Vaginal odor affects most women at some point in their lives, and while unpleasant, is generally not cause for alarm. It often indicates the presence of a mild infection, such as candida or bacterial vaginosis. Recent research highlights the role of vitamin C vaginal suppositories in helping to treat bacterial vaginosis and prevent recurrence. However, as of 2011, there is no research to suggest that either dietary or oral supplementary vitamin C is useful in treating or preventing vaginal odor and associated conditions. Be sure to consult your doctor if you experience chronic vaginal odor or plan to add a vitamin C supplement to your diet.
Vaginal odor refers to abnormal and unpleasant smells emanating from the vagina. Vaginal odor is not a medical diagnosis, but rather tends to be a symptom associated with a number of health conditions, including bacterial vaginosis, vaginal yeast infections, and certain sexually transmitted infections. The medical literature frequently describes vaginal odor as being “fishy,” and its presence can cause women psychological discomfort, as well as embarrassment during sexual intercourse.
Vitamin C and Vaginal Odor
While there is little evidence to suggest that vitamin C as an oral or dietary supplement will help eliminate vaginal odor, recent research suggests that intravaginal tablets are effective in the treatment of bacterial vaginosis, a common cause of vaginal odor. In a 2009 review of relevant scientific studies, the Institute of Midwifery found evidence to indicate that vaginal suppositories of vitamin C were effective in relieving symptoms of bacterial vaginosis and preventing recurrence, noting that vitamin C helps to restore the ecology of vaginal bacteria and promote the growth of healthy flora.
The results of a randomized clinical trial published in 2011 by researchers in Switzerland offer similar findings. The investigators examined the clinical differences between women with bacterial vaginosis who were administered vitamin C and those who were given a placebo, and found that the study group experienced significant improvements in their condition; 86.3 percent of women treated with vitamin C were cured of their bacterial vaginosis, as compared to 7.6 percent of women who received a placebo.
Bacterial vaginosis is a common gynecological problem that most frequently affects women of reproductive age. Although bacterial vaginosis is largely benign and rarely associated with serious health problems, effective treatment can be complicated and recurrence has been noted to take place in roughly 69 percent of women. In addition to causing vaginal odor, bacterial vaginosis is also associated with symptoms of itching, swelling, irritation and discharge. The exact cause of bacterial vaginosis remains unknown, however, frequent douching, unprotected sex and poor genital hygiene are established risk factors.
Vaginal Odor and Health Considerations
While in most instances vaginal odor is not an indication of major health problems, in some instances, it can be a warning sign of a more serious condition, such as a sexually transmitted infection or cancer. Although most women will experience vaginal odor at some point, persistent cases require the attention of your health provider to determine the cause and identify suitable options for treatment.
- Mayo Clinic: Vaginal Odor
- Institute of Midwifery; The Use of Vitamin C Intravaginally for the Prevention of Recurrent Bacterial Vaginosis; Elizabeth Withnall; May 2009
- "Arzneimittel-Forschung"; Efficacy of Vitamin C Vaginal Tablets in the Treatment of Bacterial Vaginosis: A Randomised, Double Blind, Placebo Controlled Clinical Trial; E.E. Peterson, et al.; 2011
- Mayo Clinic: Bacterial Vaginosis