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Why does my vagina smell weird?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

Because my husband Eric and I have no boundaries, I would fill him in on the various scents my vagina would emit during pregnancy. He loved it. Some days it would be Scent of Asparagus. Others would be Cabbage with a Splash of Dirty Socks, and on the really special days I got to enjoy the aroma of Expired Fish with Undertones of Ammonia. (I should patent these scents before someone tries to steal them out from under me.)

Luckily, Eric had no idea what I was talking about, because only my nose was lucky enough to pick up the scents. I had developed something called hyperosmia, which is a heightened sense of smell (the worst superpower ever). This increased nasal sensitivity meant I picked up every fragrance my vagina was dropping. Asking the smart medical people I know about these smells revealed that (most of the time) they don’t actually emanate out of the interior of the vagina; instead they are primarily caused by leftover urine in and around the vulva. While these leftovers don’t have much of an aroma when you’re not pregnant, pregnancy pee can take on strong scents for any of the following reasons:

  • Dehydration: When you’re dehydrated, urine will be more concentrated, meaning its aroma will also be more concentrated. More water = less stinky pee. This is an amazing motivator to stay hydrated if I’ve ever smelled one.
  • Diet: When you’re pregnant, it’s not just asparagus that stinks up your flow — Brussels sprouts, garlic, and onions also do a number on your Vagina Eau de Parfum. I craved all of these. Brussels sprouts barbequed with maple syrup, sautéed onions on top of chicken potpies, and garlic in everything. No wonder oral sex wasn’t a thing during my pregnancy. Other foods that can tinker with urine include broccoli, cauliflower, curry, fish, and cumin.
  • Vitamins and supplements: Vitamin B6, calcium, and vitamin D can all make urine smell fishy. Because most prenatal vitamins contain all three, you can expect slightly (or not so slightly) fishy pee.

In addition to all of the above, the increased blood supply during pregnancy can impact the pH balance of your vagina, sometimes causing it to become more acidic. You’ll likely also experience more discharge; this shouldn’t have much of a smell, but when mixed with urine it might take on a more pungent odor.

What to do

Tell your care provider. While a fragrant vagina is often caused by the issues above, it can also be a sign of a yeast infection, urinary tract infection, bacterial vaginosis, sexually transmitted disease, or other issues. While I understand the embarrassment that comes with a smelly vagina, your care provider has smelled it all and will just be glad you’re comfortable enough asking whether you should be concerned. After you have the clean bill of health, try the following to deodorize your petunia:

  • Wipe well. Kill the number one culprit of vagina stink, leftover urine, by wiping with unscented, organic cotton intimate wet wipes.
  • Wear organic cotton underwear. The sweaty crotch we talked about in the last question can contribute to vaginal odors. By wearing breathable cotton panties you can minimize nether-region odors.
  • Drink apple cider vinegar. Because this type of vinegar makes your urine a bit more alkaline, it also makes it smell better, as more acidic urine smells more like ammonia. After checking with your care provider, aim for mixing one to two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into your smoothie or juice, up to two times a day.
  • Use essential oils. While I can almost guarantee that no one else can smell your vagina, you can keep it from bothering you by rubbing two to three drops of an essential oil — mixed with a carrier oil like jojoba or almond oil — into your inner thighs, being sure not to get it on the vagina. Use only mild oils that are safe to use on the skin, like lavender, frankincense, or sandalwood. With the exception of these oils, stay away from all scented feminine hygiene products, as they could cause irritation.

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