For many women, the onset of their period can be a trying time. Cramps, headaches, a rollercoaster of emotions.. the last thing anyone needs is the worry that they smell down there. While some odors are normal and expected, it is important to understand what gets a pass and what might require a visit to the doctor. Whenever you have a period, there are multiple things exiting your body – the unfertilized egg, blood, and the uterine lining. As these contents travel from your uterus to the outside world, they’re becoming exposed to vaginal bacteria, which may cause some odor. A normal period smell can smell of blood or be slightly metallic and is typically so mild that no one but yourself can smell it. Since the vaginal bacteria, or flora, can fluctuate month to month depending on your diet, stress levels, and other lifestyle factors, the odor may change accordingly. 

If you feel self-conscious about having odor, there are a couple things that you can do: 

  1. Use warm water to gently wash your vulva at least once per day and avoid washing vigorously
  2. Whenever wiping, wipe from front to back using soft toilet tissue
  3. Change your pad/tampon/cup regularly 
  4. Avoid douching and deodorizing wipes or sprays as they disrupt your natural bacterial balance
  5. Wear clean and breathable underwear (100% cotton) and avoid thongs 

An unhealthy vaginal smell can be described as ‘rotting’ or ‘fishy’. A stronger than normal, fishy smell is a common symptom bacterial vaginosis, a type vaginal infection. It may show up with burning, itching, irritation, and discharge other than menstrual blood.

Symptoms to look out for: If you have any of the following symptoms or have concerns about your vaginal odor, pay your doctor a visit; 

  • Yellow-green vaginal fluids
  • Heavier than normal bleeding
  • Stomach or pelvic pains 
  • Cramps that are more intense than normal
  • Fever 

When it comes to your period health, or vaginal health in general, YOU are the expert of your own body. If you notice any symptom or feel that something is off, trust your gut and go see a licensed healthcare practitioner. 

Dr. Esha Singh, ND Naturopathic Physician Twitter: @drsinghnd Instagram: @thewebnd