Is This Why Your Vagina Smells?

Wanda The Fish. That was the most humiliating name any chick could get labeled at my middle school. Getting chastised as “Wanda” simply meant that your vagina reeked of “Tuna Of The Sea”.

Understandably, girls, myself included, would go to extensive lengths to avoid this dehumanizing stigma.

So what do you do when your stinky midsection betrays an otherwise healthy vagina? The first step is to actually make sure that your vagina is in tip-top shape.

What’s a Vagina Supposed to Smell Like?

Throughout your menstrual cycle, it’s normal to have a variety of vaginal discharges. Vaginal discharge can take the form of the non-fertile, viscous- and sticky-type discharge to the very fertile, slippery- and clear-type discharge that occurs close to menstruation.

Abnormal discharges are accompanied by itchiness, raunchy smells, and/ or gray-, yellow- or green-colored discharges.

The second step to restoring your vagina to health involves to ruling out the possibility of having vaginal conditions like bacterial vaginosis, a yeast infection or trichomonas vaginitis.

Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV), while more common than yeast infections, doesn’t get much attention in the media.

The cause of bacterial vaginosis remains unclear but this condition is linked to sexual activity and douching. According to a University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) study, a sexually transmitted virus that infects vaginal lactobacilli may cause bacterial vaginosis.

Vaginal lactobacilli are required to maintain a healthy pH and bacterial balance within the vagina. Once this balance is disrupted by a virus, the vagina no longer has a protective barrier and is more susceptible to infection.

In the 1999 UIC study, Sylvia Pavlova, senior research specialist, and Lin Tao, associate professor of oral biology, found that viruses may cause bacterial vaginosis. Moreover bacterial vaginosis could be sexually transmitted.

If untreated, bacterial vaginosis can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, tubal pregnancy, or, pre-term labor if you are pregnant.

Only your doctor can diagnose bacterial vaginosis. Your doctor would prescribe oral antibiotics or antibiotic vaginal inserts to treat bacterial vaginosis.

What to look and smell for:

Increased vaginal discharge. A fishy vaginal odor and white or gray milk-like discharge.

Yeast infection

If you’ve used antibiotics, been pregnant, have diabetes, or wear tight clothing, chances are you’ve experienced an overgrowth of vaginal yeast. Overgrowth of the yeast Candida albicans is largely blamed for causing yeast infections.

Most women find their yeast infection treatment in over-the-counter preparations at drug stores. Other times you can find yeast infection relief by moderating your sugar intake and supplementing your diet with more foods that contain Lactobacillus (L.).

Dr. Tori Hudson, who serves a medical director of A Woman’s Time, recommends that you eat foods that contain at least three of the following forms of Lactobacillus when naturally treating a yeast infection: L. acidophilus, L. fermentum. L. plantarum, L bulgaricus, L. casei, or L. rhamnosus.

While a research war still ranges over the effectiveness of Lactobacillus against combating yeast infections, women still notice improvements with their vaginal infections after supplementing their diet with this probiotic.

What to look and smell for:

Symptoms include a white cottage cheese-like discharge, itching, redness, and irritation.

Trichomonas vaginitis

Trichomonas vaginitis comes in as the third leading cause of vaginal infections.

Commonly called “hooker”, I mean “trick”, trichomonas vaginitis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a tiny single-celled parasite. Like bacterial vaginosis, trichomonas vaginitis can be transmitted through intercourse.

Your doctor would have to test you to diagnose trichomonas vaginitis. She will prescribe antibiotics as a treatment.

What to look and smell for:

Increased amount of vaginal discharge. Possible itching. Itching and redness accompanied by a yellow-green discharge.

You know what the ironic thing about this smelly vagina business is?

It is that if you get bacterial vaginosis or trichomonas vaginitis, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics, but after using the antibiotics, your chances of getting a vaginal yeast infection shoot up. Who designed this health scenario anyway?

Before you curse, Wanda, let me offer you these tips for vaginal health to use at you own discretion:

  1. The vagina needs to breathe, so let it. Wear pantyhose less often. Use knee-highs or thigh-highs instead.
  2. Wear cotton underwear instead of synthetic underwear.
  3. Use condoms during sex. Even though the theory that sex can cause a vaginal infection remains contested, use a condom is a preventative until the infection gone.
  4. Add one teaspoon of boric acid or a half-cup of hydrogen peroxide to two quarts of warm water. (For the boric acid to mix well you need to make sure the water is warm). Use the boric acid or hydrogen peroxide douche for two weeks and stop. The boric acid and hydrogen peroxide should increase the amount of lactic acid within the vagina. This increased amount of lactic acid within the vaginal helps restore the proper bacterial balance within the vaginal and reduces the chances of re-infection.
  5. Eat less sugar so that you don’t feed the yeast.
  6. See a doctor if you still have doubts. The Mayo Clinic Women’s “HealthSource” newsletter has cautioned women against hastily self-diagnosing vaginal problems and labeling every smelly vagina issue as a “yeast infection”. This may not allows be the case.

Ok, I hope you smell better now and if in doubt, check it out.