Let’s just be honest here — not a single person on the planet has a vagina that naturally smells summery-fresh.
Thanks to ever-changing hormone levels and odor-producing bacteria, vaginas are always going to have some sort of smell — and that’s perfectly OK!
Whether earthy, musty, sour, or tangy, vaginal odor is an everyday part of life, especially when Auntie Flo comes in for her monthly visit — but have you ever wondered why menstruation blood can be so… smelly? If so, you’re in the right place!
In this post, we’re exploring your most fabulous organ to uncover why periods smell and what you can do to stay fresh during your time of the month.
How Does the Menstrual Cycle Work?
From puzzling PMS symptoms and an erratic poop schedule to abdominal cramps and questionable vaginal odors, your time-of-the-month can throw some real curveballs at your body.
This may cause you to feel as though your monthly bleed is nothing more than an inconvenient fact of life, but menstruation is truly a beautiful thing when you really think about it.
What’s the Purpose of a Period?
Each month, the uterus prepares an ultra-thick and luxurious lining in preparation for the arrival of a fertilized egg. This itty-bitty embryo will develop into a fetus before taking nine months to grow into a full-term baby.
If no fertilization occurs, no pregnancy will take place, causing the thick lining to shed — this is what leaks out of your vaginal canal and is known as your period.
Why Does Period Blood Smell?
Menstrual blood technically has no odor. Neither does sweat, for that matter.
But let’s be real, we have all experienced a weird smell or felt less than fresh down there. So, what the heck is going on?
Despite what many people might think, a period doesn’t consist of just blood. In addition to blood, your menstrual period is a mixture of an unfertilized egg, vaginal mucus, and uterine lining tissues.
Due to the presence of blood and iron, it’s not uncommon for a healthy flow to have a coppery scent. However, thanks to the vagina’s acidic environment and the presence of naturally occurring bacteria, the scent of period blood can vary.
What Are the Different Types of Period Odors?
At the end of the day, you know your body best and what vaginal odors are okay vs. a cause for concern.
That said, if you get a whiff of your Auntie Flo and think she’s smelling a little foul this visit, your body could be trying to tell you something.
Here are some of the most common period odors and what they might mean:
Some ladies report a fishy fragrance during their time of the month. This smell is often related to an infection, such as trichomoniasis; however, more often than not, bacterial vaginosis (BV) is to blame.
A common vaginal infection that can cause period blood to smell much stronger than normal, BV is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in your vagina. If you have BV, you’ll probably have other uncomfortable symptoms too, such as:
- A burning sensation
- Discharge that is off-white and watery outside of menstrual bleeding
To treat BV, you’ll likely need to make a trip to the doctor’s office for a round of antibiotics. Once the bacteria is balanced after treatment, the fishy odor should clear up. Consider taking a daily vaginal probiotic — like Good Girl Probiotics — to help keep bacteria in check and smelly infections at bay.*
While you probably won’t smell like a box of chocolates or a strawberry shortcake, your menstrual blood can take on a slightly sweet aroma.
If this happens — don’t panic. A sweet odor is most likely due to your vagina’s ever-changing acidic environment (the pH is usually 3.8-4.5) and the presence of bacteria.
To combat the sweetness, we suggest using our fragrance-free pH Balancing Cleanser. This ultra-clean formula gently cleans the vulva without disrupting delicate vaginal flora and pH levels.*
It’s free of sulfates, parabens, and fragrances, too, so it won’t cause any irritation to your sensitive skin.
Does your flow smell rotten? Or like “death?” These smells are often associated with a foreign body — such as a lost condom or forgotten tampon hanging out in the vagina for a little too long.
If you can remove the culprit behind the stink, go ahead and do so. Otherwise, you’ll need medical help so a doctor can perform a vaginal exam to confirm.
As mentioned earlier, a healthy flow can have a metallic smell, similar to a copper coin. This is typically due to a large amount of iron in the blood and isn’t usually a cause for concern.
That said, if you feel it’s become too overwhelming, talk to your primary care provider. It’s always good to communicate with them when sudden changes happen or you’re unsure about something.
If your period smells like B.O., the apocrine sweat glands in your genital area are likely to blame. Apocrine sweat mixes with bacteria, and voila — you have body odor.
These glands release this specific type of sweat during periods of high stress. So try getting in some R&R during your period, as it might keep your vulva from smelling like a gym locker.
Here are a few quick tips to help you unwind and de-stress:
- Practice breathing exercises
- Spend time on a favorite hobby
- Practice gratitude
- Practice yoga
- Express your feelings
- Immerse yourself in a creative outlet
- Take a warm bubble bath
- Listen to music
We also suggest #Mood Pills — a feel-good supplement that offers total cycle support and PMS relief*.
This powerful formula is made with clean ingredients designed to soothe occasional stress, frustration, and irritability. Simply take one #MoodPill® in the morning and one #MoodPill at night every day for max feel-good effects.
A Final Word
So, why do periods smell, you ask?
Certain smells during a woman’s monthly bleed are completely natural and normal. This is because the vagina is a highly acidic environment with a delicate balance of odor-producing bacteria.
However, some period smells are not so normal and can be indicative of an issue that needs a little attention.
For example, if an icky fishy odor plagues your menstrual cycle, your body might be trying to tell you that your vaginal flora is out of whack. In this case, we suggest using The Killer — our powerful boric acid suppositories that help balance pH so you can feel fresh and smell your best while supporting healthy vaginal flora.*
You may also notice that your menstrual blood doesn’t always smell the same each month. Although it might be a bit alarming to get a whiff of something new coming from downstairs, it’s important to keep in mind that the amount of bacteria in your vagina fluctuates — which can change the smell.
Here at Love Wellness, we know how frustrating a smelly period can be. Not only does it leave you constantly worrying if other people can smell you (which they likely can’t), but new odors can be nerve-wracking, especially when the culprit is unknown.
Generally speaking, though, if your flow smells like death, fish, or rotten eggs, you should take it as a sign to get checked out by your gyno. Any other odors — such as a sweet or metallic-smelling period — are likely A-OK, but perhaps your vagina may benefit from a little extra support, like our Vaginal Health Kit.
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Normal Menstruation (Monthly Period): Menstrual Cycle & Symptoms | Cleveland Clinic
Menstrual Cycle: An Overview | Johns Hopkins Medicine
Bacterial vaginosis – Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic
Understanding the Bacterial Flora of the Female Genital Tract | Clinical Infectious Diseases | Oxford Academic
Retained tampon or other object | Health Direct
Acid Production by Vaginal Flora In Vitro Is Consistent with the Rate and Extent of Vaginal Acidification | NCBI
Body Odor: Causes, Changes, Underlying Diseases & Treatment | Cleveland Clinic