Have you recently noticed a funky smell “down there?” Wondering if it’s pregnancy related and if it’s normal or not?
Your body goes through some crazy changes during pregnancy, some of which you would never have guessed. You knew your vagina was going to have to stretch to push out a baby, but you probably didn’t know you’d acquire a whole new aroma down there.
In this post, we will talk all about vaginal odor during pregnancy, what causes it, when you should see your doctor, and how to eliminate the smell.
Is Vaginal Odor Normal During Pregnancy?
Even though it can be unpleasant and embarrassing, vaginal odor is actually quite normal during pregnancy. Around 65 percent of women report they have experienced vaginal odor throughout their pregnancies (source). Vaginal odor can even be one of the first signs that you’re pregnant.
If your new aroma started after you conceived, then it is most likely pregnancy related. Your odor can range from faint to very strong and is usually nothing to be concerned about.
But remember that every pregnancy is different. You may experience vaginal odor throughout this entire pregnancy and then have none with the next. Your odor may also be more apparent during certain trimesters.
Causes Of Vaginal Odor During Pregnancy
There are a variety of reasons why you may be experiencing vaginal odor during pregnancy.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes:
- Hormones: Your body is going through massive hormonal changes now that you’re pregnant and that triggers all sorts of physical changes, including increased secretions from your vagina, which often cause a strong odor (source). You may also just be more sensitive to the scents around you, thanks to the extraordinary amounts of estrogen in your growing body.
- Enhanced blood supply: The increased amount of blood your body is pumping can alter your pH balance, often resulting in your lady parts having a sweet, doughy scent.
- Diet: Pregnant women are also more likely to experience changes in vaginal odor due to diet. Spicy foods, fish, coffee, garlic, onion, broccoli, and dairy products could be the cause of your unpleasant smell.
- Dehydration: If you have a strong ammonia smell, you may be dehydrated. Remember you need more fluids, as your body is working for two now.
- Yeast infection: You’re more at risk for yeast infections when you’re pregnant, because you have more sugar in your vaginal secretions on which the yeast can feed, creating an imbalance and an overgrowth of yeast (source).
- Bacterial infection: Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal infection in pregnant women and is caused by an imbalance of bacteria living in your vagina. With BV, your vaginal odor is most apparent after sex. Doctors are unsure of what causes this bacterial imbalance, but you can reduce your chances of getting BV by practicing safe sex, not smoking, and not douching (source).
- Viruses or STDs: Viruses, like herpes simplex and other STDs, could also be the cause of your unpleasant aroma.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
While vaginal odor is often completely normal during pregnancy thanks to hormones, increased blood volume, or diet, sometimes it can be a sign of an infection or virus.
It’s best to contact your healthcare provider if you have a pungent vaginal odor that lasts for an extended period or if it’s coupled with any of the following:
- Painful urination.
- Unusual discharge — change in color, consistency, and amount.
Your doctor will examine a sample of your vaginal fluid and cervical secretions to see if you have an infection.
Tough It Out, Mama
If you have a yeast infection, your provider will most likely prescribe or recommend an over-the-counter antifungal. If your vagina or vaginal discharge has a particular “fishy” smell to it, it’s likely you have bacterial vaginosis and will be put on a course of antibiotics to clear up the infection.
How to Get Rid of Vaginal Odor
If all your tests come back negative for yeast infections, bacterial infections, and STD’s, then it’s probably just all the hormones causing your odor. It will most likely go away once your baby is born.
Until then, remember that less is more when it comes to cleaning yourself down there.
In the meantime, you can try some of these techniques to help eliminate the smell:
- Practice proper hygiene: Taking frequent showers and washing after you urinate and have intercourse will help keep the smell at bay. Avoid using loofahs, as they can create small tears and expose the area to possible infection (source).
- Don’t douche: Forcing water, or any cleansing agent, into your vagina can destroy healthy bacteria or even push an infection up into your uterus. Douching is never a good idea.
- Use cotton underwear: Wearing the right undies can help cure your pregnancy odor. Find some comfortable 100-percent cotton underwear that isn’t too tight-fitting. This will create a breathable, dry environment for your nether regions, as cotton will wick away any excess moisture from sweat or discharge.
- Change underwear frequently: Changing your underwear frequently will also help cut down on the moisture and the smell.
- Wear pantyliners: If you’re not able to change your undies all the time, you could try wearing a pantyliner to keep the moisture away.If you’re going to use pantyliners, try to use all-cotton liners or at least liners that aren’t scented. The extra scent might be irritating to your skin and doesn’t really help the odor.
Editor's Note:Christine Traxler, MD, BS
- Cut out tight-fitting clothes: I know yoga pants can be quite comfy, especially during pregnancy, but it’s best to wear clothes that will let your lady bits breathe.
- Switch out cosmetic products: Scented soap and other feminine products can irritate or even be contribute to the smell. Try using unscented products or even just plain warm water to keep clean.
- Change in diet: A well-balanced diet will help keep your entire body healthy, including your vagina. Make sure you’re getting plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and protein. You could also try eliminating certain foods, such as garlic and broccoli, and adding in probiotic-rich foods, like kimchi and sauerkraut.
- Stay hydrated: Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water to help cut back on the ammonia scent, and encourage healthy sweating and fluid release. It’s recommended pregnant women drink somewhere between 8 to 10 eight-ounce glasses of fluids per day (source).
To Sum it Up
Your new vaginal aroma may be unpleasant and embarrassing, but remember that you are not alone, mama. Vaginal odor is actually quite common during pregnancy and is often just due to hormones and will vanish after your baby is born.
However, odor can sometimes be a sign of an infection, so be sure to watch out for any “fishy” scent, burning, irritation, or redness. Otherwise, home remedies, like practicing proper hygiene, using cotton undies and pantyliners, avoiding douching and scented soaps, and changing your diet will help reduce the funk.
Did you experience any vaginal odor during any of your pregnancies? What was the cause? Share your experiences with us in the comments and feel free to share this post with all of your expecting mama friends.