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Women and the Myth of Vagina Fragrance

Women and the Myth of Vagina Fragrance

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At the end of the day, it is perhaps okay if the vagina just smells like, well, a vagina…

by John Augustina

For decades, women have been coaxed into using feminine cleansing washes that disrupt healthy bacteria and pH balance, making them more prone to vaginal infection and foul odour. The truth is that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that you are what you eat, at least not when it comes to vaginal secretions. However, some people on popular online forums recommend foods that contain natural sugars and are packed with vitamins and nutrients, such as fresh or canned pineapples, blueberries, kiwi, mangoes and cucumbers. Eating a balanced diet that includes probiotics, healthy servings of fruits and vegetables, and staying hydrated is good for the body, but whether or not these healthy habits can turn a woman’s vagina into syrupy fragrance is up for debate.

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What does a healthy vagina smell like? It is different for every woman and can vary throughout their menstrual cycle. It might smell acidic when a woman is ovulating, due to the white discharge common on her fertile days, or it might smell metallic when she is on her period due to the bloods iron content. Whatever the case may be for her, her vagina should not have an artificial fragrance.

“Odour can be an infection or rarely, something like a cancer, but that is super unusual, says Dr. Amanda Selk, obstetrician and gynecologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and host of the medical podcast, The Vulva Diaries.
At the end of the day, it is perhaps okay if the vagina just smells like, well, a vagina.

The scent naturally changes a bit throughout the menstrual cycle, but it probably should not ever smell like a tropical fruit. In fact, if it smelled like something other than a vagina, especially if the smell is an unpleasant one, it is probably a sign to go talk to a gynaecologist. That said, what a woman eats affects each and every part of her body including her vagina. In fact, according to an article published in the journal Scientific Reports, the vaginal and gut health are linked to each other.
If a woman keeps her gut healthy, her vagina will be healthy, too. Needless to say, a healthy vagina will be devoid of infections, have the correct pH, and would not have a pungent smell. The vagina smells just fine as it is. And if it does not, a trip to the gynaecologist will probably be more effective than mainlining fruit salads.

There are measures women can adopt to keep a clean vagina besides succumbing to the idea or the deception of the fragrance that comes through fruits. The best ways to stay clean down there are simple: keep the vaginal area clean by washing it daily with unscented soap and water, and avoid douching, because douching may actually disrupt the balance of good bacteria present in the vagina, says Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive services. Scented soaps can disrupt your vaginal environment.

Wearing synthetic underwear for long periods of time can lead to yeast infections, urinary tract infection (UTI), and vaginal infections, says Dr Nupur Gupta, director, obstetrics & gynaecology at Fortis Memorial Research Institute.
The reason is pretty obvious, folks: most synthetic fabrics are sweat absorbers and do not allow air in. By now, you know what all that trapped sweat and moisture down there are capable of doing. Good old cotton allows the vaginal area to breathe. In contrast, synthetic materials tend to promote moisture and increase the chances of a yeast infection. Plain white cotton underwear that is not too tight is preferable because dyes in clothing can irritate the sensitive tissue in the vaginal area.

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Vaginal moisture, which tends to accumulate around the vulva region, can cause skin irritation and infections in and around the vagina, explains Dr S.N. Basu, senior director & head of department, Obstetrics & Gynaecology at Max Super-Speciality Hospital.

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The warm and moist environment is quite ambient for the bacteria and yeast to grow, and the probability of facing an intimate health problem becomes high even in the case of minute incontinence, she adds.

Although some vaginal problems can be managed with over-the-counter products, there are times when a woman needs to see a primary care doctor. This includes if she has abnormal bleeding, change in odour, and unexplained itching; fever or abdominal pain along with vaginal symptoms, a mass or bulge in the vaginal area, bladder leakage, burning when she urinates, chronic itching unassociated with an infection, discharge, odour, itchiness or dryness that leads to discomfort, heavy periods along with severe pain and vomiting that result in missed days from school or work. This could be a sign of a period-related problem called endometriosis.


John Augustina is a 400 Level student of Mass Communication at the University of Benin.

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