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Pregnancy brings about a lot of changes in a woman’s life. Some of these changes are pleasant while others, not so much. Morning sickness, nausea, back pain, headaches, etc., are some of the common symptoms of pregnancy, which you must be well aware of. While the symptoms like mood swings, morning sickness or back pain are discussed in great detail, other symptoms like vaginal discharge and vaginal smell are often ignored. Some women may experience an unusual smell from their vagina. Let’s find out what are the causes of vaginal smell and what you can do to get rid of that unpleasant smell.
Is it Normal to Have Vaginal Odour During Pregnancy?
It is normal for a woman to have vaginal discharge during pregnancy. Some women may also notice a vaginal odour. Vaginal smell during pregnancy is a lot more common than you think. Over 65% of pregnant women have smelly vaginal discharge during early pregnancy. At least 6 out of 10 women experience a characteristic odour from their vagina. So yes, it is normal.
What Causes Vaginal Smell During Pregnancy?
A strong vaginal odour during pregnancy may be due to altered pH balance, sweat, infections, hormonal and dietary changes, etc. If the cause is not a medical condition, then the odour will disappear once you deliver the baby. Women who are not pregnant can also have a smelly vagina because of sweat and dietary changes.
Various causes of vaginal odour include the following –
Vaginal infections during pregnancy can lead to strong or foul odour. A yeast infection is caused by the excessive multiplication of naturally occurring fungi in the vagina. This causes persistent itchiness and a discharge with a smelly odour. Bacterial vaginosis is an infection caused by the proliferation of bacteria in the vagina. It might lead to a foul-smelling discharge during pregnancy.
2. Dietary Changes
Dietary changes during pregnancy is also one of the causes of the smelly vagina during pregnancy. For instance, if you consume more garlic or spicy foods during pregnancy, it could change the odour of your vaginal discharge.
3. Changes in the pH Levels
The normal pH level of the vagina is between 3.8 and 4.5, which is in the acidic range. This acidic pH is caused by beneficial bacteria or natural vaginal flora that lives in the vagina and produces lactic acid. During pregnancy, the excess blood supply to the vaginal region causes this pH to change. This makes the vagina vulnerable to bacterial infections such as vaginitis and can lead to fishy or foul-smelling discharge from the vagina.
4. Hormonal Changes
A woman’s body undergoes a lot of hormonal changes during pregnancy. While pregnant, there is a sudden increase in the production of the two hormones progesterone and oestrogen. This dramatic increase in the two hormones helps in the formation of the placenta and provides the baby with nourishment. When a woman is pregnant, her prolactin levels will also increase, which will later help in the production of breast milk. These hormonal changes can increase vaginal discharge and make it smelly.
How to Get Rid of Vaginal Odour While Pregnant
Vaginal odour and smelly discharge can be treated and prevented in the following ways:
1. Stay Clean and Dry
While pregnant, you should ensure that your vagina stays clean and dry. Shower more frequently and clean the vagina with lukewarm water. You can also use a mild soap or a feminine hygiene wash if prescribed by a doctor. Also, keep the pubic hair short and neat.
2. Avoid Using Cosmetics
Avoid using cosmetics like scented feminine sprays, vaginal wipes, etc. Also avoid using any products like soaps that are harsh on the skin and can strip away the natural bacteria living in the vagina, making it vulnerable to infections.
3. Wear Cotton Underwear
Ditch the synthetic underwear and opt for cotton ones instead. Wearing soft cotton underwear will allow the skin down there to breathe well and absorb the excess sweat.
4. Try Changing Your Diet
Making dietary changes during pregnancy is inevitable. Include a lot of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Avoid eating spicy foods or food containing excess garlic. This may alter the smell of sweat and reduce vaginal odour.
5. Take Medicines Prescribed By Your Doctor
In case an infection is causing the vaginal odour, consult a doctor and take the medicines prescribed by your doctor.
When to Visit a Doctor
While the cause for foul vaginal smell during pregnancy may be simple things like sweat or dietary changes, it is important to consult a doctor to ensure that that you don’t have any infections or other conditions that can harm the baby. In the following circumstances, you should consult a qualified medical professional:
1. Persistent Foul Odour
Sometimes, a foul odour may persist for a long time during pregnancy. If it is accompanied by yellow or green discharge, you should consult a doctor. A green or yellow discharge is usually a sign of yeast or bacterial infection and should not be taken lightly.
2. Uncontrollable Itching
Irritation or uncontrollable itching in the vagina is also a sign of microbial infection, and it is advisable to consult a gynaecologist immediately.
3. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Sexually transmitted diseases can also cause excessive vaginal discharge with a strong odour. A gynaecologist can prescribe medication to treat such conditions and make sure that you and your baby stay healthy.
4. Pain and Inflammation
Experiencing pain or burning sensation during intercourse or urination is a sign of an infection. Inflammation and itching are warning signs of an infection and you should see your doctor right away.
5. Other Signs
If you notice blood in the vaginal discharge; if it has a cottage cheese-like appearance; if it smells fishy or is greenish or yellowish in colour, it is a sign that something is wrong. You should consult a doctor right away.
Good hygiene may prevent the occurrence of foul-smelling vaginal discharge. Here are some tips that you can follow to prevent smelly discharge:
- Stay hydrated: One of the best ways to prevent the vagina from smelling bad is staying hydrated. Drink at least 2-3 litres of fluids daily.
- Wipe from front to back: Always wipe from the vagina toward the anus to lower the chances of spreading faecal bacteria to your vagina.
- Do not douche: Douching can irritate the vaginal tissues and allow the bacteria to enter your urinary tract and spread infection. You can clean your vagina with lukewarm water. Using sprays or scented soaps is not required.
A foul-smelling vagina during pregnancy could mean just about anything. It could be something as harmless as hormonal fluctuations or it could be a sign of an infection. Thankfully, there are plenty of remedies that can help reduce the smell or eliminate it completely. If you have smelly vaginal discharge, make sure that you maintain proper hygiene. However, if the problem persists, consulting a doctor would be your best bet.