Feminine odor is an embarrassing problem that can be difficult to treat. It is usually caused by a bacterial infection such as trichomoniasis or bacterial vaginosis. These infections often occur in women trying to prevent feminine odor by using various feminine hygiene products. Introducing foreign chemicals into the vagina can change its natural pH. This offsets the balance of healthy bacteria and allows infection-causing bacteria to proliferate. A sexually transmitted disease (STD) can also be the culprit. When these infections are left untreated, they can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and ultimately infertility. There are some things you can do at home to help the odor, but it is important to visit your doctor as soon as possible.
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Effective hygiene is essential to eliminating odor, but don't over do it. Harsh soaps with perfumes and added chemicals can be detrimental to the environment inside of the vagina. You can continue to use these soaps on the rest of your body, but use mild, hypoallergenic soaps or water only inside the vagina. Always clean the vagina from front to back to avoid introducing bacteria from the anal area into it. Be sure to dry the vagina thoroughly after showering.
There are several products on the market that claim to eliminate vaginal odor. Be very careful with these products. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does not recommend douching because research has shown that it often causes more health problems. Feminine deodorant sprays, powders and deodorant pads and tampons may actually contribute to the problem by making the vagina more hospitable for bacteria to grow. If you are tempted to use these products, stick with ones that can be used outside of the vagina such as powders, sprays and pads.
The American Academy of Family Physicians suggests wearing loose-fitting clothing and cotton underwear. They do not recommend wearing pantyhose every day. Cotton is porous and will allow the vagina to get fresh air so that sweat can be evaporated. Save the tight, leather or synthetic, glittery underwear for special occasions.
You may consider using RePhresh or Acigel. These are similar vaginal gels that restore normal pH in the vagina, possibly preventing infections. RePhresh can be purchased at a local drugstore. These products do not cure existing infections, so it is important to visit the doctor for treatment. According to the National Guidelines Clearinghouse, a recent study on women with recurrent bacterial vaginosis reported that Acigel used during menstruation and after unprotected sex showed a reduction in relapse of the infection after treatment with antibiotics.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- National Guidelines Clearinghouse: National Guideline for the Management of Bacterial Vaginosis
- National Womens Health Information Center: Reproductive Health
- National Women's Health Information Center: Douching
- National Women's Health Information Center: Sexually Transmitted Infections: Overview
- RePhresh Vaginal Gel: Feminine Odor
- RePhresh Vaginal Gel