How to get rid of unpleasant vaginal odor! Understanding what your particular feminine odor means and how to treat this sometimes-embarrassing problem.
If you are a woman of child bearing age, then you would have some sort of vaginal odor.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology states that feminine odor changes throughout your normal monthly menstrual cycle, and is subject to outside situations such as the presence of bacteria, foods that you eat, or hormonal functions. The reason is simple. The vagina is prone to vaginal secretions and discharge due to a malady of factors that affect the way it smells. This, is nothing to be embarrassed about. In short, at any given time – your vagina will have a smell to it. Just like your breath or your feet, there is a certain odor associated with the vagina.
However, at times many women notice that their vagina smells differently. It may smell metallic, or musty or even give off somewhat of a ‘fishy’ smell. These different odors, are often associated with bacterial or yeast infections and occur alongside vaginal itchiness, burning, irritation, and a change in what would be considered your normal monthly menstrual discharge.
Main Causes For Unpleasant Vaginal Odor
Understanding vaginal odors symptoms and causes can help you identify whether there is a need to see a physician right away, or whether you should look for natural methods to treat at home.
A Sudden Change in Vaginal Odor
If you notice a sudden change in vaginal odor, the first thing to ascertain is whether other symptoms are present.
- Do you have more or foul smelling discharge? This normally means that you have an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria, as occurs with bacterial vaginosis and vaginal yeast infections.
- Have you just begun to take a new medication or supplement, or eaten an extremely spicy meal? These factors can cause a sudden change in vaginal secretions that will cause you to have a sudden feminine odor.
- Have you recently had unprotected sex with a new partner? If so, you could have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease that is causing an infection.
- Have you recently changed laundry detergents that could be causing irritation?
All of these things can upset the delicate pH balance of the vagina and cause a sudden onset of odors. Additionally, the smell of your vaginal secretions will change greatly near ovulation and near menstruation every month.
If you notice a sudden change in your vaginal odor, which is accompanied with pain and discomfort – you may need to seek medical attention, especially if it does not go away in 1-2 days, but instead gets worse.
Fishy Odor Down There
Perhaps the most common vaginal odor described by women is a fishy odor. The fishy smell is in actuality due to an imbalance in the vaginal pH. Doctors at Emory University state that as healthy lactic acid bacteria is reduced in the vaginal environment, unhealthy bacteria and organisms grow readily. These bacterium have a natural smell to them that when added to vaginal discharge smells fishy. Bacterial vaginosis is the most common culprit of a fishy odor emitting from the vagina, and can be easily rectified with home remedies, supplements or by contacting your doctor.
Vaginal Odor Plus Discharge/Pain/Irritation
As stated above, when vaginal odor is accompanied with a yellow or whitish cottage cheese looking discharge, itching, burning and irritation of the vagina and the labia – chances are high that an infection is present. The smell can vary from person to person, and is normally mild compared to the irritation caused by the discharge. If there is blood in the discharge, then the infection may have spread from the vagina to the reproductive organs and medical attention should be sought.
Additionally, vaginal odor that does not go away with anti-fungal or anti-bacterial creams or home treatments can be caused by a sexually transmitted disease such as Trichomoniasis, or Chlamydia. Remember, if a sexually transmitted disease is present, your partner may not show any symptoms – but will need to be treated as well to prevent re-infection.
Vaginal Odors After Sex
According to the WebMD, many people have a problem with a foul odor in the vagina after intercourse. This is especially true if your partner ejaculates inside of you. The pH of the semen, along with the extra secretions during sex can create a cocktail of odorous proportions. In a report by LiveStrong Organization, it was determined that some women are actually ‘allergic’ to their partner’s semen, which can eventually cause bacteria to build up, yeast infections and urinary tract infections.
One reason that the problem is pronounced after sex is because the natural movement of intercourse tends to push the bacteria higher into the reproductive organs. If you have this problem, you should ask your partner to ejaculate outside or use a condom. However, many women also have a bad reaction to the latex and chemicals on condoms as well.
If the odor primarily comes after sex, then simply wash the vagina with warm water and mild soap afterwards. You might also want to start taking a pro-biotic or eating yogurt on a daily basis to build up your beneficial flora.
Vaginal Odor During Pregnancy
ACOG (American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology) reports that around 9 out of every 10 women experience an unusual vaginal odor during pregnancy. The reason, is normally harmless, and caused solely by the immense amount of hormone secretions and overworking sebaceous sweat glands in the vaginal area that are stimulated into a frenzy during pregnancy.
Additionally, as your body becomes deficient in vitamins and minerals that are now transferred to your baby, the pH of your vagina can be thrown off kilter. Still, the subject should be breached with your OBGYN during routine visits. Chances are they will check for infections such as yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis, which can be treated easily during pregnancy. But more than likely, this will be yet another pregnancy side effect you will have to deal with.
How To Get Rid Of Vaginal Odor And Prevention
Remember, that every woman has a certain smell to her vagina. If you feel the smell is offensive, onsets suddenly, or warrants a trip to the doctor – the following tips can help to eliminate vaginal odor and keep it from returning.
- Eating plenty of plain yogurt is found to be effective. Make sure that this is organic, unflavored yogurt, especially the non-sugary type. Yogurt is rich in lactobacillus, which helps to restore the normal vaginal pH level, helping to prevent the condition from recurring.
- Apple cider vinegar helps restore the acidic quality of the vaginal flora and fights off the toxins that cause infection. Simply indulge in a long bath with two to three cups of this natural antibacterial agent in your bathing water to achieve quick results.
- Garlic is one of nature’s most powerful antibiotics. Inserting a clove of garlic into your vagina and retaining it for a couple of hours can alleviate the bad vaginal odor to a large extent.
- Pour half cup of vinegar and half cup of salt into a bathtub and soak several times a week. This will help to balance the vaginal pH.
- Avoid douching. Instead, wash with warm water and mild soap. You may find a hand held shower attachment can help you to feel cleaner. Be sure to wash the labia and inner folds of the vagina as well.
- Wear cotton panties and loose fitting clothes. Tight jeans and fabrics that don’t allow your vagina to breathe can result in vaginal sweating, causing bacteria build-up, an eventually will cause an odor.
- Always wipe front to back after bowel movements to avoid spread of rectal bacteria.
- Changing pads, tampons, and pantie-liners frequently.
- Changing underwear daily.
- Avoid using scented product, harsh laundry detergents, or feminine products designed to ‘freshen’ the vagina.
- Take a pro-biotic supplement to ensure you maintain a healthy level of ‘good’ bacteria in your body.
Remember that vaginal odor to a certain degree is absolutely normal! Paying attention to your body and being aware of any sudden changes, and seeking medical attention accordingly, are your best defense against recurring feminine odor. Still, any sudden change in your feminine odor is a sign your body is trying to tell you something is wrong, and it should be heeded.
Vaginal Odor FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions)
- Is it normal to have vaginal odor?
- Is it true shaving down there contributes to a strong vaginal odor?
- Why do I have foul vaginal odor right before I start my period?
- Is it normal to have vaginal odor during period?
- I have vaginal odor and pain, what is wrong with me?
- Is it possible for semen to cause vaginal odor?
- Can birth control cause vaginal odor?
- Which STDs are linked with vaginal odor?
- I have vaginal odor, but have no signs of any STD or infection.
- Does Vitamin C help get rid of vaginal odor?
- What foods can help with vaginal odor?
- What products I can use to eliminate vaginal odor?
- What are the best home remedies to get rid of vaginal odor?
- What changes can I do to minimize vaginal odor?
1. Is it normal to have vaginal odor?
The answer quite unequivocally is yes! According to the book What’s Up Down There?: Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend – a normal healthy vagina can smell musky (after sweating), metallic if you are near your menstrual cycle, or bleach like if you have just had sex. And often, there is little vaginal odor at all. The vagina is victim to a malady of hormones and pheromones, intended to attract the opposite sex, all which play a part in how your vagina smells. If the vagina smells fishy, or there is a heavy discharge present, these are the classic signs that there is an overgrowth of bacteria.
Additionally, many pungent feminine odors can be an indicator of a disease or STD. Yet, all doctors and professional agencies agree, your vagina does have a distinct odor, and it is one that you should be familiar with so you can notice any changes that may signify a problem.
2. Is it true shaving down there contributes to strong vaginal odor?
Yes, this is a truth! The hair on your body is in its place for a reason. It is only in modern times that women (and men) have become fond of shaving the pubic area. The removal of pubic hair only serves to irritate the millions of sweat glands and hair follicles in the region, often causing open sores to rise and enhances the moisture of the vaginal area. Pubic hair was designed to ‘soak up’ vaginal secretions as well as pheromones. When the hair is removed, the skin is raw and often open, and the area stays moister. This creates a breeding ground for nasty bacterias and pathogens. In fact, one study from American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology attributes shaving the nether region as a culprit of spreading the nasty staph and strep viruses that crop up in the forms of ingrown hairs, cysts and boils around the vagina. These dangerous bacterias are then easily spread to the vagina, and can therefore cause odors and bacteria to grow. The entire theory behind pubic hair is to cushion the vagina against friction and to form a barrier that will keep bacteria out of the area.
3. Why do I have foul vaginal odor right before I start my period?
Your normal monthly cycle from your period to ovulation is motivated by a concoction of hard working hormones that all have a role to play in your fertility. Prior to your period, as estrogen and progesterone dance in preparation for pregnancy, it is absolutely normal to notice an often metallic and sometimes ‘fishy’ smell to the vagina. According to WebMd, women who notice a routine vaginal odor prior to their period, have very little to worry about – especially if the odor subsides after menstruation. After your period, when vaginal secretions minimize and hormones fluctuate once again, you will notice that feminine odor is minimal.
4. Is it normal to have vaginal odor during period?
A vaginal odor during your period is absolutely normal. Not only is your body shedding blood, but also clots as well as remnants of your uterine lining. This can equate to an odd smell, mixed with the metallic smell of blood that many women complain about when they are on their period. Additionally, scented pads and other sanitary products can mix with secretions from your vagina, actually making the smell worse. The best defense is to change pads and tampons often (every six hours), and to wash well, using a hand held shower to clean inside the vagina. That being said, if you notice an extremely pungent smell during your period that reminds you of a dead animal, you may have a uterine or ovarian cyst that is trying to pass. Accompanied by pain, this warrants a trip to a physician.
5. I have vaginal odor and pain, what is wrong with me?
Vaginal odor and pain are a recipe for trouble. Often times the pain is itching, irritation or even cramping that can occur with even minor infections. The most routine culprits are a yeast infectionor a bacterial vaginosis. While you can treat both of conditions these at home, any extreme pain, cramping, or fever associated with vaginal odor should warrant a trip to your physician to be checked for female problems or sexually transmitted diseases. Even so, around 4 out of every 10 women with bacterial vaginosis, or yeast infection also describe some incidence of pelvic pain.
6. Is it possible for semen to cause vaginal odor?
Many women actually have an allergic type reaction to semen ejaculated into the vagina. Typically, semen has a smell that is similar to bleach. Because semen has its own pH balance, as well as millions of other secretions – when mixed with vaginal secretions it can cause a temporary smell, and irritation. Essentially, semen can cause the pH of your vagina to become off kilter, and the penetration can push bacteria from the external vagina, or from the penis – into the reproductive organs which cause bacteria to grow. You should always urinate after sex, and bathe appropriately. If the smell dies down within a few hours, then you can attribute the smell quite simply to the mixture of semen with your vaginal secretions.
7. Can birth control cause vaginal odor?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, strong vaginal odor is most typically a sign of a common vaginal infection. However, there are many women who have noticed a change in their feminine odor after taking birth control pills, or using other methods of birth control. The reason quite simply is that the birth control pills are manipulating your hormones. If you notice the change in feminine odor occurring specifically with initiating birth control, or changing birth control – you should speak to your physician. It could simply be the birth control, or it could be that the hormones you are using are off balancing your vaginal pH, and are a contributing factor to the build up bacteria that typically causes feminine odor to occur.
8. Which STDs are linked with vaginal odor?
One of the first signs of a sexually transmitted disease can be a change in your normal vaginal odor. Gonorrhea and Chlamydia, are the two most common STD’s that are linked to a foul smelling vaginal area. Often times, what is mistaken for a simple yeast infection actually turns out to be a sexually transmitted disease that requires medical attention. If you have vaginal odor that does not go away using traditional methods, and have had unprotected sex in the past three months, you should get checked out by a physician to make sure that these STD’s, which can inhibit your reproductive health, aren’t the culprit. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is often the late stage result of an STD not being treated, and can cause pungent vaginal odor, along with pelvic pain.
9. I have vaginal odor, but have no signs of any STD or infection.
It could be something that you have eaten, such as a spicy meal. It could also be over indulgence in alcohol, or be caused by medications or supplements that you are taking. While garlic is often a natural cure for vaginal odor, when eaten it can also be a culprit. Essentially, everything you put into your body is secreted through your bodily fluids, including those of the vaginal region. Additionally, menstrual changes throughout the month, and specific changes such as menopause, can cause changes in feminine odor. Another common culprit is a lodged or forgotten tampon. If the problem is bothersome, try some home remedies and consult with your physician.
10. Does Vitamin C help get rid of vaginal odor?
According to various health studies, there is no specific evidence that says Vitamin C can get rid of vaginal odor. In 2009, the Institute of Midwifery found evidence that Vitamin C suppositories were effective in reducing the ‘symptoms’ of bacterial vaginosis and yeast infection. Plus, since Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, it can help to boost the immune system and help your body to fight off bacterial infections. While taking Vitamin C on a daily basis certainly cannot hurt, there is no concrete evidence that it can be a prevent-all for vaginal odor.
11. What foods can help with vaginal odor?
Vaginal garlic suppositories can help to get rid of vaginal odors. There is also evidence that drinking one ounce of apple cider vinegar mixed in 8 ounces of water daily can help to balance bodily pH, making vaginal odor from overgrowth of flora and bacteria less likely. AVOIDANCE of foods such as sugary foods, starches, mushrooms, caffeinated products and alcohol – all which are associated with an over production of bodily yeast, can be beneficial in eliminating vaginal odor.
12. What products I can use to eliminate vaginal odor?
There are numerous products marketed to get rid of vaginal odor. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, products containing scents or additives, as well as douches are NOT recommended for vaginal odor. Using holistic products or antifungal products sold over the counter at your local pharmacy are the safest ways to combat vaginal odor, especially if you suspect it is from bacteria. Additionally, taking pro-biotic supplements like Femanol can also significantly boost your immune system to fight any existing vaginal odor problem as well as prevent any future recurrence.
13. What are the best home remedies to get rid of vaginal odor?
There are many home remedies that you can use to get rid of vaginal odor. One common remedy is to bathe in a tub with one half cup of vinegar and salt mixed into the bathwater.
Another extremely common home remedy is the use of Neems Bark extract (found in health food stores) as well as tea tree oil, both of which have strong anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.
Warning: Undiluted tea tree oil can cause a “burning sensation” for 20 to 30 minutes when applied directly to the skin around the vulva region. Please do not apply directly. Instead, the remedy is to put a few drops in a bath and soak for 20 minutes.
Additionally, Vitamin C suppositories have been used to help eliminate symptoms associated with vaginal odors. Many people, especially those that are vegetarian, find that increasing Vitamin D intake can also help to reduce vaginal odors.
In older times, women also used cloves of garlic wrapped in gauze inserted into the opening of the vagina to help kill bacteria and remove fishy or pungent odors. Even so, good personal hygiene and paying attention to your body is your best defense against vaginal odor.
14. What changes can I do to minimize vaginal odor?
- Wear clean underwear made of cotton, breathable fabrics.
- Avoid tight clothing.
- Bathe regularly, using warm water, and mild soap to clean the vaginal area.
- Make sure to avoid scented female products and douches to clean the vagina.
- Change pads and tampons regularly when menstruating.
- Use barrier methods of birth control if semen causes you a problem.
- Always wipe front to back after bowel movements.
- Avoid spicy and starchy foods, and alcohol and caffeinated beverages.
- Make it a habit to include fresh fruits and leafy vegetables in your daily diet. You will see (or smell) the changes in a couple of weeks.
- Eat yogurt daily, which is full of live and active cultures which can balance the delicate flora (good bacteria) of your vagina.
- Urinate and wash immediately after sex to flush bacteria from the vaginal area.
Credit: Mommy Edition