Let’s cut to the chase: Should your vagina have a smell? Despite what your ex might say or what all those vaginal hygiene products tell us, our lady bits are supposed to smell.
“Each vagina has its own unique smell,” explains Dr Kim Sonntag, a gynaecologist and obstetrician.
Okay, so since our vaginas are supposed to have their own brand of eau de toilette, what should they not smell like? “It should never have an offensive, malodorous smell,” says Dr Sonntag.
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One of the most common odour problems women experience is a fishy smell. A “fishy” odour, says Dr Sonntag, is commonly caused by an organism called trichomonas vaginalis. She goes on to explain that an odour can also be caused by bacterial vaginosis: An overgrowth of the healthy normal bacteria in the vagina.
Vaginal thrush, which is usual characterised by a thick, white discharge accompanied by itching, could give off a yeasty odour. Also be alert to musky, rotten or metallic smells – these aren’t normal and need to be checked out.
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Visit your gynae if…
Any smell that differs from your usual scent should prompt a visit to your GP or gynae. This is a must because “sometimes smell may be the only symptom [of an underlying problem],” says Dr Sonntag. If the smell is accompanied by unusual discharge or an itchy or burning sensation, you’ll definitely need to get it looked at.
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Can you treat the smell?
Although it’s tempting to use scented soaps or vaginal hygiene products, don’t. Dr Sonntag recommends washing with water, and keeping creams, lotions and other products away from your vagina as these can disturb your vaginal pH, making you more susceptible to infections.
The vagina is self-cleaning, so there’s no need to make it smell like flowers. If the smell is bothering you, the only person who can help is your doctor. Having an odour problem isn’t something to be ashamed of – in fact, it’s a common problem, one that most women encounter at least once in their lifetime. Don’t let your embarrassment stop you from getting the treatment you need.
Our final bits of advice: To ensure you’re helping to keep your vagina smelling like it should, try to wear cotton underwear, and avoid scented pantyliners and pads as these can also affect your pH levels.This article originally appeared on www.womenshealthmag.com
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