The vagina has a scent which is unique. Some females may feel self-conscious about their vagina’s scent but a slight scent is natural for a safe vagina. However, when pathogens or other health problems are present this odor may change.
The natural vagina scent can be affected by diet, health status and other factors. Some items give vaginal odor to “transform,” but this is neither medically required, nor healthy.
However, doing so can lead to infections that can cause or intensify an unpleasant smell.
In this post, we discuss methods to safely eliminate vaginal odor and resolve any medical issues that underlie it.
Types of vaginal odor
Negative feelings about vaginal odor can lead to self-esteem and body image difficulties.
And having a faint, musky smell is common for the vagina.
This scent varies during pregnancy, menopause, and menstrual cycle, with hormonal shifts. A slight smell is not a cause of concern.
Females with certain vaginal odors may, however, wish to seek medical advice.
Such odours are described in more detail in the parts below.
Fishy vaginal odor
If certain factors influence the vagina’s complex chemistry, harmful bacteria can develop out of control, giving rise to a fishy smell.
It may have it effect for bacterial vaginosis. This is the most common vaginal infection among 15–44 year old females.
Many females with bacterial vaginosis may have other symptoms, including scratching or burning. This can feel similar to an infection with the yeast. However, for many the only symptom is the fishy odor.
Prescription antibiotics may help treat this infection and can minimize the risk of developing it again by implementing such healthy behaviors. Including:
- Avoiding douches: These can affect the delicate pH balance of the vagina.
- Not using scented or flavored products in or around the vagina: Perfumes and other products, such as scented tampons, can alter the chemistry of the vagina and give rise to bacterial vaginosis.
- Limiting sexual partners and practicing safe sex: Although bacterial vaginosis is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI), having multiple sexual partners can affect the bacterial balance of the vagina, potentially causing bacterial vaginosis.
Sweet or beer-like vaginal odor
An overgrowth of yeast in the vagina, similar to that of honey or cookies, may create a sweet smell. Maybe the vagina smells like beer, flour, or bread too. Often, it can smell bad, too.
Intense pain, scratching, or dryness symptoms are typically associated with yeast infections. Over time, those symptoms continue to get worse. A discharge similar to cottage cheese can also be observed by some females.
Those conditions can be treated with over – the-counter medicines. However, females who have not previously had a yeast infection may seek medical attention to rule out other causes.
Some of the same steps, such as avoiding scented products and never douching, that can prevent bacterial vaginosis, are also effective in preventing overgrowth of yeast.
Certain methods are to:
- Only taking antibiotics when necessary: In some females, antibiotics can kill beneficial vaginal bacteria, triggering the growth of vaginal yeast.
- Not engaging in oral sex with people who have thrush in their mouth: People can pass on thrush through mouth-to-genital contact.
- Keeping the vaginal area relatively dry: As yeast develops most rapidly in moist environments, it is important to avoid leaving moisture on the vagina after cleaning. Towel off after taking a bath or shower, and avoid sitting in wet swimwear or underwear.
Hormonal changes taking place during menopause will alter the vagina’s fragrance and leave the vagina feeling dry.
Some STIs, especially trichomoniasis, may also alter the vagina’s odor.
Females should seek consultation with a doctor regarding any apparent vaginal odor changes — especially if the odor is strong or unpleasant. They should not, however, be using perfume to disguise the scent.
Several tips to avoid vaginal odour are mentioned in the following pages.
Adopt good hygiene measures
Adopting safe and gentle practices in vaginal hygiene will help to reduce vaginal odor. Some tips include:
clean the vagina from front to back, as this avoids the entry of fecal matter into the vagina.
- urinating immediately after sex
- using a gentle, fragrance-free soap on the vulva only
- changing underwear daily, or when the underwear is sweaty or soiled
- washing underwear in unscented products
- taking a shower after sweating, as trapped sweat can increase vaginal odor
- if there is an unpleasant odor, washing the vulva with water
- using a washcloth between showers to gently wipe down the area
Inserting soap into the vagina can affect vaginal pH, potentially leading to infections and an unpleasant odor.
Use internal menstruation products
During menstruation some females can note a stronger vaginal odor. Hormonal changes can create an iron- or ammonia-like smell. Some menstrual products, compounding this effect, can trap odour.
Try using internal products to reduce vaginal odour due to menstruation. Odor can be caused by the moisture of maxi pads and reusable cotton sheets. As well, sitting on a wet pad can cause infection.
Changing the menstrual products frequently is also necessary.
Care for the vagina after sex
Some people find immediately after sexual intercourse a heavy, fishy odor which is a sign of bacterial vaginosis. Others may detect a less distinct odour.
Semen sometimes interacts with vaginal fluid, which contributes to the vaginal odour. Some lubricants may also affect the vagina’s pH which may affect the fragrance.
People may want to take steps to reduce any odour after vaginal intercourse:
- Use a condom to prevent contact between semen and vaginal fluids.
- Rinse the vulva with water. Doctors do not recommend douching.
- Avoid using scented or flavored lubricants.
Probiotics help good bacteria all over the human body, including in the vagina. They can also help to prevent certain vaginal infections, particularly infections with leasts.
Probiotics can reduce the risk of vaginal odor, helping to restore natural pH in the vagina.
Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing
Clothing can trap fluids and substances around the vagina, including:
- dead skin
- semen from previous intercourse
Very tight-fitting clothes are also responsible for trapping these, including some shapewear. Fecal matter that enters the vagina can cause infections and odors, so clothing that facilitates this spread should be avoided. It involves bras with close fitting thongs.
Breathable cotton is the perfect option for those with vaginal odor problems, as it is less likely to retain moisture near the vagina. It makes building up and creating a strong scent easier for bacteria and other types of odour.
Cut sugar and boost hydration
Sugar intake can cause an overgrowth of yeast, which can intensify the vagina’s scent.
There is no evidence available that confirms the use of any specific food to change the vagina’s scent. Some anecdotal evidence, however, indicates that eating sweet-smelling foods like watermelon, apple, and celery can benefit.
Females will try drinking plenty of water, too. Staying well hydrated avoids overgrowth of the bacteria. This may also avoid excessive smelling of sweat, leading to a less pronounced vaginal odour.
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