Topic Tuesday: Vaginal odor

"Is it normal, or why is it that every other day I get this funky smell in my woman area? I noticed this happened once I got an IUD. Is it normal or why does this happen? I talked to a close friend of mine and she said she's experienced the same, but we're kind of iffy to ask her doctor about it. Is there something I can do about it or what?"

Whether you have the Mirena, Skyla, or Paragard IUD, you should not be experiencing any kind of unpleasant vaginal odor. Typically a foul odor (described as fishy or rotten) is a sign of bacteria or infection, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as itching, burning, pain during sex, and thick/discolored discharge. It is important to see a doctor so that they can properly diagnose the problem.

What could be causing the smell?

Common culprits of a bad vaginal smell are an STD or infection.

Bacteria Vaginosis - Also known as BV, it's a common infection for women and is caused by an overgrowth of normal vaginal bacteria. With BV, you will see an increase in discharge as well as a strong fishy odor that gets strong after sex. After proper diagnosis, you can be treated easily with prescription oral pills and/or vaginal gel.

Trich - Trichomoniasis, better known as "trich", is a common STD that can be treated. Symptoms include foul odor and a frothy green discharge. A bad odor with pain during urination and/or intercourse may also be present.

Bad Hygiene - The vagina has a very delicate PH balance that has the same acidic level as a tomato. That means that many everyday things can upset this balance, and cause a bad smell or lead to an infection. Some things that are important to remember and practice include:

  1. Always make sure you are wiping from front to back to avoid getting any bacteria into your vagina.
  2. Change out of wet, or sweaty, undergarments after working out or swimming as soon as you're done.
  3. Never, EVER douche - this flushes out all of the good bacteria and will put you at an even greater risk for infection.
  4. Change your pads and tampons regularly during your period.

Why we love IUDs

All in all - we are big fans of IUDs! While patients do sometimes have some temporary side effects when they first get an IUD - they usually go away after a few months when their body gets used to it. An IUD should never be causing a weird smell, itching, redness, or other irritation. These are all signs of infection and should be checked out asap.

Normal (and temporary) side effects from IUDs are usually more in line with the side effects from traditional birth control - mild acne, irregular periods, cramping, and other hormone related side effects. Because of this, we strongly encourage all of our patients to give their bodies approximately 3-6 months to adjust to their IUD. Since they last for so long - it is extremely worth it to wait it out.

The best part about IUD's are that they are safe, highly effective, and maintenance free! Depending on which IUD you get, you won't have to worry about getting pregnant for the next 3-10 years!