A woman’s vagina will normally emit a minor scent. However, the smell can worsen due to various factors, such as food eaten, beverages consumed, clothing worn, exercise intensity, and daily hygiene practices. Sometimes a medical condition can cause a strong vaginal odor too.
Why does a strong vaginal odor occur in the first place? A pH imbalance in the vagina is the primary cause of vaginal odor. This imbalance can occur due to vaginal infections, douching, aging, and sexual activity.
Health experts recommend a woman’s vaginal PH level be anywhere from 3.8 to 5.0. A pH level higher than 5.0 means unhealthy bacteria have an easier time growing in the vagina. Once this happens, it will increase your risk of foul vaginal odor and infection.
Each woman can usually distinguish her normal vaginal odor from unhealthy vaginal odor. If you notice a strong foul vaginal odor for over a couple of weeks, please immediately contact your primary care physician or gynecologist. They can examine you and determine the cause of the unusual vaginal scent.
Vaginal Odor Types
Healthy vaginal odors are musky and mild at best. But when a woman goes through menopause or pregnancy, she experiences hormonal changes which impact her vaginal odor. The impact of these hormonal changes alone should not cause the vaginal odor to increase in severity. But if there are other underlying factors involved, the smell could worsen.
For example, a fishy vaginal smell could be due to a bacterial infection like bacterial vaginosis. Many women between 15 and 44 years old get bacterial vaginosis, resulting in a fishy odor in the vagina. Other potential symptoms include vaginal burning and itching as well.
Your doctor can prescribe antibiotics to eliminate the vaginal infection. Afterward, make healthier lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of reinfection. Your new healthful habits should include the following:
- Reduce the number of sexual partners
- No vaginal douching
- No use of scented vaginal products (e.g., perfume-based soaps, scented tampons)
- Practice safe sex (e.g., condoms)
Doing these things will help you maintain a healthy vaginal pH balance and reduce the risk of developing a fishy vaginal odor.
A vaginal yeast infection emits a sweet-like odor resembling the smell of flour, bread, cookies, or beer. While that might sound pleasant, the negative symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection include severe vaginal dryness, burning, and itching. If you don’t seek treatment soon, the intensity of the symptoms will worsen.
Consult a doctor regarding the best treatment solutions for your yeast infection. Even though over-the-counter medications can treat a yeast infection, you should still consult your doctor to ensure a serious health problem doesn’t cause the infection.
In most cases, vaginal yeast infection results from too much douching or the use of scented products on the vagina. But a yeast infection can also occur from consuming antibiotics, engaging in oral sex, and failing to dry the vagina after swimming or showering.
Top Ways to Reduce Foul Vaginal Odor
Here are the best ways to reduce and prevent severe vaginal odor from developing.
1) Practice Good Vaginal Hygiene
Good vaginal hygiene practices will go a long way in reducing and eliminating foul vaginal odor. These practices may include the following:
- Gently wiping the vagina with a soft washcloth
- Urinating right after having sexual intercourse
- Gently applying warm water or an unscented mild soap to clean the vulva
- Using unscented soaps or detergent to wash and clean underwear
- Changing underwear as soon as it becomes wet or sweaty
- Showering after exercising or sweating
It is critical to avoid overcleaning and using scented cleaning products because they can impact the vaginal pH balance.
2) Internal Menstruation Products
Menstruation may cause a more robust vaginal odor in some women because of the hormonal changes which take place. To reduce the strength of your vaginal odor during menstruation, apply some internal menstruation products.
Make sure you replace the menstruation products regularly. Avoid reusable cloth pads and maxi pads.
3) Safe Sex Practices
Sexual intercourse could form a fishy vaginal odor because of an infection or simply the mixture of semen with vaginal fluid. Some lubricants even disturb the vaginal pH balance and cause unwanted scents to form too.
The best ways to prevent a foul vaginal odor from having sexual intercourse include using a condom, avoiding flavored lubricants, avoiding scented lubricants, and rinsing the vulva with warm water after sex.
Make sure you only rinse the vulva. Avoid douching.
4) Vaginal Probiotics
Probiotics are good bacteria in the vagina. You’ll have a better chance of preventing vaginal infections, such as yeast infections, if you consume vaginal probiotics regularly. Having more good bacteria than bad bacteria in the vagina will help maintain your vaginal pH balance and reduce vaginal odor.
There are two ways to consume probiotics: food and supplements.
Some foods with probiotics include sauerkraut, soft cheeses, kefir, sour pickles, tempeh, and plain yogurt. Of course, most people wouldn’t want to eat these foods daily so probiotic supplements may be more convenient. You can find probiotic supplements at your local supermarket or health store.
5) Wear Looser Clothing
Tight clothes can trap body sweat, vaginal discharge, semen (from recent sex), dead skin, and moisture in the genital region, increasing the likelihood of bad bacterial growth and bacterial infections in the vagina. Then you will experience severe vaginal odor.
Many shapewear and sportswear clothing products are made tight because they make moving easier during exercise. However, the risk to the vagina is too high from wearing tight-fitted clothes. That is why you should opt for looser clothing made of soft, breathable fabrics like cotton.
Breathable fabrics make it easier for moisture to leave the genital region so that it doesn’t get trapped there. Avoid synthetic fabrics like polyester because they are not breathable.
6) Reduce Your Sugar Intake
Yeast thrives on sugar. If you consume too many sugary foods, such as cookies and sweets, you could suffer an overgrowth of yeast in your vagina. That will cause severe vaginal odor to develop.
Eating nutritious foods with natural sugars like watermelon, apples, and oranges is still okay. Just try to avoid junk foods with added sugars in them.
In addition, consume a lot of water daily to stay well-hydrated because hydration goes a long way in preventing bacterial overgrowth.
Consult Your Doctor
Every woman will have slightly different factors causing their foul vaginal odor. Regardless of the cause, you should still practice the tips above for reducing and avoiding vaginal odor because they can help in most situations.
If you experience vaginal soreness, itching, burning, irritation, unusual discharge, or burning while urinating, then it is time to consult your primary care physician or gynecologist as soon as possible. They can determine the cause of your vaginal odor problem and offer solutions