Why Does My Period Smell So Bad? Causes and Treatment

Why Does My Period Smell So Bad? Causes and Treatment

One of the many things that periods bring along with them every month aside from cramps, is a funky smell. Anyone that has a period will tell you that at some point or other, they've caught a whiff from down there and it doesn't exactly smell like roses. Far from it.

It's no secret that periods smell, but have you ever wondered why?

Period blood contains three things — the shedding of an unfertilised egg, blood and uterine lining tissues. Taking this on board, it's usually completely normal for this combination to have a slight smell to it when it leaves the body, however, different smells can mean different things so read on to learn more!

When your flow smells 'rotten'

Some people report that they have a 'rotten' smell during their period. This smell shows up when bacteria mixes with menstrual flow and could be a sign of a problem. It is usually not strong enough for other people to smell.

A rotten smell during your period is often due to a tampon being accidentally left in the vagina for too long. If you have left a tampon in for too long, you can try to remove it by finding the string and pulling it out, otherwise you will need to seek medical help so a doctor can remove it.

You can try to control this 'rotten' smell by changing your period protection frequently, especially during heavy-flow days and if you wear tampons.

When your period blood smells 'fishy'

If you notice a'fishy' smell during menstruation, this might indicate a problem that you need to see a doctor for. This smell is most often caused by bacterial vaginosis, which is a common infection that can cause periods to smell a lot stronger than normal.

Bacterial vaginosis is caused by too much bacteria in the vagina and your chances of getting BV can be increased by things like new or multiple sex partners and douching.

If you have BV you will probably also have other symptoms before, during, and/or after your period, including:

  • Itchiness
  • Irritation
  • A burning sensation (especially during sex or when you pee)
  • Gray or white discharge when you're not on your period

Bacterial vaginosis is treated with antibiotics, and once this balances out the bacteria, you should no longer notice any unusual smells during your period.

If you have any of the above symptoms or feel like you might have bacterial vaginosis, be sure to make an appointment with your GP.

If your period blood smells 'metallic'

Period blood can sometimes smell metallic, like a copper coin. This is usually due to the iron in the blood and is normally not a cause for concern. However, if it continues after your period ends, it is probably a good idea to talk to your GP.

When your period smells sweet

If you catch a sweet whiff coming from your period blood, don't worry too much, this is common and is normally just due to the acidic environment and bacteria in your vagina.

Can other people smell my blood?

Most of the time, although you may be able to smell your period, it shouldn't be strong enough for anyone else to pick up on. Periods are a natural part of life and nearly every person with a period will tell you they've had a funky smell at some point or another - so don't feel embarrassed!

However, if you notice the smell is very strong or if someone else does tell you that they've noticed a smell, be sure to check in with your GP to make sure there's nothing serious going on.

How can I improve the smell of my period blood?

First of all, if you're worried about the smell of your period at any time, be sure to check in with your doctor to make sure that there are no infections going on. Once you've eliminated the chances of any infection, there's a number of things that you can do to try and reduce the smell of your period blood. Here's a few tips:

  • Change your period protection frequently. Depending on your flow, how often you need to change will be different but you can experiment and see what works for you.
  • If you wear tampons, make sure you don't leave them in too long — this will stop bacteria from building up which will help to keep smells to a minimum and also stop you from getting toxic shock syndrome.
  • Making sure you keep on top of your hygiene by washing often using a gentle bar soap around the area between your legs. The vagina its self is self cleaning, so letting the water just run over the inside is more than enough. Avoid using any perfumed soaps or body washes — the scents and chemicals may upset your vagina’s natural pH.
  • Go for breathable underwear that is moisture-wicking allowing the area to breathe and stay cool. Switching from pads and tampons to our breathable period underwear will also give you longer-lasting protection as they absorb you menstrual flow whilst keeping you dry all day long. Why not try our best-selling Cotton Essential Hipster period pants?

Christine Greves, a gynaecologist in Florida, tells Health that our vaginas are home to many different bacteria, and when the bacteria mixes with blood, it produces an odour. Simple.

“When you cut your finger, you wipe the blood off right away, and it’s fresh blood, meaning it hasn’t been sitting around for awhile,” Dr. Greves says. “But period blood stays in the vagina for a longer period of time. It’s exposed to the bacteria in the vagina, and that’s where you get that odour.”

So remember, a little funky smell here or there when you're on your period is nothing to be ashamed of and you're probably the only one who can smell it. But remember, as always, if you're worried about the smell or think something more might be going on, it never hurts to give your doctor a call!

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