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I remember when I got my first period, I was so nervous. And with hesitation I asked my mother, “I got my period, may I have a pad?” I was nervous, and she was excited. Most women, like me, will admit to having a love-hate relationship with their menstrual cycle. A period is a complex experience. It’s a not-so-friendly reminder of the power to create life. A power that comes with period pain, cramps, period poop, skin issues, and of course, period blood smell!
You’re pretty sure that period blood smell is harmless, but you’re still dying to know what’s up with it.
For real, why does period blood smell like that? We got Dr Pratima Thamke, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospital, Kharghar, to tell you all about it.
A menstrual period consists of the shedding of an unfertilized egg, blood, and uterine lining tissues. It’s completely normal for this combination to have a slight odor after it exits the vagina. This is most likely related to the vaginal substance itself, but bacteria and acidity can also play a role.
Remember ladies, a healthy period does have a slight smell of blood. But because period blood stays in the vagina for a longer period of time. It can be exposed to bacteria and that also can cause odour.
Period blood can have different odours based on numerous reasons. Here, Dr Thamke explains all the common menstrual blood odours and their causes:
Some women tend to encounter rotten smells from bacteria mixed with menstrual flow. This smell indicates that it is time to change the pad or tampon to control the odor. The smell comes owing to a heavy flow.
This indicates that there is some infection like bacterial vaginosis and this can be accompanied by burning, especially during urination, irritation, itchiness, or vaginal discharge outside of menstrual bleeding.
When your periods smell like a copper coin then it is owing to the iron content in the blood and is not a matter of concern.
When the periods smell like body odor then it is due to the apocrine sweat glands in the genital area. Apocrine sweat then mixes with bacteria on the skin and odor is produced. The glands release this type of sweat when a woman is on her period.
“The period smell can include the odor of onions or salt. It can happen owing to not practicing good hygiene. Thus, you will have to keep the area clean down there, change tampons and sanitary pads from time to time. Also, daily showers are important to prevent odors,” says Dr Thamke.
Also avoid using deodorizing products, such as wipes and sprays, don’t douche either, as the process can get rid of healthy vaginal bacteria causing infection, and wear breathable underwear.
If your period blood smells a little on the sweeter side, don’t get hassled because it is completely normal. This happens when the pH level of your vagina shifts more towards the acidic side. The pH balance of your vagina is usually 3.8-4.5.
“The foul odor may indicate vaginal infections and allergies. So, one needs to be vigilant about the odor coming from the vagina, and consult an expert, if required. Do not neglect the symptoms like foul smell, unusual vaginal discharge, or spotting between the periods. Also, avoid self-medication. Take the medication only prescribed by the doctor”, says Dr Thamke.
You may also notice that your period blood doesn’t always smell the same. It is because the amount of bacteria in the vagina fluctuates, which can change the smell. A slight change is usually nothing to worry about. But if all of a sudden your period smells seriously rotten, you may want to talk to your doctor.