Vaginal Odour: The Secret Causes

Whilst to some vaginal health is a cringe-worthy topic, worrisome vaginal odour is something every women will experience in her life at some point.  Most likely on various occasions.

Often women, men, husbands, partners (basically whoever has the pleasure of being in the vicinity of your vagina) have unrealistic expectations on how we should smell and taste.  Whilst it would be great for the experience to be something like the video below, it’s just not going to happen.

Many women are self conscious about what their vagina smells like, the truth is a healthy vagina shouldn’t smell bad.

A Healthy Vagina

Just like all of your internal organs, the vagina is a carefully balanced ecosystem made of fluids/discharge.  It’s bacteria is designed to keep it in healthy working order as well as keeping it clean. Yep, that’s right! The discharge we produce is actually our bodies self cleaning – pretty amazing right?!

I did some research and saw a study where a bunch of gynecologists got together and did some very “unscientific” tests to figure out what a ‘normal’ vagina should smell like or why people have vaginal odours.

They determined that you can smell a healthy/normal vagina from around 1 foot away. Most odours are completely normal.  But there are times when a new/strange odor can be your body signalling a problem. A strong/particularly bad smelling odour may be as a result of an infection.  Or bacterial imbalance and is definitely something you should consult with your doctor!

What Causes Vaginal Odour?

Truth is our vaginas are a pretty sensitive area and should be treated with  R E S P E C T (great song).  There are tonnes of things which can throw out your body, some of which I’ll explain below.

Poor Diet

Foods like garlic, asparagus, curry, diets with a high intake of sugar are just a few of the foods that can throw out the natural smell of your vagina and over all body odour.  (I guess you really are what you eat!)

Medications

Many antibiotics can cause the natural 4.6 Ph of your body to imbalance, resulting in thrush, itchiness, change in discharge and odour as well as other nasty problems.

Slightly less unknown is antihistamines (as well as asthma inhalers) causing dryness and abnormalities in your vaginal health.

Hormonal Changes

Your body smells different at different points in your menstrual cycle. Birth control pills have also been shown to alter the natural smell of your vagina and effect the Ph of the vagina.

GOD FORBID – A FORGOTTEN TAMPON

A horror story we’ve all heard before… It actually happens.  Quite often apparently.  A forgotten tampon leaves a smell that somewhat resembles an animal crawling up there and dying. Yep, horrifying. Though, once removed, the smell disappears almost immediately. There are many alternatives to using tampons which are SO much healthier for your vagina which I will discuss in my next review…

Poor Hygiene

Whilst your vagina doesn’t need to be douched or cleaned whilst using a magnifier, it does need to be washed. Underwear should NOTTTTT be worn for over 24 hours and should be loose and preferably made from cotton.

OVER CLEANING

Something many people are guilty of, is over cleaning. Despite how gross some days you might feel – studies show you only need to rinse with water to adequately clean your vagina.

Though if you feel this doesn’t work for you or would feel better for using some sort of product, stick to natural soaps which are not fragranced.

vagina odour
Good Girl Guide Information

Practice Good Hygiene To Minimise Vaginal Odours

  • Use the correct soap
  • Wipe front to back after going to the toilet and be sure to be thorough. If you’re really worried about cleanliness you can use some sort of baby wipes with no fragrance for a quick clean after going to the bathroom.
  • Be careful what you put in and around your vagina! Flavoured lubricants are a big no-no during intercourse if you’re prone to infections. The glycerine causes an imbalance of (yep you guessed it) your Ph.
  • Watch your diet!
  • Know your body! Be vigilant of any changes in your body and head straight to the doctor is something changes.

DO NOT FRET!

Your body is amazing and your vagina can do some pretty cool things – so (SING IT WITH ME NOW) ???????

“You’ve got to show me, got to show me a little
You’ve got to give me, got to give me a little
Yes, all I want is, all I want is a little
What all I need is a little respect.

What you want, baby I got
And what you need, you know that I’ve got it
All I’m askin” for is a little respect”

Woman Having a Bath to reduce vaginal odour
Image: Woman In Bath

AND REMEMBER

Even if you don’t like your vaginal odour, guys and girls enjoy the smell of their partners vagina. Their brains associate that smell with getting to see you naked and having sex.  So really, it isn’t in your best interests to change mother nature anyway.

Warning

**This review contains personal stories of tampon usage and may be confronting to other staff members who do not wish to read about my vagina.. SOZ IN ADVANCE.

For the educational aspect, I’ve include everyone in this article – because let’s face it, we all know someone with a vagina.**

Vaginas are Cool 

It’s no secret – I like vaginas.  Vaginas are cool.  There are so many different vagina types.  So I’m going start this article with a fun fact…Did you know that the Ph balance of the vagina, which is usually around 4 – 4.5, is the same Ph as wine, beer and tomatoes.?!? Excuse me whilst I rave about vaginas – but how cool are they?!

I’m about to make a bold statement. If you have a vagina, or you know someone who has a vagina, you/your friend with a vagina NEEDS a menstrual cup. Or, let me start with a less bold statement – you/your friend with a vagina needs to consider not using tampons. Like many women, I’ve used tampons ever since I got my first period.

Mainly because they were easy, they don’t smell, they (are supposed to) feel like you’re not wearing anything, and they’re just what everybody uses. (Shit’s about to get real personal, continue down to the  bold cue if you don’t want to read about my vaginal mishaps…)

Uncomfortable Tampons

Ever since I can remember, I’ve always had REALLY uncomfortable periods. Not period pain in my abdomen or back, but in my actual vagina. It would feel dry, itchy, extremely uncomfortable at best, and would feel unusually hot.

Once I became sexually active, I realised that it was kind of all the time that my vagina felt that way.  It just got worse when I was on my period. I also couldn’t (it was impossible) have sex without lubricant, and didn’t produce any of my own natural lubricant. Let’s just say “It feels like wearing nothing” was a statement I called bullshit.

Admittedly, I’m sort of ashamed that it took me like 7 odd years to figure out that it was tampons that were ruining my vagina.  Though I figure there’s tonnes of women who are in the same boat – and just like me, are misinformed.

What Affects Do Tampons Have?

One glorious day, I decided to google the affects of tampons and found these facts.

Questionable Materials

Unbeknownst to a lot of people, tampons are actually made of a combination of cotton and rayon (chemically treated wood pulp fibre *alarm bell no.1*), plastics and additives to increase absorbency. These materials are not naturally white…

Tampons go white through a process of bleaching (alarm bell no.2), resulting in by-products of dioxin.  This has been linked to immune system suppression, reproductive issues and even cancer. It’s also be proven that the pesticides used while cotton farming can make their way through the manufacturing process and into the final tampon product.

Are your alarms ringing yet?

They Don’t Discriminate

Not only do tampons absorb your period, they absorb everything. During menstruation, your body still produces normal fluids and vital bacteria to keep your vagina healthy. Tampons don’t discriminate!

THEY ABSORB EVERYTHING, causing vaginal dryness, an imbalance of Ph, furthermore impeding your vagina from being self cleaning and leading to infections. Yikes.

They Loosen

Tampons are designed to expand and loosen once inserted. Meaning if the tampon does cause vaginal dryness, even once the tampon is removed there could be fibres left behind. This leaves a perfect surface for bacteria to breed.

Toxic Shock Syndrome

Not as much of a fear these days, but can still occur from leaving a tampon in for too long.

So what did I do? I tried an alternative method that I had all but previously laughed at.

JuJu Cup

Vaginal health and vaginal odour
Juju Cup

A girl in my grade had one at school and I just thought it was the weirdest concept.  I couldn’t picture what one looked like.  And I sure as hell wasn’t going to ask to see hers.  Wish I’d asked her about it though, I definitely would have saved myself some pain and some money!!

There are tonnes of menstrual cups out there, though the JuJu Cup is Australian made and owned.

What Does a Menstrual Cup Do?

  • Put simply, it’s a small, silicone, squishy cup about the size of my thumb.
  • It folds up nicely and then pops out inside your vagina once inserted.
  • Sits just below your cervix and is designed to capture everything that trickles from your cervix, with no leakage due to it suctioning to the walls of your vagina.
  • To remove, you pinch the bottom of the cup to break the seal and remove.

It Has Changed my Life

Unlike what I found with tampons, it literally feels like wearing nothing and without sounding like a drama queen – it’s literally changed my life.

I’ve only had my JuJu Cup for 3 menstrual cycles now, and I have noticed the BIGGEST difference.  Literally have none of the previous symptoms I had, I’m so much more comfortable and I self lubricate YAY.

If I’ve noticed this much of a difference in a matter of months, I can’t imagine what it’ll be like in a few years to come.

vaginal odour
BUY MENSTRUAL CUPS ONLINE

THINK OF THE ENVIRONMENT

On average, a women uses about 11,000 disposable menstrual products in her lifetime. These are not biodegradable and end up in landfills or worse – in the ocean. A 2010 study showed that on an average beach clean up there are 30 menstrual products on a beach/in the water per kilometre.

That’s pretty scary. I now preach the excellence of the JuJu Cup to anyone who will listen. They reckon on average, a women spends about $3000 on tampons and pads – my JuJu was $50.  Enough said.

Make sure you Look Afer It

Just like our silicone sex toys, it needs to be properly looked after to get a full lifetime of use.

  • Menstrual Cups should be boiled before first use at the beginning of every period, and only rinsed in between.
  • They’re designed to not fill until around 12 hours of use – so don’t fret.
  • Change it in the morning, and wear up until you go to sleep without worrying!
  • Most importantly, in-between periods, keep your cup in it’s storage bag to stop it coming into contact with anything nasty.

My menstrual cup has literally changed my life and I refuse to let anyone rain on my parade! They’re awesome and I think everyone should give them a go at least  if not just for your vaginal health!

You might be surprised – I was!

vaginal odour and health
STI Health Check Up

Sexual Health Examinations

April is sexual health awareness month!

Although we are almost halfway through anytime of the year is a great time to visit your General Practitioner to get a sexual health check up! A sexual health check up involves visiting your General Practitioner, a sexual health clinic or a youth clinic. A youth clinic can be visited if you meet their age criteria.

Many people find seeing their GP to be very daunting especially if it is a family doctor.   You can be assured that any medical professional is under strict laws to keep your information private, confidential.  They are not allowed to share you information or test results with out your expressed permission.

If you do have a sexual health examinations at a clinic you may be asked to participate anonymously in a survey to help local and national organisations better campaigns and methods of testing.

Best times to get sexual health check ups

  • Before you become sexually active with a new partner.
  • If you’ve had more that 2 sexual partners within 12 months or have had sexual relations with an overseas partner.
  • You’ve consumed narcotics or alcohol before sex as it lowers inhibitions and increases the chance of engaging in risky behaviour.
  • If you have been diagnosed with an STI in the last 12 months.
  • You are showing symptoms of an STI or have weird bumps appearing in private areas.
Clinics will often ask you to fill out a sexual health background questionnaire as you wait.  Many of the questions can seem personal or confronting.  But the questionnaire helps to determine what type of samples they will need to take and have tested at the laboratory.
All the information, you give them will be kept strictly confidential.
vaginal odour
Graph: STI

Questions that may be asked

  • How many partners have you been sexually intimate with?
  • What sexual acts have you preformed? Anal? Oral? Vaginal?
  • What gender you sleep with or if you sleep with both?
  • Have you had any symptoms that may suggest you have contracted an STD?
  • Are you up to date with the recommended vaccinations? i.e HPV and HEP B

Other questions you maybe asked during the examination aren’t really related to sex acts.  But contribute to the advice and sample requirements when being tested for STDs.

  • Have you any tattoos or piercings and where they are located?
  • Have you injected narcotics or shared injecting equipment?

You may find answering these questions embarrassing.

But if you have genuine concerns or are uncomfortable with doctor or nurse who is treating you it is at your discretion to say so.  Request another nurse or to request another clinic. It is entirely up to you if you feel uncomfortable as this process can be quite a stressful period for you.

What is Involved in a Full Spectrum Exam?

A full spectrum exam can involve a urine sample; a swab taken vaginally, orally or rectally and blood test.  Women can choose to have a pap smear also to test for abnormalities in the cervical cells that can lead to cancer.
It is good to have regular check ups even if you don’t believe you have an STI as the test’s could let you know what else is happening in your body. The results from these examinations usually take 7 days to come back.

Negative Results

If your results come back negative you don’t have a sexually transmissible disease! You will still need to use a condom to avoid pregnancy or if your partner has not undertaken a sexual health test.

Positive Results

If your test is positive you will be given the correct information and the course of action to treat it.  Most will require antibiotics and others like herpes or HIV will require ongoing treatment.  Not all STDs are curable although medical intervention and advancements STDs are manageable.
A number of counselling services are available to you if you feel it is something you do require.

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