Vaginal Odor: What's Normal And 6 Tips To Get Rid Of It
It’s the question that almost every woman has asked herself: “Is vaginal odor normal or not?” The fact is, it’s perfectly normal to have a slight vaginal odor – all women have it, and it may be only barely perceptible. It may normally be a musky or fleshy smell, but if the smell is strong and unpleasant and is also accompanied by other symptoms (such as burning, itching, and unusual discharge), it may be a cause for concern. If you can’t get rid of an unpleasant vaginal smell using only self-care measures and over-the-counter medicines, it’s time to see your gynecologist.
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Possible causes of vaginal smell
The most common cause of abnormal vaginal odor is poor hygiene. Other possible causes include the following:
- bacterial vaginosis – occurs when there’s an overgrowth of bad bacteria and a lack of good bacteria to balance them out;
- leaving a tampon in the vagina for too long;
- trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted disease which may also cause discomfort during urination, itching, and burning.
Rarely, abnormal vaginal smell may be caused by the following:
- rectovaginal fistula – an abnormal connection between the rectum and vagina which allows feces to leak into the vagina and may affect women with Crohn’s disease;
- cervical cancer;
- vaginal cancer.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: if an unpleasant vaginal smell persists, doesn’t change with over-the-counter treatments, and occurs along with other vaginal and/or urinary symptoms, it warrants a visit to a gynecologist.
How to get rid of abnormal vaginal smell
If you have vaginal smell that bothers you, and you’re 100% certain it’s not caused by anything serious, you can try the following measures to get rid of it:
Wear only cotton underwear
Underwear made from synthetic fabrics can trap moisture, which can promote the growth of bacteria and lead to smell. Wear cotton underwear instead – it’s breathable and will keep your genital area dry. It can also help lower the risk of developing a yeast infection.
Make adjustments to your hygienic routine
Scented products, such as deodorants, perfumes, shower gels, and douches, can alter the balance of bacteria in the vagina. Wash your genital area (only the outside part, which is called vulva, and never the inside) with mild, unscented soap (such as a baby soap) and warm water. Afterwards, dry the area gently but thoroughly with a towel.
By the way, showering seems like an easy task, but many people are doing it wrong.
Change tampons and pads often
When you are on a period, change tampons and pads every few hours. Some women prefer tampons or menstrual cups to keep the intimate area drier and cleaner.
Practice safe sex
Not using condoms is only OK during intercourse with a regular partner. It’s also important to wash the genital area before and after intercourse to decrease the possibility of harmful bacteria getting inside the vagina.
Try fermented foods or a probiotic supplement
The evidence for this one is largely anecdotal, but some women say that eating yogurt and other foods that contain live bacteria or taking probiotic supplements can help reduce the smell. Good bacteria in these foods and supplements may help balance vaginal microflora, thus helping eliminate the source of smell.
Try an over-the counter medicine
If there’s a medicine you’ve already tried before and it worked, you can use it again to get rid of the unpleasant smell and other symptoms. If not, consult a doctor first before trying any medicines you aren’t familiar with.
This article is purely for informational purposes. Do not self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information stated in the article.