An offensive odor from the vagina is an ailment that many women suffer with and may be the cause of much embarrassment, especially during times of intimacy. Preventing vaginal odor is unavoidable but the presence of an offensive smell needs to be tackled as it may indicate other health related issues. In most cases, a ‘smelly vagina’ is harmless and proper hygiene will correct the problem.
Causes of a Smelly Odor
The causes of vaginal odor may be a result of a number of factors that impact on the overall health of the affected area.
- Vaginal infections (vaginitis) may result in a smelly vagina, typically the fishy odor from the vagina, that may occur as a result of a bacterial infection or even thrush. Typically, vaginal discharge may be noticed. Pain, burning and itching are other signs of a vaginal infection and if present with the sudden onset of a fishy odor, it should be further investigated by a doctor.
- Poor hygiene of the vagina can also result in vaginal odor. Infrequent bathing or washing of the outer parts of the vagina, along with long and unkept pubic hair creates an environment for bacteria to thrive on the outside of the vagina. Coupled with perspiration, this will lead to vaginal odor.
- Frequent vaginal douching which may be performed to prevent vaginal odor can actually contribute to a smelly vagina. Douching kills normal bacteria that lives in the area thereby allowing ‘bad bacteria’ to invade the area and lead to vaginal infections and odor.
- Certain hormonal conditions, like pregnancy, during ovulation, oral contraceptives (the pill) or hormone replacement therapy (HRT), may cause excessive vaginal discharge which may be a contributing factor to an offensive vaginal odor.
- Fungal infections of the skin around the vagina may lead to a damp musty smell in the area.
- Allergic reactions may cause inflammation as a result of hypersensitivity to certain textiles in the underwear, cheaper tampons or sanitary pads as well as soap or body lotions used in the area. Inflammation may lead to vaginal discharge with an offensive odor.
- A fishy odor often occurring at the time of menstruation (periods) may be a result of the menses coupled with poor hygiene. Regular change of tampons or pads as well as proper bathing and good hygiene should be practiced during your periods.
- Certain sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) may also contribute to vaginal odor and should be treated immediately once noticed.
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Preventing & Treating Smelly Vaginal Odor
The first step in preventing vaginal odor is to ensure good hygiene. Apart from frequent bathing, trimming the pubic hairs is also important. Ensure a regular change of sanitary pads and tampons when menstruating and use a brand that will not cause any irritation to the vagina. Avoid excessive vaginal douching, or discontinue altogether if an offensive vaginal odor persists. In cases of vaginal infections, consult with your doctor and appropriate treatment like antibiotics or antifungals may be necessary. Anti-fungal vaginal creams may also be necessary in cases of vaginal thrush and it is better to consult with your doctor or gynecologist before using any cream or gel internally. Discontinue sexual intercourse if you notice pain and discharge, especially a smelly discharge, after sex.