Getting Rid of Vaginal Odor 101
I don't normally go around talking about how my vagina smells with just anyone, but learning that vaginal odor is completely normal can eliminate some of the crazy expectations we have about how our bodies should smell, look or feel. By discovering what's natural and what isn't, you can treat your body with grace and address issues if and when they arise.
Is Vaginal Odor Normal?
It's important to remember that all vaginas have natural odors that are unique to each woman. And unfamiliar smells are completely natural from time to time, even when you're doing everything right. These vaginal odors cross the threshold from "normal" to "maybe I should have this checked out" when they become particularly strong or last for a long time.
Most of the time, a healthy vagina's smell can be described as fleshy or musky, but this scent can change temporarily after sex. During your menstrual cycle, you've probably noticed more of a metallic smell. Additionally, changes in hormone levels, like during menopause or pregnancy, can alter the scent of your vagina.
A common myth about vaginas is that they require special hygiene—not true. Vaginas are extremely efficient! They naturally clean themselves to minimize unhealthy bacteria and maintain healthy pH levels. Usually, the evidence of this self-cleaning service comes in the form of discharge. To understand when something is wrong, you should become familiar with what your vagina looks, feels, and smells like when things are "normal." If you notice an extreme change in your vaginal scent, unusual discharge, irritation or itching, there could be something more going on.
How to Get Rid of Vaginal Odor
You can eliminate a lot of undesirable odors by properly caring for your vaginal area. To prevent vaginal odor and reduce reoccurrence, try some of the steps listed below :)
Practice Proper Hygiene
- Wipe your genitals with a washcloth between showers and after sex
- Use water or a gentle wash for sensitive skin (like wisp’s Balancing Wash) to clean the vulva
- Take showers after you sweat
- Wash your underwear with unscented detergent
- Change your underwear each day
- Urinate after sex
- Wipe from front to back
Probiotics For Your Vagina
Probiotics are a powerful tool for supporting your body's good bacteria. Since they help maintain your vagina's pH levels, they can help prevent certain vaginal infections that lead to vaginal odor, like Bacterial Vaginosis.
Boric Acid For Your Vagina
Boric acid is a trusted home remedy used to treat common vaginal imbalances, like odor from Bacterial Vaginosis, or itching from a Yeast Infection. Boric Acid has mild antiseptic and antifungal properties that start working immediately upon insertion.
Vaginal Boric Acid suppositories also contain probiotics (friendly bacteria), as well as the antioxidants Vitamin C and E to help replenish normal vaginal acidity and balance vaginal flora without the use of prescription medication.
While over-the-counter Boric Acid is not recommended as a solitary treatment for aggressive vaginal infections, it can aid in healing time when taken in conjunction with prescription Antifungals for Yeast Infections, or Antibiotics for Bacterial Vaginosis.
Keeping Boric Acid on hand to use preventatively, especially following sex, is a great way to maintain your vaginal pH and to prevent chronic infections or recurrence of symptoms.
Give Yourself Some Breathing Room
Tight-fitting clothing can trap things like discharge, dead skin, sweat and even semen around your vagina. On top of that, a tight thong can encourage the spread of fecal matter to your vagina, resulting in odors and even infections. By embracing breathable, cotton clothing, you make it more difficult for these odor-inducing sources to build up.
Reduce Your Sugar and Increase Your Hydration
It turns out that sugar can also impact you below the waist, too. Sugary foods encourage yeast growth, causing strong vaginal odors. On the opposite side, drinking plenty of water prevents bacterial growth, which can result in a less intense vaginal smell.
What Causes Strong Vaginal Odors?
Understanding what causes vaginal odor is not always a straightforward process. If you notice an intense and persistent odor coming from your vagina, it could be because of something a bit more serious, like:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bacterial vaginosis, or BV, is the most common vaginal condition for women between the ages of 15 and 44. Bacterial vaginosis is caused by certain bacteria overloading your vagina's natural bacterial balance, causing a strong fishy odor. Though the exact cause for this bacteria overload is still a mystery, bacterial vaginosis usually occurs in women that are sexually active. For a majority of women, the fishy odor is the telltale sign of this infection, but it can also be accompanied by other symptoms, like burning or itching.
At wisp, we offer a number of BV treatment options, including prescription meds and over the counter home remedies, to clear first-time and chronic bacterial vaginosis symptoms. To minimize your chances of dealing with BV, you should:
- Practice safe sex and limit your sexual partners. Bacterial vaginosis isn't a sexually transmitted infection, but correctly using a condom each time you have sex can help you limit exposure to bacteria. Plus, having fewer partners can help you better manage your vagina's bacterial balance overall.
- Avoid using flavored or scented products around or in your vagina. Using scented products, like perfumes or scented tampons, can lead to bacterial vaginosis because they actually alter your vagina's natural chemistry. Stick with unscented soaps and period products instead.
- Stay away from douches. As we already went over, your vagina has got this whole cleaning thing down. She doesn't need any help, and douches can actually upset your vagina's already delicate pH balance.
The Office on Women's Health says that the majority of women experience a vaginal yeast infection at some point in their life. Your vagina can have low levels of yeast without you ever noticing, but when the microscopic fungus, Candida, overgrows, yeast infection symptoms can result in a sweet or even sour vaginal scent. Because it's caused by yeast, you might even find that your vagina smells like bread, flour or beer. This strong smell is usually accompanied by itching, burning or feelings of dryness. In some cases, vaginal discharge also changes to a consistency like cottage cheese.
Unlike bacterial vaginosis, you don't need antibiotics to treat a yeast infection. You can order antifungal meds from wisp to prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections, whether it's your first case or more of a chronic issue. Most of the same strategies for preventing bacterial vaginosis apply when reducing the chances of getting a yeast infection, but you can also:
- Keep your genital area dry. Yeast thrives in moist environments, so it's helpful to dry yourself off after a shower or bath and change out of wet underwear or swimwear as soon as possible.
- Avoid oral sex with a partner that has thrush. Thrush is an oral yeast infection that can be transferred through mouth-to-genital contact. If your partner has thrush, either avoid oral sex altogether or opt for a dental dam to protect your privates.
- Use antibiotics only when necessary. Antibiotics are super helpful for killing bacteria, but sometimes even too helpful. Antibiotic use can result in the elimination of good vaginal bacteria, allowing vaginal yeast to thrive and grow. Be sure to consult your doctor if you're prone to yeast infections so they can help you monitor your antibiotics use.
Vaginal odor is normal and natural, but there are times when it can be uncomfortable or a sign of a more serious issue. If you feel like your vaginal scent is trying to tell you that something is wrong, try taking our symptoms quiz to get to the bottom of the issue and eliminate that funky feeling.