All healthy women have natural vaginal odor. It is important to recognize what is abnormal and when you may need some medical attention. The vagina is a self-cleaning component of the reproductive system. It maintains a balance of good bacteria to keep the pH at an optimal level of 4.5. Sometimes the discharge can have an odor. An excessive odor can be due to a vaginal infection, but this is usually accompanied with other symptoms such as itching, burning and pain.
Bacterial Vaginitis- Infections like BV cause an overgrowth of bad bacteria. This results in a grey-colored runny discharge with an unpleasant odor. If you have BV, the vaginal odor after intercourse smells even more pungent with the presence of semen. Vaginal infections are easily treated with antibiotics.
Diet-Some foods can affect the vaginal smell when consumed in large amount, such as onions and garlic.
Medicines-Antibiotics, in particular, tilt the delicate balance of bacteria in the vagina. Antihistamines can dry out the vaginal secretions, changing the normal smell of the vagina. Herbal remedies, birth control pills, hormone therapies and vaginal creams will also affect vaginal odor.
Excessive Sweating-The genital area is prone to excessive sweating and the folds in genital area encourages sweat to accumulate and for smell-causing bacteria to fester. Wear moisture-wicking fabrics and change sweaty exercise gear as soon as possible to minimize unpleasant smells.
Hormonal Changes-Menopause is associated with a decrease in estrogen levels, making you more prone to yeast infections and BV.
Forgotten Tampon-A tampon forgotten in the vagina can be a source of foul smell and also lead to a serious infection. This should be removed quickly and then the odor should disappear. You should be concerned to get medical help when you experience an unusually bad scent accompanied with itching and abnormal discharge. This can indicate an infection and requires medication.
Fishy Odor- This can be due to an infection like BV. A doctor’s visit will be your first step to getting rid of it. Your doctor will most likely prescribe a course of antibiotics.
Yeasty Odor-All women have healthy yeast in the vagina. A candida yeast infection occurs when there is a candida overgrowth. The discharge associated with this condition is a “cottage cheese” discharge which is thick and white.
Sour Odor-A trichomoniasis infection can cause a sour odor and a foul-smelling discharge. It is a sexually transmitted infection.
Decay Odor-This can be due to a forgotten tampon. A tampon forgotten in vagina can result in a bad smell and possible infection. See your doctor immediately to get the whole tampon removed and to ensure no piece is left behind.
How to Eliminate Vaginal Odor After Intercourse- There are many commercially available products implying that women need special soaps and intimate deodorants to mask the natural vaginal smell. This is actually unnecessary and using these products may predispose you to infections and allergies. It is usually the difference in pH between the healthy vaginal environment and the semen that causes the smell. Some women are more prone to experiencing an unpleasant vaginal odor after intercourse than others. Here are a few tips to minimize the scent:
Vaginal Hygiene- Wash the genital area immediately after sex. The external genitalia should be cleaned gently with warm water and mild soap. Do not insert soap into the vagina. Using condoms keeps the semen from interfering with your vaginal pH, thus avoiding the smell. Wearing loose-fit cotton underwear will help absorb moisture from sweat and vaginal discharge. Party-liners will also help to keep the area dry. Change underwear regularly.
Diet and Home Remedies- Yogurt is full of “good” bacteria which can help restore the vaginal pH. You can either apply yogurt to the genitals or eat yogurt daily. Apple cider vinegar has great antibacterial and antiseptic properties. You can add two cups of apple cider vinegar to your bath water and immerse yourself for about twenty minutes. Rinse off with clean water.
Alternatively, you can drink between one to two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar daily. Foods high in vitamin C contain powerful antioxidant which will improve the immune system and help the body recover from a vaginal infection. Fruits like oranges, pineapples, cranberries and grapes are all high in vitamin C. Tea tree oil has powerful antiseptic and antifungal properties. Use three drops in a cup of water and wash the genital area daily.