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6 Causes of Vaginal Odor — Because No, You're Not Alone

Whitney Coy is a freelance writer and editor based in Columbus, OH, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She writes frequently for SheKnows, as well as several other websites. She writes on topics including parenting, pets...

If your vagina smells 'off,' it might be because of one of these issues

4. Pelvic inflammatory disease

Leave that STI untreated and you could be in for a world of hurt — in the form of pelvic inflammatory disease. "Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is an infection of the female reproductive organs that may arise as a complication of STDs like chlamydia or gonorrhea. PID may also cause feminine odor," says Okeke-Igbokwe. "Symptoms of this infection may include foul-smelling vaginal discharge, pain with intercourse and abdominal/pelvic pain."

PID usually isn’t diagnosed until you experience chronic pain or have trouble getting pregnant because it often doesn’t have symptoms. PID can often be treated with antibiotics, though it might leave behind scar tissue that has lasting effects. According to Gallenberg, lasting effects might include chronic pain, infertility or ectopic pregnancies.

5. Poor feminine hygiene

It’s possible that the cause for your feminine odor may be nothing more than poor hygiene. We’ve got a lot of complicated parts down there, and caring for them isn’t always easy. Make sure you’re covering all your bases to keep your lady parts fresh and clean.

More: We Can’t Believe We Have to Say This, but Don’t Put Wasp Nest in Your Vagina

As Okeke-Igbokwe explains, there are two ways that an unpleasant smell caused by poor hygiene can occur (that are also easy to fix): sweating and a lack of washing. She says, "Apocrine sweat glands, some of which may be found in the genital region, may contribute to sweating around the genitalia. Increased sweating after exercise or increased physical activity may certainly lead to vaginal odor. Maintaining good hygiene is essential to avoid[ing] feminine odor. Routine showering is highly encouraged."

First and foremost, make sure you’re washing thoroughly every day. Women have oil and sweat glands in the vaginal area that while completely natural can cause odor if not attended to. Use mild, fragrance-free soaps because anything else can upset that sensitive area and lead to even more troubles. Make sure you wipe from front to back after using the restroom and wear clean (ideally cotton-crotch) underwear every day, even if you don’t have time to shower.

There are a lot of products out there that claim to help with odor and keep our parts “presentable,” but stay away from them. Douches, sprays, cloths and creams all claim to help women achieve some sort of super-cleanliness, but they actually cause more problems than they solve. Douches remove some of the bacteria that work to keep your vagina healthy and scented products have been known to cause irritation.

6. Forgotten object

Forgetting a tampon is something that happens to the best of us, and it can also be a common cause of feminine odor. "I am sure you have heard stories about women who have forgotten that they have left a tampon in for prolonged periods of time," says Okeke-Igbokwe. "A retained tampon in the vagina for extended time periods can be quite dangerous. Not only may it cause increased vaginal odor, but in some instances may lead to toxic shock syndrome."

So you can keep on smelling fresh as a daisy, follow the golden rule and change your tampon at a maximum of every eight hours. And if you happen to forget — hurry up and fish that sucker out.

If your vagina smells 'off,' it might be because of one of these issues
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