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What Is Vaginal Odor?
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.
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
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)
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.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
Answered by Dr. Christian Pope, DO, FACOG
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.
It is not okay to have a foul vaginal odor. It may lead to irritation, an unpleasant body odor, and embarrassment.
A normal vaginal odor is typically none to a very slight acidic smell.
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.
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.
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.
About Dr. Christian Pope, MD: Dr. Pope is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology. 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.