Vaginal infections, like bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections and sexually transmitted infections, can cause or contribute to vaginal odor. In fact, the vagina is so good at self-cleaning on its own that unless you have a serious hygiene problem, any strong, unusual vaginal odor is more than likely caused by an infection. The trick to getting rid of the odor is getting rid of the infection. Otherwise you're simply masking the problem and potentially making it worse by using products that often irritate sensitive tissues.
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Bacterial vaginal infections like bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis cause strong, fishy vaginal odors. Scented creams, sprays or feminine washes temporarily mask the odor, but in turn irritate vaginal tissues. In response, the vagina produces more secretions, according to The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies. These secretions keep the vagina warm and moist without reprieve--the perfect conditions for bacterial growth. Scented products create a vicious cycle without solving the problem. A simple course of antibiotics will clear the infection and solve the odor problem, according to the Mayo Clinic. Use only warm water and mild soap without fragrances or additives.
Antifungals treat odor caused by vaginal yeast infections. Harmless bacteria and yeast live in harmony in the vagina until their delicate balance gets tipped in favor of one or the other. In the case of a yeast infection, the yeast outweigh the bacteria. These infections cause sour, doughy or yeasty smells. Scented feminine hygiene products are also not effective at remedying that odor. Vaginal yeast infections are treated with antiviral medications like creams, suppositories or pills. Although some yeast infections do clear on their own, they're more likely to stick around if the vagina is irritated by hygiene products.
Many women cure vaginal infections using home remedies. According to The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies, a lukewarm vinegar douche can restore vaginal pH, thereby restoring the yeast/bacteria balance. Douching should be done only when absolutely necessary as it can force infection into the reproductive tract, which can cause a painful condition known as pelvic inflammatory disease, according to the Kid's Health website. Many women find success with yogurt or garlic suppositories for yeast infections. Bacterial infections can go away in time, but are more likely to require antibiotics and less likely to respond to natural cures.