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Women's Health

Vaginal odor

08/23/2007

Question:

I have been reading many questions from women about vaginal odors. I have no other symptoms (read about itching, swelling, etc.), and I have recently had a normal pap. I feel like the odor is offensive but, I`ve also read that the odor is not offensive (or unnoticeable) to others? Besides BV, are there any other possible abnormal causes?

Answer:

You don't say what kind of odor you are experiencing. Often BV has an old fish like odor. If, for some reason, there is some old blood in the vagina from a retained tampon, the odor is quite noticeable and pretty bad. Also, if there is a sore or a cyst that has become infected in the vaginal area, there will be an odor.

Another common cause is sweat. Many women wear non breathable underwear (usually the synthetic materials like nylon are big culprits). Also, women who routinely wear underpants to bed at night sometime develop an odor because their genitals don't have the opportunity to stay dry. Another cause can be repeated vaginal intercourse with multiple ejaculations into the vaginal vault.

Let me emphasize that douching is a REALLY BAD idea. Simple cleansing of the external vaginal area with a mild soap and water should do the trick. You can also use a solution of baking soda and water on the external genitalia to help get rid of the sweaty odor.

If you have a persistent odor, it should be checked out by your health care provider even though you recently had a normal pap. Please remember that douching and/ or using feminine hygiene sprays are a REALLY BAD idea.

Hope this helps.

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Response by:

Elizabeth R Barker, APRN, BC, FNP, FAANP, CHE, PhD Elizabeth R Barker, APRN, BC, FNP, FAANP, CHE, PhD
Professor of Clinical Nursing
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University