What you need to know about the way your period smells
Let’s get something straight: It’s totally normal for your period blood to have a certain smell to it, and you shouldn’t be embarrassed about it. It comes with the menstruation territory. If you’ve never gotten the chance to ask your OBGYN why your blood carries that weird, slightly unpleasant odor with it, you’re in luck, because Taraneh Shirazian, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the NYU Langone Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health, spoke with Refinery29 about period blood and gave us the inside scoop.
Here are four things you need to know about the scent of your period blood.
1. It’s supposed to smell.
Yes, that’s correct. Your period isn’t supposed to be completely scentless. Dr. Shirazian says, “Blood itself has a certain odor.” Furthermore, it’s not just blood that’s coming out of your vagina. Your body is getting rid of vagina mucus, bacteria, fluid, and tissue. The longer that stuff has sat in your uterus, the stronger the smell will be when it’s being expelled from your body.
2. It shouldn’t smell fishy, though.
It won’t ever smell like roses and sunshine, but Dr. Shirazian is clear when she says, “A healthy period smell just shouldn’t be fishy.” The second you encounter that kind of smell, speak to your doctor because you may have an infection you didn’t know about before. Two common infections associated with fishy scents are bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis, both of which can be sorted out with a round of antibiotics from your medical provider.
In addition to the change in smell down there, bacterial vaginosis sometimes comes with itchiness and painful urination. You don’t want to wait around to get it treated because having bacterial vaginosis puts you at a higher risk for contracting STIs.
3. Don’t douche — under any circumstances.
In case you missed the memo, you should never douche! Ever! Douching is an extreme act that could actually induce infections and thus make your vag smell worse than before. It’s even known to be associated with pelvic inflammatory disease. According to Womenshealth.gov, “Douching can change the necessary balance of vaginal flora (bacteria that live in the vagina) and natural acidity in a healthy vagina.” Eeek! Just keep things nice and clean down there with mild soap and warm water.
4. Try to keep your vagina dry.
In order to keep the moisture (and the smell) at a minimum, Dr. Shirazian recommends you stay dry down there. That means you should “wear cotton underwear and breathable clothing, not a lot of spandex or tight clothing,” change your tampon or cup often, and rinse off right after you’re finished sweating. This will reduce the likelihood of extra bacteria growing and causing strong scents or an infection.
It may sound like a lot to take in, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. All you have to do is be a little more conscious about what’s going on down there — and don’t forget to chat with your OBGYN if you feel like something’s off!