Reviewed by Christine Kijek, Registered Colorectal Nurse, on September 10, 2022
A woman’s self-esteem and body image can be adversely affected due to foul body odor. Instances of embarrassment are bound to occur especially in public. The regular feminine odor is normal and can be kept in check by observing personal hygiene, using appropriate toiletries and sanitary products, ensuring a healthy diet, and choosing the right clothing.
The most common feminine odor is the vaginal odor. It is natural for the vagina to have some odor. This is because of the bacteria residing there. A healthy vagina naturally maintains a healthy pH level, which keeps a check on bad bacteria. Just like gut bacteria, the vaginal bacterial mix is very individual. Thus, each woman’s vaginal odor is different.
It is normal for the vagina to have a mild, musky smell. This odor changes with hormonal shifts during pregnancy, menopause, and the menstrual cycle. However, an unusual aroma accompanied by itching or abnormal discharge may indicate an infection, thereby calling for further investigation.
Let us look at the types of vaginal odors that can indicate an infection and the possible remedies.
Bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal infection occurring amongst women of the reproductive age group. While a fishy vaginal odor is its most common symptom, some women may also experience itching or burning. It is the result of the pH level becoming out of balance, causing an overgrowth of bad bacteria. A pH gel can be used to treat the problem. However, if the odor persists, prescription antibiotics will be required to clear the infection.
Though yeast infections are not smelly, the thick cottage cheese-like discharge and itchiness can have a sweet smell like that of honey or cookies. There may be redness or burning around the vagina or pain after passing urine. Diabetic women may experience these symptoms. This is because they have more glucose in their vaginal secretions, and yeast feeds on sugar. OTC medicines can treat these infections.
Trapped sweat in the vaginal area can make the vaginal odor musky. A tampon left over in the vagina for days together can make the odor rotten. Likewise, the menstrual blood can change the pH of the vagina, making it smell metallic.
There are some basic vaginal odor remedies to reduce or prevent vaginal odor. It can also prevent further complications or infections.
Certain basic vaginal hygiene practices can help in reducing vaginal odor.
Menstrual blood makes the vagina smell metallic. Certain menstrual products trap this odor, compounding the effect. Sanitary pads and reusable cloth pads create moisture in the vaginal area, increasing the risk of infection. Thus, internal products such as menstrual cups should be used. Pads should be changed frequently. Using the right feminine odor products can help you minimize and manage vaginal odor.
During sexual intercourse, the contact between semen and vaginal fluids can change the vaginal pH levels, causing overgrowth of bad bacteria, leading to vaginal odor. An unscented condom should be used to prevent the semen from coming in direct contact with the vaginal fluids. The vulva and vagina should be washed thoroughly after intercourse. Scented lubricants should not be used as they alter the pH levels and can cause irritation.
Including probiotics in one’s diet can help maintain a healthy pH level in the vagina. This helps prevent vaginal odor and any infections. A balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables will also help here. The diet should also include ample water and fluid intake. This curtails bacterial growth and prevents overall body odor.
Tight-fitting clothing made of synthetic fabric traps sweat, dead skin, and discharge. Thus, loose-fitting cotton clothing will be the best choice for women who have complaints of foul odor.
While douches and scrubs eliminate bad bacteria, they also wash off the good bacteria, exposing the vagina to infections. Hence, these should not be used.
Adopting the above measures will surely curtail feminine odor and the possibility of any infections. However, if the odor worsens and other symptoms appear, a doctor should be consulted to check for any possible infections.
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Swati Chadha has been a Health Products For You contributor since 2017. A stay-at-home mom of two wonderful children, her professional experience has been in the social development sector with a focus on reproductive health and HIV/AIDS prevention. She considers ...
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