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What is Vaginal odor?
Vaginal odor is any odor that originates from the vagina. It’s normal for your vagina to have a slight odor. But, a strong vaginal odor for instance, a “fishy” smell might be abnormal and could indicate a problem.
Abnormal vaginal odor that happens because of infection or another problem is usually associated with other vaginal signs and symptoms such as itching, burning, irritation or discharge.
What Causes Vaginal odor?
Vaginal odor can be caused by a number of different factors. Some are a result of normal bodily functions while others may indicate infections that require treatment by a healthcare professional.1
- Vaginal secretions
- pH imbalance
- Sexual Intercourse
* If you suspect you may have an infection, do not use any over-the-counter feminine odor products, see your healthcare professional right away.
How to get rid of Vaginal odor
Occasionally, you may need a little help getting rid of an odor. The following techniques may help you naturally eliminate unusual vaginal odors:
Practice good hygiene
Clean the outside of your vagina regularly with a washcloth and mild soap. Loofahs may cause small tears and expose the area to possible infection. Cleansing will wash away dead skin, sweat, and dirt. Don’t use perfumed soaps or body washes. The scents and chemicals may upset your vagina’s natural pH. Bar soaps may be more gentle than body wash.
Some strategies include:
- Wiping front to back: This prevents fecal matter from getting into the vagina.
- Urinating immediately after sex.
- 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.
- Changing underwear daily, or when underwear is sweaty or soiled.
- Washing underwear in unscented products.
- 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.
Use only exterior deodorizing products
If you want to use any sprays or perfumes, only use them on the outside of your vagina. Don’t insert them. They can upset your natural chemistry and lead to bigger problems.
Change your underwear
If you normally wear satin, silk, or polyester panties, make the switch to 100 percent cotton. Cotton is breathable and does an excellent job wicking away sweat and fluids from your body. Excess moisture can upset your natural bacteria levels.
Consider a pH product
Over-the-counter (OTC) products may be helpful for restoring your vagina’s natural pH. If you try one and the odor remains or grows worse, make an appointment with your doctor. You may need to use a different product or look for a stronger prescription alternative.
Try essential oils
This treatment has very little medical research to support it, but anecdotal evidence suggests tea tree oil, a type of essential oil, helps eliminate vaginal odor. This essential oil has natural antimicrobial and antifungal properties, which may help reduce and eliminate bacteria. First, mix a few drops of tea tree oil with water. Then, apply a drop or two to the outside of your vagina. Repeat this for three to five days. If symptoms don’t improve or worsen, discontinue use.
Choose the right clothing
Clothing can trap things in or around the vagina such as:
- dead skin
- leaked semen from earlier intercourse
- 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.
Prescription treatments can help eliminate underlying causes that are contributing to the odor. If your home or OTC treatments aren’t successful, it may be time to seek treatment from your doctor.
When to See Your Healthcare Professional
Strong, pungent or foul vaginal odors can be a sign of infection. Consult a doctor if you experience a strong, fishy or unpleasant feminine odor especially if an abnormal discharge, itching or irritation accompanies the odor.