Why Do Periods Have an Odor?

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 
www.dreshasingh.com Twitter: @drsinghnd Instagram: @thewebnd

Vagina Health- Tips for a Healthy, Happy Vagina!

Vaginal health is something we seldom talk about. Aside from covering the public toilet seats with a seat cover/toilet paper and wiping from front to back, there is not much out there in terms of general vaginal health advice. This is unfortunate, as the vagina is an extremely important part of the body and should be cared for as such. Since the vagina serves as an entry and exit for objects and fluids, it is highly susceptible to damage and infections. Luckily most vaginal infections and conditions are preventable with relatively simple lifestyle changes. 

Tips for a healthy and happy vagina 

  1. But first, the inner work – The basis of all good health, no matter where in the body, begins with what you put into your body. Try to maintain a clean diet 80% of the time; this means a diet abundant in local and raw plants (organic when possible), clean protein sources, healthy fats, and plenty of water. Steer clear of fast foods and packaged foods to avoid artificial flavours and colours, excess sugars, and trans  fats.
  2. Avoid douching and using scented products – The vagina is a self-cleaning organ and does not need intense cleansing routines. While douching may make you feel fresher, the risks outweigh the benefits. Regular douching may increase your risk of bacterial vaginosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, pregnancy complications, and cervical cancer. Scented products such as scented tampons may also increase the risk of swelling, rashes, and irritation. 
  3. Choose breathable cotton underwear over thongs – The vagina is a warm, moist environment.. perfect for bacteria to thrive in. Cotton allows the area to breathe, therefore decreasing the risk of bacterial overgrowth. Thongs should not be worn for long periods of time as they also increase the risk of introducing fecal bacteria to the delicate vaginal areas. 
    1. Avoid oral sex or sharing sex toys with someone who may have a bacterial vaginosis  – Bacterial vaginosis is an extremely common condition in women who have sex with women, as the infection can spread orally or with toys that haven’t been cleaned. If you or your partner has BV, avoid sex for the duration of therapy to limit transferring the bacteria. 
  4. Have regular health checkups – While it may feel embarrassing to talk about vaginal issues, do not let it prevent you from talking with your doctor about any concerns that you have. 

While every vagina and its needs are unique, following these basic steps can help create a healthier vaginal environment. Always consult with your healthcare practitioner if you notice any different odors, discharges, or have any other concerns. 
Dr. Esha Singh, ND Naturopathic Physician