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I Can Smell Myself Through My Pants. Is That Normal?

I Can Smell Myself Through My Pants. Is That Normal?

It's important to remember that every woman has a unique scent, and having a mild vaginal odor is perfectly normal. That unique smell is the product of a diverse collection of bacteria, your body odor, and the delicate balance in your vaginal ecosystem — but what happens when that scent becomes overpoweringly strong?

Let's shed some light on what could be the causes of unusual vaginal odor.

Understanding the Basics: Vaginal Odor

The scent of your vagina isn't random; it's a well-calibrated result of your body's pH balance and the vaginal microbiome. Several factors, including hormonal changes, sexual activity, and your menstrual cycle, influence this balance.

Your vagina, like the rest of your body, has sweat glands. Located in the vulva and the groin area, these glands play a key role in your body's temperature regulation. However, the sweat they produce can mix with bacteria in your genital area, contributing to body odor.

It's worth noting that body odor is a normal part of human physiology. When this odor becomes unusually strong or pungent, you can explore other potential causes.

What Are the Common Causes of Unusual Vaginal Odor?

Recognizing when a change in vaginal odor is abnormal can sometimes be tricky, but it's an important first step in managing your health. The most common causes of an unusual vaginal odor can range from bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections to trichomoniasis and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Vaginal Infections

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a condition resulting from an overgrowth of certain types of bacteria in the vagina. One noticeable sign of BV is a fishy odor, especially after sexual activity. Similarly, yeast infections can cause an odor, often accompanied by a thick, white discharge.

Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis, a lesser-known but common STI, can also cause a strong, foul odor and is often accompanied by a frothy, yellow-green vaginal discharge. On the other hand, more well-known STIs, like chlamydia or gonorrhea, can also result in changes to vaginal odor and discharge.

Menopause

With menopause, significant hormonal changes occur, which can lead to a decrease in estrogen levels. This decrease can alter the typical scent of the vagina, leading to a change in the odor that some may find unusual. 

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)

Another factor to consider is the use of tampons. Tampons that are left in too long can lead to toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a severe and potentially life-threatening condition. One symptom of TSS is a foul, unusual odor.

Hormonal Imbalances

Hormonal imbalances can also contribute to changes in vaginal odor. Fluctuations in hormone levels, such as those that occur during pregnancy or certain medical conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), can disrupt the delicate pH balance of the vagina and lead to an altered scent. 

Additionally, hormonal changes can affect sweat production and the sweat glands' activity, which can further impact body odor in the genital area.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

Lastly, urinary tract infections — while technically affecting a different part of your body — can sometimes cause a strong, unpleasant smell if urine or discharge is left on the skin or fabric. This smell can often be mistaken as originating from the vagina, while it's actually due to an infection in the urinary tract.

The Importance of Good Hygiene and a Healthy Lifestyle

When maintaining a healthy vaginal odor, hygiene and lifestyle choices play a significant role. However, good hygiene doesn't mean over-cleansing. 

Wash With Care

While it may seem counterintuitive, washing the vulva too often or using harsh soaps can disrupt the natural pH level of your vagina, leading to an overgrowth of certain bacteria and potentially causing a strong odor.

Instead, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing the genital area with warm water and a mild soap or cleanser, promoting an optimal environment for the natural vaginal microbiome. 

It's essential to ensure the vagina is dried properly after washing to avoid moisture buildup, which could provide an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.

Pro Tip: Not sure where to find a vagina-friendly cleanser? Check out our pH Balancing Cleanser™ — it’s doctor-developed, fragrance-free, and gentle. 

Choose Breathable Undies

The type of underwear you choose can also make a difference. Cotton underwear is often recommended as it's breathable and helps to absorb excess moisture and reduce sweat in the genital area. This can reduce the risk of bacterial growth and keep your body odor in check.

Maintain a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle

Your diet and lifestyle choices can impact your vagina’s natural scent, too. Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help promote overall health, including vaginal health. Staying hydrated by drinking an adequate amount of water can help flush out toxins and maintain proper bodily functions.

Regular exercise is also beneficial for maintaining hormonal balance and promoting healthy circulation, which can indirectly contribute to a healthier vaginal scent. However, it's important to maintain proper hygiene during and after physical activity to prevent the buildup of sweat and bacteria.

Pro Tip: Level up your diet with a probiotic supplement like Good Girl Probiotics — a doctor-developed probiotic that supports a balanced vaginal pH, bacteria, and urinary tract health.*

Avoid Scented Products

Products such as vaginal deodorants and sprays may seem like a quick fix for vaginal odor, but they can be more harmful than helpful. These products can disrupt the natural pH of the vagina, causing an imbalance in the bacterial ecosystem. Douching is discouraged by healthcare providers, as it can lead to the same issues.

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Rated 4.8 out of 5 stars
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Good Girl Probiotics®

Helps balance your vaginal pH*
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Diagnosis and Treatment

If you're experiencing a persistent or foul-smelling vaginal odor, don't hesitate to seek advice from a healthcare provider or an ob-gyn. They can help identify any underlying conditions, from a simple yeast infection to more severe issues, that could be causing the odor.

For instance, bacterial vaginosis is usually treated with prescribed antibiotics such as metronidazole, while yeast infections may be treated with over-the-counter antifungal medications. Trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted infection, is also typically treated with metronidazole.

Urinary tract infections usually require a course of antibiotics. Getting proper treatment for a UTI is essential, as left untreated can lead to a more severe kidney infection.

In rare cases, if a forgotten tampon causes a foul-smelling discharge, your healthcare provider can safely remove it and treat any possible infections, including toxic shock syndrome.

Pro Tip: Manage vaginal odor from the inside out with our Vaginal Odor Kit — the ultimate solution for freshness.*

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Wrap It All Up

Noticing changes in your vaginal odor is a normal part of understanding your body. While some changes can be normal, persistent strong odors may be a sign of an underlying health concern. Always prioritize good hygiene, balanced lifestyle choices, and don't hesitate to seek advice from a healthcare provider when needed.

Here at Love Wellness, we understand the importance of vaginal health and how it affects your whole body. We create safer and more effective women’s wellness products for your gut, brain and vagina. 

Sources:

Vaginal odor | Mayo Clinic

Menstrual Hygiene | Water, Sanitation, and Environmentally Related Hygiene | CDC

Understanding Sweating | International Hyperhidrosis Society

Vaginal odor: what's normal and what's not | University Health Center 

4.8
Rated 4.8 out of 5 stars
4,741 Reviews

pH Balancing Cleanser™

Gently cleanses your vulva
pH Balancing Cleanser™
4.8
Rated 4.8 out of 5 stars
7,352 Reviews

Good Girl Probiotics®

Helps balance your vaginal pH*
Good Girl Probiotics®
4.8
Rated 4.8 out of 5 stars
12,472 Reviews

Vaginal Odor Bundle

Combats vaginal odor*
Vaginal Odor Bundle

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