Six tips to get rid of vaginal odor

Asian women have problems with hidden spots The problem of vaginal discharge has a foul odor, healthcare and medical concept.

By Zawn Villines    

Reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson,
Types | Hygiene | Menstrual
products | Sex | Probiotics | Clothing | Diet

Many women are self-conscious
about the scent of their vaginas. The vagina, just like the mouth, the skin,
and other areas of the body, has a unique fragrance.

Diet, health, and other
factors can affect the natural fragrance, which should still not smell foul.
It’s neither safe nor healthy to attempt to eliminate the vagina’s scent. In
fact, doing so can lead to infections that cause an unpleasant odor.
In this article, we explore
some strategies that can reduce vaginal odor safely and address underlying
medical causes.
Types of vaginal odor

It is common for women to be
self-conscious about their vaginal odor. These negative feelings can affect
self-esteem and body image.
However, it is also normal for
the vagina to have a mild, musky smell. Indeed, research suggests that this
odor is partially due to pheromones that can increase sexual attractiveness and
subtly communicate information about fertility.
This odor changes with
hormonal shifts during pregnancy, menopause, and the menstrual cycle. So a
subtle smell is not a cause for concern. Some other odors, however, warrant a
call to a doctor.
vaginal odor
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is
the most common vaginal infection among women of childbearing age. When
something upsets the vagina’s complex chemistry, harmful bacteria can grow out
of control, producing a fishy odor.
Some women with BV experience
other symptoms, such as itching or burning, which may feel like a yeast
infection. For many women though, the smell is the only symptom. Prescription
antibiotics can treat the problem.
Healthful habits can also
reduce the risk of BV. Those include:

  • Avoiding douches, which upset
    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 vaginal chemistry and cause BV.
  • Limiting the number of sexual
    partners and practicing safer sex. While BV is not a sexually transmitted
    infection (STI), multiple sexual partners can upset the bacteria balance in the
    vagina, causing BV.
Sweet or beer-like vaginal

A yeast overgrowth in the
vagina can produce a sweet smell reminiscent of honey or cookies. The vagina
might also smell like beer, flour, or bread.
Sometimes the odor smells
sour, but it can also be pleasant. Intense burning, itching, or feelings of
dryness usually accompany yeast infections. They tend to get worse over time,
and some women may notice a discharge that resembles cottage cheese.
People can treat these
infections using over-the-counter medicines. However, a woman experiencing her
first yeast infection should talk to her doctor to rule out other causes.
Many of the same measures that
prevent BV, such as avoiding scented products and never douching, can also
prevent yeast overgrowth. Other strategies include:

  • Only taking antibiotics when
    necessary: In some women, antibiotics kill beneficial vaginal bacteria,
    triggering the growth of vaginal yeast.
  • Avoiding oral sex with people
    who have thrush in their mouth.
  • Keeping the vaginal area
    relatively dry: As yeast thrives in a moist environment. Towel off after a bath
    or shower, and avoid sitting in wet swimwear or underwear.
Other odors

Hormonal changes during
menopause may alter the scent of the vagina, and leave the vagina feeling dry.
Some STIs, notably
trichomoniasis, may also alter the smell of the vagina. Any shift in vaginal
odor, particularly if the smell is strong or unpleasant, demands a trip to the
doctor. It is not recommended to use perfume to mask the smell.
Safe, gentle vaginal hygiene
practices can reduce vaginal odor. Some strategies include:

  • Wiping front to back: This
    prevents fecal matter from getting into the vagina.
  • Urinating immediately after
  • Using a gentle, fragrance-free
    soap on the vulva only. Inserting soap into the vagina can alter vaginal pH,
    causing infections and a foul odor. Various fragrance free products can be
    purchased online.
  • Changing underwear daily, or
    when underwear is sweaty or soiled.
  • Washing underwear in unscented
  • Showering after sweating or
    exercise as trapped sweat can increase vaginal odor.
  • Washing the vulva with water
    if there is an unpleasant odor. Between showers, women can use a washcloth to
    gently wipe down the area, removing sweat and other sources of odor.
Menstrual products
Some women notice a stronger
vaginal smell when they get their periods; some women smell an iron-like
metallic odor, and others smell ammonia.
Some menstrual products trap
odor, compounding this effect. To reduce odor:

  • Try wearing internal products.
    The moisture of maxi pads and reusable cloth pads can contribute to odor.
    Sitting on a wet pad can also cause an infection. Internal menstrual products,
    including menstrual cups, can be purchased online.
  • Change menstrual products
How sex affects vaginal odor
Some women notice a strong
fishy odor immediately after sexual intercourse, which is a telltale sign of
bacterial vaginosis. Others notice a less distinct smell.
Sometimes interactions between
semen and vaginal fluids can cause vaginal odor. Some lubricants can also
change vaginal pH and the odor that comes with it. To reduce the odor
associated with vaginal intercourse:
Use a condom to prevent semen
from coming into contact with vaginal fluids. Compare different condom brands
and products to choose the most suitable one before puchasing.
Rinse the vagina and vulva
with plain water following intercourse. Do not douche.
Avoid using scented or
flavored lubricants.

Probiotics support healthy
bacteria throughout the body, including in the vagina. Probiotics may help
prevent some vaginal infections, especially yeast. Compare different products
before purchasing.
By controlling infections,
probiotics can reduce causes of vaginal odor. Because probiotics help restore
the vagina’s normal pH, they also help reduce vaginal odor.
Clothing can trap things in or
around the vagina such as:

  • sweat
  • dead skin
  • discharge
  • leaked semen from earlier
  • other sources of odor
Very tight-fitting clothing is
a common culprit. That includes some shapewear. Fecal matter that travels to
the vagina can cause infections and odors, so avoid clothing that encourages
this spread. This includes tight-fitting thong underwear.
Breathable cotton is the best
choice for women concerned about vaginal odor. Cotton is less likely to hold
moisture close to the vagina. This makes it more difficult for bacteria and
other sources of odor to accumulate and produce a strong smell. Cotton
underwear can be purchased online.
Very sugary foods can trigger
an overgrowth of yeast, altering the odor of the vagina.
There’s some evidence that
other strong-smelling foods might also change the vagina’s smell. Onions,
coffee, and other strong-smelling foods can alter the smell of the vagina by
changing the smell of sweat and other bodily fluids.
There’s little scientific
research supporting the use of any specific food to change the smell of the
vagina. Some anecdotal evidence suggests that some sweet-smelling foods, such
as watermelon, apple, and celery, might help.
It’s also important to drink
plenty of water. Remaining well-hydrated prevents bacterial overgrowth. It can
also prevent sweat from smelling bad, resulting in less pronounced vaginal
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Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.