Odor loss: what to do? Causes and treatments

White discharge is a completely natural phenomenon. In fact, it's a good indicator of the health of your intimate area. Leucorrhoea is usually whitish or translucent in color. Likewise, they don't usually present any particular bad odor, apart from a slightly acidic but hardly perceptible smell. However, a different, unpleasant or foul-smelling sensation in your vaginal secretions should alert you.

Is foul-smelling discharge normal?

While it's normal for every woman to have her own body odor, because our bodies aren't sanitized, it's not normal for some women to experience foul-smelling vaginal discharge.

What does vaginal discharge usually smell like?

Some women can detect a musky, bittersweet, cakey, acidic scent in their vaginal discharge... What does leucorrhoea normally smell like?

Natural body odor

Our bodies have their own scent, their own olfactory imprint! Leucorrhoea, like our other secretions, is no exception to the rule, and can vary slightly from one woman to another. Leucorrhoea can also vary according to the stage of the menstrual cycle, during ovulation with more liquid productions or with a metallic sensation that can occur a few days before the period, or with one's sporting activity, mingling with the odours of perspiration. Although you may be bothered by your natural production, finding it acceptable or not, it's important to point out that it's completely normal!
On the other hand, an unusual, overly strong fishy, rotten or bread (yeast) smell may be a sign that an infection has overtaken your usual body signature.

What causes odor loss?

Unpleasant discharge can have a number of causes.

Intimate hygiene problems

Hygiene is often the first to be blamed for odorous discharge. Indeed, taboos die hard in modern society, and strong body odors are often stigmatized: you have to smell good at all times! However, this goes against the body's own mechanisms: in particular, the body needs a balanced vaginal flora to function!

As a reminder, the vagina is self-cleaning, so there's no need to wash it inside. On the contrary, repeated toilets and douching tend to destroy vaginal flora. We recommend using a PH-neutral, fragrance-free soap, or washing with clear water. We often tend to believe that washing our intimate area abundantly will prevent infections. However, the opposite is true: over-cleaning will unbalance the genital area!

On the other hand, poor hygiene and too-frequent showers can of course encourage the development of bacteria, especially when you sweat a lot or your panties are always very damp. A short, effective shower is preferable to a bath!

Forgetting to put sanitary protection in the vagina

A bad smell can also be caused by a forgotten tampon or other internal protection or contraceptive, such as a diaphragm. Some women, especially at the end of their cycle, may forget to put a tampon inside their vagina, especially if the tampon thread is no longer visible. Be careful when using tampons: it's imperative not to keep them in for more than 6 hours, and to change them as soon as they become uncomfortable, or after aquatic activity. Using a tampon, especially one that has been left in for too long, can lead to Toxic Shock Syndrome. Similarly, before inserting a new tampon, make sure that the passageway is clear and that the previous one has been removed.
It's also bad for the vaginal flora to wear tampons "as a preventive measure" when you're not having your period, or to absorb afoul-smelling white discharge you think is too much. Tampons will absorb all the good bacteria, drying out the vaginal walls and leaving them unable to fight off infection. This type of sanitary protection should be used sparingly!

Bacterial vaginosis

If you notice that your vaginal discharge smells unpleasantly like rotting fish, it could be bacterial vaginosis (or other STIs, vaginitis...). Most often due to an imbalance in vaginal flora, caused by the Gardnerella vaginalis bacterium, this is the most common vaginal infection in menstruating women. Half of all bacterial vaginosis is asymptomatic, but the rest of the time it may be accompanied by other symptoms such as burning, abnormal discharge (whitish, yellow or greyish)...

Many external factors

Other factors can also be responsible for bad-smelling leucorrhoea:

  • Sexual intercourse, because the PH of the vagina is different from that of the semen, which is alkaline while that of the vagina is acidic. With the coagulation of sperm at the bottom of the vagina, this can lead to effluvia that should, however, remain temporary.
  • Foods that influence our body signature: asparagus, for example, is well known for perfuming the smell of urine, and has the same effect on vaginal production, as do garlic, onions, citrus fruits...
  • Medicines or vitamin supplements, which alter our internal chemistry and production of estrogen and progesterone
  • Lubricants or condoms, scented or unscented, can temporarily give off a slight rubbery or plastic odor.

How to treat foul-smelling discharge?

If your white discharge seems malodorous or abnormal, or if an odorous liquid like water or yellow discharge stains the bottom of your panties, it's always a good idea to consult your GP or gynaecologist. If your leucorrhoea turns out to be completely normal, there's really no need for treatment. On the other hand, if you have symptoms of infection or mycosis, your health professional may prescribe prescription medication.

Our tips for avoiding smelly discharge!

To avoid the infections responsible for smelly discharge, it's important to maintain a balanced lifestyle and take good care of your body!

Pamper your body and vagina

First of all, you need to get to the root of the problem, and avoid an imbalance in vaginal flora. To do this, we recommend the following tips, before resorting to medication:

  • Take care with intimate hygiene, without over-cleaning or showering too far apart.
  • Use a PH-neutral, fragrance-free soap, without internal douching: simply clean the vulva, i.e. the woman's external genital area.
  • Wash after sports, excessive perspiration and sexual intercourse
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes made from natural materials like cotton, to help absorb moisture and perspiration.
  • Eat a balanced diet that's neither too fatty nor too sweet, and quench your thirst regularly.
  • Change your sanitary protection regularly during your period.
  • Don't have too many unprotected high-risk sexual partners: this increases the risk of sexually transmitted infections, such as bacterial vaginosis.

If all this doesn't work, consult your gynecologist or primary care physician for further advice.

Opt for external sanitary protection

Generally speaking, internal sanitary protection alters the balance of the vagina: blood from the endometrium and white discharge are meant to be evacuated, eliminating residues and protecting the vaginal flora from aggression! We therefore recommend that you use external sanitary protection until the menopause, which does not alter the natural balance of your vaginal wall and cervix.

To avoid all the intimate inconveniences you may encounter, which can lead to foul-smelling and abundant white discharge, we particularly recommend wearing menstrual panties.

Try as far as possible to choose organic cotton and oeko-tex certified panties, to ensure that they are harmless to your body. Ours are! Very gentle on your vulva, they'll give you the comfort you need during your cycles.

Smelly discharge FAQs

Why does discharge smell?

While it's common for white discharge to have a mild, natural acid smell, it's not normal for your leucorrhoea to have an unpleasant odour. Poor genital hygiene or bacterial infection can be responsible for thick, foul-smelling secretions.

How can I stop smelly white discharge?

If your unpleasant discharge is not due to bacterial vaginosis or mycosis, there's no need to resort to medical treatment or seek advice. All you need to do is practise good intimate hygiene, eat a balanced diet, wear breathable clothes and use external sanitary protection such as menstrual panties.

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