I’ve had many women, their sexual partners and husbands complain to me that they or their significant others have a bad smell coming from their vaginas. This is an extremely delicate, distressing, and embarrassing issue — particularly when it is noticed by someone else. Having this experience can affect self-esteem and even lead to poor sex. Here, Face2Face Africa will explain the causes as well as what to do if you find that you indeed have a bad odor “down there.”
SEE ALSO: How To Talk to Your Children About Sex
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Ladies and gentlemen, the smell of vaginas will vary, depending on what phase a woman’s menstrual cycle is in. Vaginal odor is often due to a combination of vaginal secretions, sweat, urine, feces, and even creams. Good genital health, however, is the simplest, most effective way of preventing foul vaginal smells.
Vagina Odor Causes
Unless you are on your period, it is normal to produce clear or white mucus-like secretions from your vagina. This mucus is what we typically call “vaginal discharge.” The presence of vaginal discharge is not necessarily bad as its production is affected by a myriad of factors, including hormonal changes. For example, when you are ovulating, your discharge is usually thicker and quite stretchy.
This is normal.
It is when the color, smell, or quantity of your discharge changes — along with other symptoms, such as genital itching, soreness, or swelling — that you should be concerned.
While you may feel a wetness in your genital area, healthful vaginal discharge should not have a strong smell or color.
Bad vaginal odor is typically from an inflammation of the vaginal area. This often occurs because of poor hygiene and infection in or around the vagina.
Infections that can cause vaginal malodour include:
• Bacterial vaginosis – This causes a fishy smell and is the most-common cause of foul vaginal smell.
• Trichomoniasis – A sexually transmitted infection, this causes a frothy, foul smelling discharge.
• Pelvic Inflammatory Disease – This is associated with foul-smelling, brownish vaginal discharge and abnormal vaginal bleeding.
• Candidiasis – This issue is very common in women and gives off a “yeasty” smell.
Other causes of bad vaginal smells that are non-infectious in nature include:
• Poor genital hygiene
• Foreign bodies, such as forgotten tampons, diaphragms, sponges or even bits of condoms
• Fistulas (abnormal passageways) linking the vagina with the rectum or bladder. This may occur following childbirth, injury, or surgery.
• Excessive sweating is a very common cause in overweight or obese individuals.
• Chronic constipation or bloating, leading to the passage of smelly farts
• Urinary and fecal incontinence
• Vulval or cervical cancer
What To Do
If you’re concerned about an abnormal or long-standing vaginal odor, please see your doctor, especially if you have other signs and symptoms, such as itching, burning, irritation, or weird discharge.
In order to prevent having a malodourous vagina, here are a few tips to help everyone:
• Wash your genital area. Even though the vagina will clean itself inside your body with natural secretions, during your regular baths or showers, use a very small amount of mild, unscented soap and lots of water to wash the area. It’s better to not use perfumed soaps, gels, and antiseptics as these can affect the healthy balance of bacteria and pH levels in the vagina and cause irritation, which may lead to inflammation.
During your period, wash the area more than once a day. Also wash after intercourse – I don’t mean after each “round” but do not make it a habit to wait hours after a sexual activity to clean up.
It’s also important to note that keeping the perineal area (between the vagina and anus) clean is essential too.
• Avoid douching. All healthy vaginas contain nature-approved bacteria and yeast. The normal acidity of your vagina helps to keep these bacteria and yeast in check. A douche flushes water up in to the vagina and then out, clearing any and all vaginal secretions. All douching does is washes out the vagina — including all the healthy stuff — thus affecting the natural balance of your vagina.
• Practice safe sex. In this era of all sorts of sexually transmitted infections, this point cannot be over stressed!
Organisms that cause chlamydia, gonorrhoea, genital herpes, genital warts, syphilis, and HIV are all transmitted through sex.
Abstinence is still the only fool-proof way to avoid these infections. Where you cannot abstain, if you are unmarried, ensure you have only one partner with whom you are having protected intercourse with. A simple trick to abstinence is telling your prospective sexual partner that you both need to get tested and certified in order to ensure that you are both clear of any infections before any rolling in the hay can take place! Trust me, this sends the majority of them scurrying in the opposite direction…lol.
• Other tips include:
– Avoiding tight underwear that can lead to sweating around your genitals.
– Changing your underwear regularly.
– Embarking on a weight loss program if relevant for you.
– Forgoing scented wipes and vaginal deodorants as they can disrupt the vagina’s healthy, natural balance. If indeed God had intended for the vagina to smell like roses, He would have made them smell so, no?
While we cannot smell like roses and lavender down there, don’t be that lady whom people avoid sitting beside because of the odour emanating from your nether region. If you already deal with this issue, you can be on your way to a fresher smelling you just by practicing the above tips.
Please note that the guidelines here are not a substitute for a visit to your doctor if you have concerns about your discharge and smell.
Stay healthy, ladies!
Face2face Africa invites you to join us for our annual Pan-African Weekend July 25-27 in NYC, honoring Dr. Mo Ibrahim, Alek Wek, Femi Kuti, Masai Ujiri, Bethlehem Alemu, and Dr. Oheneba Bochie-Adjei. Click here for more details and register to attend.