginal smell even after the period ends, provided it is not coming from a used tampon that you forgot to remove.
When to See the Doctor
It is completely normal to have a slight musty smell coming from the vagina, but consult a doctor if:
- It becomes unusually strong, offensive, or noticeable.
- It is accompanied by other alarming symptoms, such as vaginal itching, pain, soreness, bleeding, and increased vaginal discharge.
What to ask your doctor:
- How long does it take for the vaginal odor to go away after treatment?
- Is it normal to have a persistent vaginal odor?
- What treatment options do I have?
- Is my vaginal odor a sign of something serious?
- Will it reoccur even after the treatment?
What your doctor may ask you:
- How long has it been since you first noticed the vaginal odor?
- Are you currently suffering from any infections?
- Have you had vaginal infections in the past?
- Do you practice safe sex?
- Have you taken any medication and treatments yet?
- Do you maintain proper hygiene?
Vaginal malodor can reflect poorly on your personal hygiene and can be a source of embarrassment. A healthy vagina is naturally equipped to clean itself with the help of secretions that wash away the excess bacteria and other impurities.
This vaginal discharge may carry a mild smell, which is perfectly normal, unless it becomes unusually pungent or is accompanied by vaginal discomfort and other adverse symptoms affecting the urogenital area.
In such a case, one should immediately seek medical care as the vaginal odor can be symptomatic of a serious problem.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
Answered by Dr. Christian Pope, DO, FACOG
Can an STD cause vaginal odor?
Yes. A few STDs may cause vaginal odor. Examples are bacterial vaginosis, which is the most common cause of the vaginal odor, and trichomonas. Sometimes chlamydia and gonorrhea may cause an odor if the infection gets advanced, but not usually.
Is it okay to have a smelly vagina?
It is not okay to have a foul vaginal odor. It may lead to irritation, an unpleasant body odor, and embarrassment.
What kinds of vaginal odors are considered normal?
A normal vaginal odor is typically none to a very slight acidic smell.
Are baking soda soaks effective and safe for treating vaginal odor?
Yes, baking soda soaks are oftentimes helpful. I typically advise patients to place 1 cup of baking soda in a bathtub and soak for 15 minutes.
Can consuming some food items lead to vaginal odor?
A diet higher in sugars and simple carbohydrates may lead to more vaginal infections. Oftentimes, women who experience recurrent infections are advised to limit their sugars and carbohydrates, and this has shown promise in reducing the frequency of such infections dramatically.
Can periods lead to vaginal odor?
Periods may lead to odor, many times due to the clotting and drying of blood, not necessarily an infection. May women do experience frequent infections that occur right after their periods.
Do postmenopausal and prepuberty females suffer from bacterial vaginosis, which can cause vaginal odor?
Estrogen status plays an important role in determining the healthy and normal state of the vagina. During the reproductive years, the presence of estrogen increases the glycogen content in the vaginal epithelial cells. This encourages colonization of the vagina by lactobacilli, which are normal bacteria in this body part.
The increased level of colonization leads to lactic acid production and consequently a decrease in the vaginal pH to less than 4.5. This is normal. This acidic environment protects against the growth of pathogenic organisms and is key to maintaining a balanced vaginal bacterial environment.
The normal vaginal flora remains mixed and consists of Gardnerella vaginalis, Escherichia coli, group B Streptococcus, genital Mycoplasma species, and Candida albicans. In prepubertal girls and postmenopausal women, the lack of estrogen inhibits the normal growth of vaginal bacteria.
Therefore, there is a paucity of background bacteria, the vaginal epithelium is thin, and the vaginal pH is elevated (higher than 4.5) because lactic acid-producing lactobacilli are fewer.
The growth of bacteria associated with bacterial vaginosis is far less common in an estrogen-deficient vaginal environment. Therefore, prepubertal girls and postmenopausal women (not using estrogen) uncommonly have bacterial vaginosis.
About Dr. Christian Pope, MD: Dr. Pope is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology. He received his obstetrics and gynecology training at the Tufts University School of Medicine, Baystate Medical Center.
Dr. Pope is a fellow of the American Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, with a practice drawing widely from Southeastern Massachusetts and Eastern Rhode Island regions.
He is a long-standing medical staff member and past chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of St. Luke’s Hospital of Southcoast Hospitals in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He is in private group practice at Hawthorn Medical Associates, Inc.
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Vaginal odor is a topic that’s not only embarrassing to discuss for many, but it’s simply embarrassing to live with for anyone who may be experiencing it. Oftentimes, it’s the result of a vaginal yeast infection, but that’s not always the case — which is why it’s important to find the root cause.
Having a healthy vagina is extremely important to overall health, healthy births and healthy marriages, and vaginal odor can be a signal that there might be a health issue at play. How this affects a woman’s self-esteem is another side effect, not to mention how it can affect her relationship with her significant other due to the impact it may have on their sex life. While there are many causes, most of the time it can be resolved through natural remedies. But where does this incredibly uncomfortable vaginal odor come from, and what is it in the first place?
Vaginal odor is defined as any odor that originates from the vagina. It’s normal for your vagina to have a slight odor given it’s an opening to the interior of the body, but a strong vaginal smell, such as a fishy vaginal odor, could indicate a bigger problem and should be checked out with your physician.
Abnormal vaginal odor is typically associated with other vaginal signs and symptoms, such as itching, burning or irritation. Often there is vaginal odor and discharge at the same time. Luckily, there are natural ways to take care of vaginal odor such as apple cider vinegar, baking soda, probiotics, tea tree oil and more that I lay out below.
Top 10 Ways on How to Get Rid of Vaginal Odor
Vaginal odor is often more noticeable just after sex and can vary throughout the menstrual cycle. Normal sweating can also be a cause a vaginal odor. This is often where the the idea of using vaginal douching and other vaginal deodorant-type products comes to mind, but these products can actually increase irritation and other vaginal symptoms due to their chemical-filled ingredient list. (1)
Instead of douching and other potentially toxic feminine hygiene products, try the following natural remedies.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar contains amazing antibacterial and antiseptic properties that can help fight vaginal odor. (2) Taking a bath with apple cider vinegar can help fight off the toxins and bacteria that cause vaginal odor while restoring the acidic quality of the vaginal flora. Try drinking a glass of water mixed with one or two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar daily.
2. Baking Soda
Baking soda can be used to balance the pH level in your body. When the pH level is in balance, the problem of vaginal odor will dissipate, which means you can add natural deodorizer to the list of baking soda uses. (3)
You can simply add half a cup of baking soda to your bathwater and soak for about 15–20 minutes. Then thoroughly dry your body before putting on your clothing. Make sure to not allow moisture to sit in any folds or the groin area of the body.
We love probiotics since they can help keep the gut healthy, but did you know that probiotics can do wonders for vaginal odor? Miso, kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt and kefir are all great options. Probiotic yogurt, for example, is rich in lactobacillus bacteria, which helps fight candida infection, a common cause of vaginal odor. It also helps restore the normal vaginal pH level, which can remove vaginal odor. (4)
4. White Vinegar and Sea Salt
While apple cider vinegar seems to get all the glory when it comes to home remedies, let’s not forget white vinegar. White vinegar can help neutralize odors by breaking down odor proteins, and a white vinegar bath may help eliminate vaginal odor and help restore pH levels in the vagina. (5)
Just a half cup each of white vinegar and sea salt in lukewarm bath water several times a week may do the trick.
5. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil contains strong antifungal properties as well as being a great antiseptic. These characteristics help get rid of bacteria that may contribute to the problem of vaginal odor and discomfort. (6)
Add a few drops combined with water and witch hazel on a cotton pad and then applying it to the effected area daily can make a big difference. Make sure to dilute with the water and witch hazel since tea tree oil can cause some initial sensitivity to the groin area.
It may seem odd to take one foul smell to get rid of another, but garlic is known for its antimicrobial and antifungal properties. It’s a natural antibiotic that may be just the remedy for vaginal infections as well as vaginal odor. The antifungal properties that garlic contains can help fight a yeast infection, which, in turn, gets rid of bad bacteria. (7)
Just incorporate garlic in raw or cooked form, on a daily basis, into your meals. Garlic is available in capsule form at your health food store, or you can eat one or two raw garlic cloves on an empty stomach with a glass of warm water.
7. Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Fresh, organic, whole fruits and vegetables are always key to a healthy body and support vaginal health due to the numerous vitamins and minerals they contain. We know that vitamin C, found in citrus fruits, guava, strawberries, kiwi, and green and red peppers, is an immune system booster. (8)
Leafy greens should always be consumed in abundance since they help with circulation and prevent vaginal dryness. Eat plenty of spinach, kale, cabbage, salad, Swiss chard, collards and other leafy greens by including them in your salads and smoothies. The avocado stimulates vaginal health and also helps with libido because it contains vitamin B6 and potassium, which supports healthy vaginal walls, reducing the risks of infection and bacterial growth. (9)
8. Nuts and Seeds
Adding nuts to your daily nutrition helps prevents vaginal dryness because they contain vitamin E. Look for sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts. Almonds and pumpkin seeds are also rich in zinc, which helps regulate the menstrual cycle, reduce itching and other symptoms of dryness that can cause bacterial growth and odor. (10)
Ground flaxseed is a superfood that’s rich in phytoestrogens and omega-3 fatty acids, which helps to boost estrogen levels and may stop vaginal dryness.
I cannot stress enough the importance of water and lots of it. The mucous vaginal membranes need water to function properly so they remain well-hydrated. Water helps lubricate your vagina naturally, which aids in diminishing vaginal smells. (11)
10. Neem Bark Extract
Neem bark has some pretty phenomenal antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties that help support balanced intestinal flora while fighting infection from fungi, such as candida. In fact, in vitro studies showed efficacy against infections, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia and herpes, in sexually active women who took neem oil extract in the tablet form. This is due to the possible enhanced antibody production and because forms of neem may promote the immune response of white blood cells, unleashing them — hence killing bacterial invaders. (12)
Simple Ways to Help Your Vagina Smell Good
1. Wear Loose Clothing and Cotton Underwear
When wearing tight clothing, it can restrict airflow, causing moisture buildup. Loose clothing and cotton underwear can help increase airflow to your groin and help prevent moisture in the area. Changing your underwear every 12 hours is helpful too. This prevents additional bacteria growth that can occur if the area is kept in an unsanitary environment.
2. Change Your Clothes After Exercising
A sweaty groin, also known as a sweaty crotch, can leave you feeling and smelling unpleasant. Don’t hang out in your in sweaty clothes. This is a breeding ground for bacteria! It can also help if you wash your groin area, then dry the area, before putting on fresh clothes.
3. Lose Weight If Necessary
While it may seem irrelevant, extra weight can cause extra sweating, even in the vaginal area. As noted above, this extra moisture can cause bacteria to form, which can cause vaginal odor. Choosing a healthy lifestyle of clean eating and regular exercise can making a big difference in how much sweat you produce.
4. Avoid the Douche!
Our bodies were designed to take care of most issues. When you douche, you remove healthy bacteria in the vagina that you need to help prevent infection. As well, douche products contain lots of chemicals that can cause toxic buildup in the body.
5. Don’t Fall for the Feminine Sprays
Feminine sprays are a marketing trap! These sprays can lead to irritation and possibly an allergic reaction. Our bodies aren’t able to break down the chemicals that come through the skin. In fact, the skin absorbs these chemicals very quickly because of the thin nature the skin. The chemicals then head right into the bloodstream. The vagina is made to naturally cleanse itself, so interfering with the process is more likely to cause bigger problems for you. (13)
6. Avoid Certain Foods
There are numerous foods that affect the pH of the body, and when that happens it increases inflammation and bacterial growth. Candida is a common infection that can easily become inflamed through eating certain foods, especially sugary foods since yeast thrives in a sugary environment. Foods that are best to avoid if you have vaginal odors and infections include sugar, alcohol, and wheat products. Overall, avoid processed and sugar-rich foods, and eat plenty of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables.
Vaginal Odor Causes
Vaginal odor causes are still being studied, but we know that there are many things that can cause vaginal odor. However, problematic vaginal odor is typically combined with other symptoms, such as itching, burning, irritation or discharge.
Generally, if you have vaginal odor without some of these other vaginal symptoms, it’s unlikely that your vaginal odor is abnormal. Chlamydia, gonorrhea infections and yeast infections usually don’t cause vaginal odors — however, let’s review the possible causes.
1. Bacterial Vaginosis
The most common cause of vaginal odor is bacterial vaginosis. Bacterial vaginosis is an overgrowth of normally occurring vaginal bacteria. It has a high rate of recurrence, affecting nearly 30 percent of women who are in their reproductive years, and is associated with miscarriage, preterm birth, as well as the increased risk of acquiring other sexually transmitted infections. One of the biggest indicators of bacterial vaginosis is a “fishy” odor.
A study conducted at Virginia Commonwealth University as part of Vaginal Microbiome Project was designed to investigate the relationships between the human microbiota composition, diet and health status. Visitors to Virginia Commonwealth University’s outpatient clinics enrolled in the study focusing on the understanding of the common structure in vaginal microflora and to identify differences due to bacterial imbalance and inflammation caused by bacterial vaginosis. This inflammation is still being studied, especially since there is no known reason as to why it develops, but it appears that certain activities, such as unprotected sexual intercourse or frequent douching, can put a woman at higher risk of this condition. (14, 15)
Trichomoniasis is another common cause of vaginal odor and is a sexually transmitted infection. In fact, it’s the most common non-viral STD in the world. (16) Trichomoniasis is caused by a parasite and can cause a foul-smelling vaginal discharge, genital itching and painful urination. Though men can have trichomoniasis, they typically have no symptoms.
Trichomoniasis can affect pregnant women, causing them to be at higher risk of delivering their babies prematurely. If you suspect a trichomoniasis infection, both you and your partner should be treated. Using condoms correctly every time you have sex can help reduce the risk of infection.
3. Hormonal Changes
The University of California at Berkeley reports that vaginal secretions during menstruation and between ovulation and your next period may have a more unpleasant odor than during other parts of the cycle. Menopause may be a potential hormonal cause due to reduced estrogen levels causing the vaginal tissue to thin and become less acidic. Many women undergoing menopause may notice a smelly, watery vaginal discharge. (17)
4. Poor Hygiene and Sweating
It should be no surprise that poor hygiene is a cause of vaginal odor. A sweaty groin area can definitely produce this embarrassing smell. It may seem obvious, but scientifically, the reason for this is because the external genitals have special glands called apocrine sweat glands, which are also found in the armpits, nipples, ear canals, eyelids and wings of your nostrils. These glands secrete an oily fluid that’s metabolized by bacteria on your skin, ultimately producing a noticeable smell.
Wearing tight clothing or being overweight can create a bigger problem by trapping sweat and bacteria on the skin or in skin folds for those who may have excess weight.
5. Retained or Forgotten Tampon
This pretty much falls into the category of poor hygiene and may seem bizarre, but this problem is more common than you may think. Awareness is crucial in taking good care of oneself, but it’s clear that the buildup of menstrual blood and bacteria can lead to irritation, itching and a strong, unpleasant-smelling discharge. If you find yourself in this predicament, a gynecologist can safely remove the tampon and treat any possible infection. Make sure you take the appropriate care needed.
6. Was It Something I Ate?
There are a number of foods that can cause vaginal odor. Probably one of the most common odors in the vaginal area that we recognize from food comes from nutrient-rich asparagus! Yes, it’s true that what you had for dinner may affect vaginal odor, similar as to how it affects other parts of your body, such as your armpits, scalp, mouth and feet.
Research shows that foods with strong scents like pepper, garlic, onion, blue cheese, cabbage, asparagus, fish and broccoli tend to have the most impact. This can be an easy fix by simply eliminating that food and seeing if the odor goes away. (18)
Vaginal Odor Risks
Many of these home remedies may take care of the problem, but be cautious upon using any essential oils or other methods that you may not have used before, especially if you’re pregnant, breast-feeding or taking medications.
Though less common, abnormal vaginal odor may result from rectovaginal fistula, which is an abnormal opening between the rectum and vagina that may allow feces to leak into the vagina. If you think you have rectovaginal fistula, cervical cancer or vaginal cancer, please consult your physician. It’s important to note the vaginal odor may be a sign of cervical or vaginal cancer.
Final Thoughts on Vaginal Odor
- Vaginal odor is defined as any odor that originates from the vagina. It’s normal for your vagina to have a slight odor given it’s an opening to the interior of the body, but a strong vaginal smell, such as a fishy vaginal odor, could indicate a bigger problem and should be checked out with your physician.
- The top 10 natural remedies for vaginal odor include apple cider vinegar, baking soda, probiotics, white vinegar and sea salt, tea tree oil, garlic, fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, water, and neem bark extract.
- Some other tips to help your vagina smell good include wearing loose clothing and cotton underwear, changing your clothes after exercising, losing weight if necessary, avoiding the douche, ditching feminine sprays, and avoiding certain foods.
- Some common causes of vaginal odor include bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, hormonal changes, poor hygiene and sweating, retained or forgotten tampon, and certain foods.
Total Time: 5 minutes
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar with the mother
- 1/2 cup sea salt
- 10 drops tea tree essential oil
- 20 drops lavender essential oil
- Draw a lukewarm bath.
- Mix the apple cider vinegar, sea salt, tea tree and lavender essential oils.
- Soak in the bath for about 20 minutes several times a week to get the best results.
B O S T O N, Oct. 25, 2001 — Most women take birth control pills to prevent pregnancy, but oral contraceptive use may have unwanted sexual side effects.
A study appearing today in Human Reproduction found women taking a birth control pill were less sensitive to scents, which may negatively affect their sex drives.
Researchers tested the ability of 60 women not taking the pill to detect six smells at various points in their menstrual cycles. Sense of smell was shown to be most sensitive around ovulation, a time when women are most fertile.
The subjects were then put on birth control pills and their sense of smell was re-tested. After three months of pill use, the increased sensitivity to smell usually seen during ovulation was absent.
Sex and Smell
“After many years of studies on sexuality dysfunction, we found that many factors influence a woman’s desire, one of which could be the sense of smell,” says Salvatore Caruso, lead author of the study and professor in the department of gynecological science at the Ospedale S. Bambino in Italy.
While the sense of smell and libido have not been specifically linked, there is evidence to support such a relationship.
“There are women who are born without a sense of smell who have no activity in their ovaries,” says Dr. David Brinton, a reproductive endocrinologist at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. “There is a physiological proximity issue.”
In other words, areas of the brain that control both the sense of smell and the ovaries are physically located close to one another. Something that affects one area could conceivable affect the other.
Implications of Pill Use
Other research has uncovered a relationship between the sense of smell and pill use. Research by Steve Gangestad, a University of New Mexico psychology professor, showed that women taking oral contraceptives had no significant preference for the smell of males with symmetrical features vs. asymmetrical features.
Symmetry in features is a measure of attractiveness and genetic fitness. Women not taking the pill preferred the smell of males with symmetrical features during their most fertile time.
“What we found is that the pill may actually upset normal preferences for choosing mates,” says Gangestad.
Pill use can also decrease sex drive in some women. However, experts point out that sex drive and choosing a mate are very complex issues that involve many physical and psychological variables.
“A lot of women on birth control pills have a decrease in inhibition which may have an overriding effect,” says Brinton.
11 Weird Causes Of Body Odor & What To Do About It
Ever notice how 99.9 percent of your morning routine revolves around smelling nice? You shower, swipe on deodorant, spritz perfume… maybe swipe on a bit more deodorant. Most of us deem it incredibly important, and the process definitely takes a while. So it can be pretty frustrating when, despite all the effort, you still struggle with body odor. I mean, aren’t all the above steps enough to leave you smelling nice all day?
It can be frustrating to deal with consistently smelly underarms, or ripe sweat. But it can also be a bit embarrassing. “For some people, it can reach a point at which it negatively impacts their life — especially social interactions — and may make them feel uncomfortable,” says Dr. Jeremy Fenton of Schweiger Dermatology Group, in an email to Bustle.
If that sounds like your life, let me remind you that you’re not alone. And let me also point out that there are many, many causes for body odor. Depending on your type of BO, a shower or swipe of deodorant may not do the trick. So read on for some of the weird causes of body odor, as well as a few ways you might be able to cure up the issue.
1. You’re Simply Too Stressed
Have you ever heard of stress sweat? It’s one of the many different types of sweat, and it’s the stinkiest of them all. “That’s because it’s produced from a category of sweat glands called apocrine glands,” noted an article on HuffingtonPost.com. “Aprocrine glands produce a less-watery sweat, and bacteria go crazy for the fats and proteins in the mix.” In the process, all sorts of smelly smells are released.
What To Do
Keep your stress in check. Think along the lines of meditation, yoga, or deep breathing so your body can remain more balanced (and decidedly less stinky). You might also want to consider changing your shirt, or swiping on more deodorant, after a stressful event.
2. You Need To Scrub Your Nether Regions
Another type of sweat comes from the eccrine gland, which exists in high numbers under your arms and in the groin area. Because these places get sweaty, and stay moist, they tend to be a bit stinkier. “This form , eccrine bromohidrosis, is due to the sweat softening the keratin that makes up the skin,” Fenton says. “When the keratin is softened, it is easier for bacteria to break it down and leave behind an odor from the breakdown.”
Get yourself on board with a more consistent bathing schedule, according to Fenton. Scrub those pits and wash up downstairs. You might also consider shaving these areas so sweat can’t accumulate.
3. You Don’t Change Your Undies
I hope your change your underwear every day, but how often do you change your bra? Apparently, most of us over-wear and under wash our unmentionables, according to bra expert Susan Nethero in an interview with Danielle Kosecki and Lauren Gelman on Prevention. And it ain’t good. “Since bras lay in places prone to sweat — across the back, under the arms, and between your chest and breasts — and are often made of fabrics that trap odor after repeated wear, this can create quite the stink,” Nethero said.
If you want to smell fresh, don’t wear a bra more than twice before washing it, according to Nethero. It may mean more trips to the laundromat (or better yet, your sink for a hand wash), but it’ll be worth it.
4. Your Birth Control Is Causing Problems
If your stench is coming from an unknown cause, it could be your birth control that’s to blame. As Charlotte Hilton Andersen said on SHAPE, “… some birth control pills cause dry mouth, which can lead to a buildup of sulphur in your mouth … Also, meds like acetaminophen (Tylenol), anti-depressants, and diet pills have been shown to cause extra sweatiness.”
Read the labels on your prescriptions, and ask your doctor about any potential odorous side effects.
5. You Have A Nutritional Deficiency
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, such as zinc, magnesium, and riboflavin, can lead to body odors. Take zinc, for example. “One of its major functions is to break down carbohydrates and help cells clear out waste,” said Andrea Cespedes on Livestrong.com. “A diet insufficient in zinc may deter this detoxification and cause body odor.”
Eating a more balanced diet can help clean out your body. Add in fresh greens like parsley, kale, and spinach, which can help deodorize your bod, according to Cespedes. Same goes for citrus fruits.
6. Your Bowels Are To Blame
How’s your fiber intake? If it’s too high, it can lead to stinky gas. If it’s too low, it can make you constipated, according to Andersen. And both can obviously lead to a buildup of smells in the body.
Keeping your fiber intake to about 25 grams per day should be just the right amount, according to WebMD.
About 10 to 15 percent of people are born with extra sweaty feet, according to HuffingtonPost.com. That extra moisture can lead to the growth of micrococcus sedentarius, which is a bacterium that smells like sulphur. (Ew.)
To combat your lack of genetic luck, try changing your shoes every day (or switching off pairs), wash your feet more often, and try to go barefoot as often as possible, according to DrWeil.com.
8. You Had Fries For Dinner
Ever notice how some foods make you smell worse than others? Well, fried foods are definitely on that list. “The oils in fried and baked goods can quickly become rancid, causing poor digestion and consequently body odor,” said Andersen. Cue post-french fry smelliness.
Go ahead and eat whatever you want. But if you’re worried about smells, think twice about digging in before, say, a first date.
9. You’re About To Get Sick
A recent study in Sweden found that your body can smell a bit “off” when you’re about to get sick. ” found that when participants were injected with a toxin that kick-started their immune response, others were more likely to rate their B.O. as smelling ‘unhealthy,'” noted Kara Wahlgren on Seventeen. Pretty interesting, right?
Well, I can’t really tell you how to prevent an immune response stench. But I can venture to guess that staying healthy, and thus preventing the immune response, should definitely help.
10. You Partied A Bit Too Hard
A long night of drinking may have some malodorous side effects the following day. “As alcohol courses through your blood and around your body, some seeps out through the pores — and, quite evidently, through the breath,” noted HuffingtonPost.com.
It doesn’t matter which type of alcohol you drink, as it all smells the same once it’s metabolized, according to HuffingtonPost.com. All you can do is drink up, and then wait for the alcohol to leave your body. Only then will you go back to your sweet-smelling self.
11. You Wear Too Much Deodorant
I know, this one seems counterintuitive, but hear me out. Apparently, by wearing antiperspirant too often, you can inadvertently mess with your body’s natural bacteria, according to Wahlgren. Not only that, but it can eventually lead to more odor-causing bacteria. Not good.
If you aren’t going outside, then don’t apply deodorant. And definitely don’t sleep in the stuff. Giving your skin a break will hopefully help even things out.
Because sometimes a small change is really all it takes. By making a few small tweaks, and being aware of what can cause body odor, you can help keep yourself smelling as amazing as you do first thing in the morning.
Images: Pexels (13)
I’m around the age 16 and 17. I’m not sexually active, I have had sex once, but even before I had sex I’ve always had a discharge problem, it happens randomly and it’s so embarrassing! It gets all over my underwear, it’s white ish, clear, but it does have an small to it, not fishy, nor is it a disgusting smell but it’s a smell. A strong smell. I try so hard for no one to notice. And when I started birth control it kinda slowed down not as much but my mom just toke me off it and it’s happening again. Is something wrong with me? Should I go get check out?
You can relax. What you just described doesn’t sound like a discharge problem at all. It’s normal and healthy to have clear or white discharge (that may be slightly yellow when it dries) that has a certain smell, even a strong smell. Some days you may have more of it than others.
The time to worry about your discharge is if it starts to have a bad, fishy kind of odor, or if the color or texture changes a lot. Yellow or green discharge can be a sign of an infection, like an STD or bacterial vaginosis, and very thick white discharge could mean you have a yeast infection.
Don’t worry too much about other people noticing the way your vulva smells. Generally other people won’t be able to smell it at all unless they get very close to your vulva, like when you’re having sex, and in that case most people like the way their partners’ vulvas smell.
If you feel really uncomfortable when you have a lot of discharge, try using panty liners to keep it from staining your underwear. But since you liked being on birth control and you’ve had sex before, you might want to try talking to your mom about starting it up again. Check out some tips for talking to your parents about sex and birth control questions.
-Emily at Planned Parenthood
Tags: discharge, vagina, vaginitis, vulva, yeast infection
Is My Discharge Normal? 10 Things Your Vaginal Discharge Might Be Trying To Tell You
We at Bustle love giving you tips for how to tap into your sexual potential and troubleshoot when things aren’t going your way in the bedroom. But what about finding solutions to those stressful sexual health situations that inevitably crop up when you’re getting down? Emma Kaywin, a Brooklyn-based sexual health writer and activist, is here to calm your nerves and answer your questions. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. This week’s topic: how to tell whether your discharge is normal — and what your vaginal discharge is trying to tell you about your health .
Q: My whole life, I’ve noticed that my discharge changes in a bunch of different ways depending on the week — stuff like smell, color, and consistency. What I’m wondering is, what do the different looks and types of vaginal discharge mean? Can I tell what’s up with my body by checking it out? How do I know if my discharge is normal?
A: Your vagina may be your second set of lips, but that doesn’t mean you can always understand what she’s trying to say to you. Vaginal discharge is one of the main ways your body attempts to convey critical health information to you — such as vaginal pH imbalance, infection, or excitement and pleasure.
First off, what’s “normal” when we’re talking about vaginal discharge? Basically, everyone with a vagina discharges some fluid. This fluid that comes from vaginal and cervical glands is super important to your overall reproductive health, and that’s because it clears away bacteria and dead cells as it flows through your vaginal canal and out into your panties. That’s right, this goo is your home-grown vaginal cleaning tool, and it’s all you need to stay clean.
Healthy vaginal discharge can range from clear to milky white, and its normal consistency is pretty thin and can be stringy and have whiter flecks. Your amount of vaginal discharge can change based on things like stress, ovulation, pregnancy, and being turned on. Here are the main culprits of changes to your vaginal discharge — what’s causing it, what the warning signs of unhealthy discharge look like, and what to do to fix it.
1. “You’re Dehydrated”
Whenever your body is dehydrated, it needs to subvert the extra water usually used to make all your bodily fluids to more serious life-saving tasks, which means that all your fluids get more viscous as a result. Vaginal secretions aren’t spared from this water reallocation, so if you’re a bit parched you’ll probably notice that your vaginal discharge is thicker. This is an easy one to fix — just drink some fluids!
2. “You’re Mad Stressed”
Andrew Zaeh for Bustle
Stress can wreak havoc on your body in a bunch of different ways, and your discharge isn’t spared. If you’re experiencing a bout of anxiety, chances are your vagina is also experiencing more discharge. This has to do with the hormonal imbalances stress can cause, (because just feeling wigged out isn’t enough).
On the flipside, stress can also contribute to vaginal dryness during sex, which makes sense, because when you’re stressing, it’s harder to concentrate on getting excited. So if you start to feel overwhelmed or anxious, do whatever you do to calm yourself down, whether it be meditating, taking yourself out on a Netflix and chill date, or going for a long walk. Your vagina will thank you (as will the rest of your body and mind).
3. “Your pH Balance Is Off”
Your vagina has an optimal pH balance, and when that balance is off, part of how she lets you know is through changes in discharge. If your pH gets too basic, you can end up with a yeast infection, which makes your discharge look like and have the consistency of cottage cheese — white and clumpy. Or you could have bacterial vaginosis, in which case your discharge will be thin, gray or white colored, and smell fishy. If your pH goes the other route and becomes too acidic, you could get cytolytic vaginosis, and your discharge will be either “watery thin” or “curd-like thick”.
Luckily, many of these imbalances are treatable by home remedies, and if those don’t work, your doctor will help you out.
4. “You Have A Sexually Transmitted Infection”
Many STIs have changes in vaginal discharge amongst their many symptoms. For instance, trichomoniasis (an STI you may not know about that’s actually a teeny-tiny parasite) comes with vaginal discharge that is smelly, frothy, foamy, and either yellow or gray-green. If you experience chlamydia symptoms, they can include more vaginal discharge than you’re used to, and the same goes for human papillomavirus (HPV), if you get one of the strains that causes genital warts. Gonorrhea can be spotted in part through yellow vaginal discharge.
If you’re worried you have any of these, go see your doctor. She’ll be able to diagnose you for sure and give you treatment.
5. “You Have Pelvic Inflammatory Disease”
Pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID, is a bacterial infection in your reproductive organs. The bacteria usually gets there through sexual transmission, like chlamydia or gonorrhea, but it can also get into your inside parts through other things like an unclean IUD insertion. Some people don’t experience PID symptoms, but if you do, you can get heavy discharge that smells not-good — along with significant pelvic pain and bleeding between periods. Luckily, PID can be treated with antibiotics, so talk to your doctor.
6. “You’re About To Get Your Period”
Andrew Zaeh for Bustle
Some research has found that you may get more vaginal discharge right before you get your period. During this moment, your discharge can be whiter than usual. So if you notice this change in your lacies, the crimson tide might be close at hand.
7. “You’re Ovulating”
While you might get a bit more discharge in the time leading up to your period, you’ll definitely get a lot more when you ovulate. And I do mean a lot — 30 times more, in fact. And the amount isn’t the only thing that changes. As your body preps to usher those sperm up your reproductive canal, it strives to make everything super easy for those wee swimmers. The cervical mucus that you will notice as vaginal discharge is called “egg white cervical mucus” (no jokes, it has an acronym: EWCM) because it’s clear and stretchy, like egg whites.
So if you notice that when you try to wipe your discharge off yourself it springs back, you’re probably in the peak of your monthly fertility.
8. “You’re Pregnant”
There are a ton of bodily indicators that you’re pregnant. Lack of a period and sore breasts are of course indicators, but so is experiencing way more vaginal discharge than usual. This is because of the high levels of estrogen in your system when you’re pregnant.
9. “You’re Just On Hormonal Birth Control”
Andrew Zaeh for Bustle
If you’re taking hormonal birth control, you’re flooding your system with progestin. This synthetic hormone, in addition to doing its job stopping pregnancy from occurring, can overstimulate your cervix — resulting in lots of vaginal discharge.
This discharge can sometimes be brown in color. This is because the hormones in your birth control are working hard to stop your uterine lining from thickening every month, so no cells are invited to implant. You may have noticed this working since your period is probably way lighter than it was when you were on your normal cycle. But since you’re not having a full-on gushing period, some of your lining will stay inside you, where it mixes with your cervical mucus. When it comes out as vaginal discharge, it’s brown.
To stop this from happening, you can try hydrating a lot and taking your pill every day at the same time — because missed pills mess up your rhythm, which can cause your uterine lining to get upset. If it’s really bothering you, talk to your doctor about switching up your birth control method.
10. “You’re Turned On!”
Finally, my favorite. Sometimes you experience more vaginal discharge than usual because your pussy is simply excited and getting herself ready for a good time. Think of her as getting all dressed up for a date — even if that date is with herself. Lubrication is a critical component to pleasurable, chafe- and tear-free sex. So celebrate this wetness!
The Bottom Line
It would be great if all our parts could just holler at us and let us know, using their words, what they needed to feel better. Unfortunately that’s not the case, but fortunately, our vaginas are more vocal than most parts. And their language of choice is most often discharge — if we take the time and gain the skills to understand it.
One thing to remember: many of these symptoms are shared by multiple health concerns, and even when there are very specific descriptors, it can be hard in the moment to know whether that discharge is more “cottage cheesy” or “foamy”. If you are experiencing unusual vaginal secretions, go visit your doctor. She’ll be able to give you more specifics as to what’s going on with you, and how you can make your vagina feel her best!
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Translated Reproductive and Sexual Health Resources
Brown vaginal discharge is a common side effect of taking hormonal birth control including the pill, patches, and emergency contraception. This discharge, which is typically made up of old blood, is usually nothing to worry about.
What Causes the Brown Discharge?
Birth control changes the balance of hormones in your body. This can sometimes make your body act unusually.
The hormone levels of women on birth control make the lining of the uterus really thin, as it doesn’t need to be thick enough to support a baby. Sometimes some of that thin lining breaks away. When it does, it leaves your body with that recognizable brown discharge.
Missing birth control pills further interrupts your hormonal balance. Your body thinks it’s time for the withdrawal period you have when you take your sugar pills. It starts with a little brown discharge, but becomes your period if you keep missing pills.
Some women have brown discharge because the hormone levels of their birth control are too low or because they are sensitive to the level or type of hormones in a particular type of birth control. Switching to another birth control pill or method can fix this problem.
Can I Reduce the Risk of Brown Discharge?
While there’s no medical problem with brown discharge, there are several ways you can reduce your chance of producing it:
- Take birth control at the same time every day. As an added bonus, this makes the pill more effective.
- Speak to a Nurx™ care provider about trying a different pill or type of birth control.
- Stay hydrated to help regulate your system.
Every female has a natural vaginal scent that can change throughout her menstrual cycle. A strong odor however, can be a sign of an infection, particularly if she is sexually active. Certain sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) such as trichomoniasis can cause a different odor. A woman’s vagina is naturally filled with bacteria but when there is an overgrowth, the condition is called bacterial vaginosis and causes a “fishy” odor.
Not all vaginal odors are caused by an infection, however. For example, poor hygiene or tight fitting clothing or fabric that doesn’t breathe can cause sweat and bacteria to get trapped which can cause and unpleasant odor. But don’t be fooled by products such as douches or sprays that claim to “clean” your vagina. They can be harmful because they remove the fluids that naturally clean your vagina. These products (particularly the scented ones) can actually cause irritation. Simply use soap and water to clean the outside of your vaginal area. Rinse well and pat your skin with a towel until it is dry before you put your underwear on.
If your vaginal odor doesn’t go away, make an appointment with your health care provider and get checked out. There is treatment available.
Molasses to Pennies: All the Smells a Healthy Vagina Can Be
Yeah, we’ve seen those scented tampons ads too. And it seems to us like all that flowery sunshine is another example of the world getting vaginas all wrong.
Just take a quick trip to your local drugstore. You’ll find a wall full of products promising to mask the natural way your vagina smells. Like douching. Widely acknowledged by the medical community as harmful to the natural balance of vaginal flora, this common tool that cleans the vagina might actually cause bacterial vaginosis instead.
Last year, the internet even suggested using Vicks VapoRub as a DIY treatment for vaginal scents.
The truth is, your vagina is home to billions of bacteria. And the precise makeup of this bacteria changes on a daily — sometimes hourly — basis.
Change is normal. These smell variations are likely a result of your menstrual cycle, your hygiene habits, or just you being you.
Plus, considering the groin contains a collection of sweat glands, is it really a wonder that your vagina isn’t odorless?
We called up Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, who has over 30 years of experience working in women’s health. She helped us get down to specifics with all the medical accuracy but less of the medical jargon.
Here is your medically accurate guide to vaginal odors.
1. Tangy or fermented
It’s very common for vaginas to produce a tangy or sour aroma. Some compare it to the smell of fermented foods. In fact, yogurt, sourdough bread, and even some sour beer contain the same type of good bacteria that dominate most healthy vaginas: Lactobacilli.
If it smells curiously similar to that sour IPA you had last weekend, don’t freak out.
Reasons for a tangy odor
- Acidity. The pH of a healthy vagina is slightly acidic, between 3.8 and 4.5. “The Lactobacilli bacteria keep the vagina acidic,” says Minkin. “This protects against an overgrowth of the bad kinds of bacteria.”
2. Coppery like a penny
Many people report smelling a coppery, metallic vaginal odor. This is usually nothing to worry about. Rarely, it signifies a more serious problem.
Reasons for a coppery odor
- Blood. Blood contains iron, which has a metallic smell. The most common reason for blood is menstruation. During your period, blood and tissue shed from your uterine lining and travel through your vaginal canal.
- Sex. Light bleeding after sex can be common. This is usually due to vaginal dryness or vigorous sex that can cause small cuts or scrapes. To prevent this, try using lube.
A coppery smell can also be due to less common, but serious, causes of vaginal bleeding. The metallic scent shouldn’t linger too long after your period is over. If your vagina has had contact with semen, this may change the pH level and cause a metallic smell.
If you’re experiencing bleeding unrelated to your period or the metallic smell continues with itching and discharge, it’s best to see a doctor.
3. Sweet like molasses
When we say sweet we don’t mean freshly baked cookies sweet. We mean robust and earthy. But don’t fret, a sweetish tinge is no cause for concern.
Reasons for a sweet odor
- Bacteria. Yep, bacteria again. Your vaginal pH is an ever-changing bacterial ecosystem. And sometimes this means you might smell a little sweet.
4. Chemical like a newly cleaned bathroom
An odor similar to bleach or ammonia could be a couple different things. Sometimes, this odor is reason to see a doctor.
Reasons for a chemical odor
- Urine. Urine contains a byproduct of ammonia called urea. A buildup of urine in your underwear or around your vulva could put off a chemical smell. Keep in mind, urine smelling strongly of ammonia is a sign of dehydration.
- Bacterial vaginosis. It’s also possible a chemical-like smell is a sign of bacterial vaginosis. “A chemical smell often falls under the category of fishy,” says Minkin.
Bacterial vaginosis is a very common infection. Symptoms include:
- a foul or fishy odor
- thin gray, white, or green discharge
- vaginal itching
- burning during urination
5. Skunky like BO or a smoked herbal, earthy scent
No, it’s not just you. Many people find a similarity between body odor and marijuana. Sadly, there isn’t a good scientific answer for this, although Vice did take a stab at it. But thanks to the sweat glands down there, at least we do know why vaginas and body odor can smell so similar.
Reasons for a skunky odor
- Emotional stress. Your body contains two types of sweat glands, apocrine and eccrine. The eccrine glands produce sweat to cool your body down and the apocrine glands respond to your emotions. These apocrine glands populate your armpits and, you guessed it, your groin.
When you are stressed or anxious, the apocrine glands produce a milky fluid. On its own this fluid is odorless. But when this fluid contacts the abundance of vaginal bacteria on your vulva, it can produce a pungent aroma.
6. Fishy or that fillet you forgot about
You’ve probably heard an abnormal vaginal odor described as fishy. In fact, fresh fish shouldn’t smell like much at all. Decomposing fish is the more apt comparison. Why? Trimethylamine, which is the chemical compound responsible for both the distinct aroma of rotting fish and some abnormal vaginal odors.
Reasons for a dead fish odor
- Bacterial vaginosis. “You get bacterial vaginosis when there’s an overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria in the vagina,” says Minkin. “And these anaerobic organisms are odorous.”
- Trichomoniasis. Trichomoniasis is the most common curable sexually transmitted infection and easily treatable with a course of antibiotics. It’s known for its pungent fishy odor. “The trichomoniasis infection can be quite smelly,” says Minkin. “It’s a more pronounced fishy odor than bacterial vaginosis.”
In rare cases, a fishy smell is indication of a more serious condition.
7. Rotten like a decaying organism
A rotten odor that makes your nose wince and your face contort is definitely not the norm. If the smell is putrid, like a dead organism, it may not be your vagina but something in your vagina.
Reasons for a rotten odor
- A forgotten tampon. Inadvertently letting a tampon go days, even weeks, inside a vagina is much more common than you’d think. “I can’t tell you how many tampons I’ve taken out of patients,” says Minkin. “This happens to lots and lots of people. It isn’t something you need to be embarrassed about.”
Fortunately, Minkin says it’s perfectly safe to remove a forgotten tampon on your own.
When you should see a doctor
In general, abnormal odors should be easy to spot. They’re the ones that make your face scrunch up. Rotting fish, dead organism, decay — these are all red flag odors.
If there’s a serious cause, often other symptoms will appear alongside the smell.
See your doctor if an odor is accompanied with:
- itching or burning
- pain during sex
- thick, cottage cheese discharge
- vaginal bleeding unrelated to your period
Smells change, and that’s OK
Subtle shifts in your vaginal fragrance is normal. Remember, the way your vagina smells has everything to do with its pH. And there are lots of things that affect your pH.
Take penile vaginal sex, for instance. Semen has a relatively high pH, so it’s super normal to notice a different kind of smell after you’ve had penile vaginal sex. Don’t worry though, this change is only temporary.
Menopause also has an effect on vaginal pH. “Due to a lack of estrogen, women in menopause end up with less vaginal mucosa,” says Minkin. “Vaginal mucosa lines the vagina and nurtures the Lactobacilli bacteria. So, without these cells you can end up with a much higher pH.”
Our advice? Don’t be afraid to really get to know your vagina, in all its fragrant glory. The better you understand the smells your vagina produces day to day, the more prepared you’ll be when something goes amiss. After all, vaginas do so many wonderful things for us. It’s about time we start understanding what they’re really all about.
Ginger Wojcik is an assistant editor at Greatist. Follow more of her work on Medium or follow her on Twitter.
Ljupco Smokovksi /
After the birth of my second child, I was exhausted. I had a toddler underfoot and a very clingy newborn. When she wasn’t screaming to breastfeed or having epic blowouts of diarrhea and vomit, my 3-year-old son took the lead as head of the Whiny Toddler’s Club. Adjusting to my new life as a mother of two found me with little time for self-care much less five minutes in the bathroom by myself. I wandered around in stained yoga pants with dark circles under my eyes, and I looked downright scary.
One merciful afternoon, I managed to get both children down for a nap, and I luxuriated at the idea of standing in a hot shower for 20 minutes. As I undressed, I noted a faint fishy smell and was immediately disgusted with myself. Before kids, I showered daily, wore makeup, and actually ran a brush through my hair on the regular. Now I was reduced to smelling like a fish market because I couldn’t manage my life enough to find time to shower. I was beyond mortified.
When I finished my shower, I dried off and put on fresh yoga pants. Though I felt refreshed, I still smelled a faint air of eau de anchovy and I assumed that my four-day-old clothes were the culprit. I spirited them off to the laundry room where they could be properly ignored for another five days.
Nevertheless, the smell persisted.
No matter where I went, I was convinced I was standing in the middle of Pike Place Market. I started to think that sleep deprivation was getting the best of me. I emptied the garbage in the kitchen and the bathrooms. I made sure there was nothing rotting in my refrigerator. I even took a look outside to see if there was an animal that had died under my deck. Because that’s a totally normal reaction when you can’t identify a fishy scent, right?
Later, in the bathroom, I realized with horror that the rank stench was coming from “down there.”
As if it wasn’t bad enough that I was leaking breast milk all over my clothing and soaking through menstrual pads from postpartum bleeding, now I had a case of tuna twat. The indignity of it all was too much and I did what every woman who has just discovered that her lady flower smells like mahi-mahi tacos gone bad: I called my best friend in hysterical tears.
She listened to me calmly and said, “Relax, it’s probably just BV! It’s common.” To which I irrationally told her that crotch rot was the last thing I needed and continued to cry. Stupid postpartum hormones and fishy-smelling ladybits, I tell you.
When I calmed down, I called my gynecologist and made an appointment for an exam. After a quick pelvic exam, he confirmed my diagnosis of bacterial vaginosis (BV), aka fishy-smelling crotch. As my face registered horror at such a gross-sounding ailment, he informed me that bacterial vaginosis is actually the most common vaginal infection in women ages 15–44 and easily treatable with widely available antibiotics. Whew.
BV is nothing to get your panties in a bind over, ladies. Don’t be like me and let it force you into an emotional breakdown.
But believe me, I understand how gross BV makes you feel.
If you are reading this and suddenly smell foul salmon stank, relax; you probably don’t have BV and you should probably just go empty your garbage. But the symptoms of BV are pretty distinct, so if you have that not-so-fresh-sushi feeling going on in addition to any of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to make an appointment to see your gynecologist. Symptoms of BV include:
– A thin white or gray vaginal discharge
– Pain, itching, or burning in the vagina
– A strong fish-like odor, especially after sex
– Burning when urinating
– Itching around the outside of the vagina
Yes, I know just reading those symptoms makes you want to head for the hills, but I promise, you aren’t gross if you have a bacterial vaginosis infection. And the good news is that once you start your antibiotic course, the fish smell in your hoo-ha will clear up faster than when you cook actual fish in your kitchen.
Because Mother Nature thinks she’s hilarious, I was lucky enough to have a recurrent BV infection about six weeks after my initial experience. Naturally, I freaked out again (I mean, really, why me?) and ran right back to my gynecologist. No one really knows why BV recurs or what exactly causes the bacteria to multiply, but it’s important to get it treated if symptoms resurface. So, basically, I got two orders of tuna twat with extra fish sauce as my postpartum push present. #blessed