Let’s be real: vaginas don’t smell like flowers (and aren’t supposed to), and the same goes for period blood. Every woman has their own unique smell at various times throughout their cycle, and it can be influenced by a number of factors, including the vagina’s pH or the presence of bacteria.
The menstrual fluids released during our periods typically consist of blood, uterine lining tissue, and the unfertilized egg, and the mixture usually has some type of smell to it. The most often thing people notice is a metallic smell coming from their lady bits due to the presence of iron in the blood.
However, bacteria, semen, or urine can throw off the pH of the vagina, ultimately affecting the way your vagina and its secretions look and smell. While many odors are normal, some may be cause for concern. Want to know what the smell of your period blood says about your health? Here are five common menstrual blood odors and what they mean.
Yes, sometimes your period makes your panties smell like you’ve been storing pennies down there. As previously mentioned, this is one of the most common things women notice during their periods. The smell is caused by the iron in your blood and is usually not cause for concern. However, the smell should go away with your period. If it lasts much longer, you may need to see a doctor
No one ever wants any part of their body to smell rotten, let alone their vagina. If you’ve noticed a rotten odor wafting up from your groin during your period, it could be a sign of a problem. The most common cause is usually a foreign body, such as a tampon, that has been left in the vagina for too long. A person can usually remove the old tampon themselves by pulling it out with the string, but if not, physician assistance may be required.
While you probably won’t smell like a Krispy Kreme donut, it’s possible for your period blood to take on a slightly sweet odor. If this happens to you, there’s no need to worry. A sweet odor is most likely due to your vagina’s acidic environment (the pH is usually 3.8-4.5) and the presence of bacteria.
Sometimes, your period blood can leave your vagina smelling more like an armpit. This caused by the presence of apocrine sweat glands in your genital region. When apocrine sweat mixes with bacteria on the skin (or in your blood), it produces body odor. The glands produce this type of sweat during times of stress or anxiety, so try getting some rest and relaxation during your period. It may just keep your crotch from smelling like a gym locker!
When the odor you’re smelling has fishy undertones, it’s never a good sign. Fishy odors during (or outside of) your period are usually a sign of an infection, such as bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis. Bacterial vaginosis occurs when there’s an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina, while trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection that causes itching and burning in addition to the fishy odor. Both infections may need to be treated with antibiotics, so it’s important to visit a doctor if you develop a fishy smell down there.
Remember, your vagina and period will never smell like candy or roses, and having a different type of scent is nothing to be ashamed of. If you’re really concerned about your period odor, try changing your tampons and pads regularly. And make sure to avoid douching or using special products or sprays that can irritate your vagina.