Your ordinary period consists of an unfertilised egg, menstrual blood and the lining of your uterus. Add in the sprinkle of bacteria it picks up on its way out of your vagina and well, there’s going to be a slight odour. Sometimes you might notice a smell of blood or a faintly metallic smell from iron, other months maybe you won’t. Suffice to say, it’s completely normal and, as long as you practice good hygiene it will not be noticeable to anyone but you. So do NOT be fooled into buying anything ‘fragranced’. These products may contain harmful chemicals, get rid of healthy vaginal bacteria, and will most likely do nothing to mask the smell anyway.
Sometimes, for one reason or another, your period may take on a more funky aroma. Let’s take a look at the smells that might waft your way, and what might be causing them.
Rotting smell A stronger smell may simply be because the blood and tissue combo is mixing with more vaginal bacteria than usual. Bacteria levels (again, completely normal), do fluctuate so this can have an effect. You should be able to control this by changing pads and tampons frequently.
A pronounced rotten smell can happen if you’ve forgotten to take out a tampon. If you’re worried that might have happened, have a feel around. If that doesn’t produce anything, see your doctor who can take a closer look. (Don’t worry, it won’t be the first time they’ve done this!)
Something fishy Fishiness is most often caused by a condition called bacterial vaginosis (BV), and the smell can be pretty strong. If you also have itchiness and discharge, then that’s the BV trifecta. It happens when the normal vaginal bacteria go crazy and try to take over. Douching (rinsing out the vagina) may sound good on paper but can actually increase the risk of infection. Instead, a simple course of antibiotics should do the trick.
Sweaty smell This is most likely caused by letting good hygiene habits lapse. Take a morning shower, wear breathable cotton undies, avoid anything fragranced (tampons, wipes, sprays etc), and change your tampon or pad every few hours. And remember, if you have any concerns that don’t fix themselves right away, see your doctor.