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Mary Jane Minkin, M.D. OB/GYN Yale University School of Medicine Explains What Causes Vaginal Odor and What to Do About it

Thanks to Gwyneth Paltrow for Opening the Dialogue by selling a $75 candle sassily called, "This Smells Like My Vagina"

Gwyneth Paltrow should be applauded for opening the traditionally embarrassing conversation with her $75 candle jokingly called, "This Smells Like My Vagina," intimating that all vagina’s smell like geranium, citrusy bergamot and cedar, spelling a ‘gorgeous, sexy, and beautifully unexpected scent.’

"Sure, Ms. Paltrow is selling expensive candles, but I’d like to think that she has begun a very important dialogue for millions of women, ‘what should a vagina smell like,’" says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D. clinical professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the Yale University School of Medicine. "Based on some of the online comments to goop, unfortunately, men and women alike seem to believe that a normal vagina smells fishy. And, nothing could be farther from the truth. I’ve heard that college dorm bathrooms wreak of a fish like odor, women worry about intimacy if they know they have an unpleasant or irregular vaginal odor and men complain about oral sex when their partner has a fishy odor. It's time women understand that a fishy odor can spell trouble brewing. It’s the signal to balance the vaginal pH and get it under control before it leads to an STI or bacterial vaginosis (BV) as nearly half of all vaginal irritation is a result of bacterial infection. Many women may experience itching, odor, burning, or pain after sex or menstruation, since blood and semen are alkaline and can elevate the normal vaginal pH of 4.3-4.5."

Comments to Gwyneth Paltrow’s candle include:

  1. "Does the candle get stickier at certain times of the month?"
  2. "Who wants a candle that smells like fish?"
  3. "There are two things on earth that smell like fish and one of them is fish."
  4. "Burning the candle will attract all the cats for the neighborhood."
  5. "Main ingredient = sardines"
  6. "Save yourself $75 and just let a fresh cod fillet wrapper sit out for a few days"
  7. "So, a blind man walks into a fish market and says, "Hello ladies."
  8. "Spread your legs a breath through your nose and you can save 75 bucks."
  9. "It already smells like Fromunda cheese."
  10. "That's just how I would want the inside of my house to smell. not."
  11. "Is it made from dead fish?"
  12. "Her candle markets under "Goop" - the generic replacement markets under "Starkist"
  13. "Light that thing, open the window and your house becomes a stray cat magnet"
  14. "If it smells like infection, you'll lose your erection"
  15. "Gee I didn't know they all smelled the same. must be the Tuna scent"
  16. "It’s called "Shrimp Boat".
  17. "Actually, it's called Chicken of the Sea."
  18. "Sounds like they're saying, "One sniff fits all". Wrong, as someone who has "researched" this over the past few decades, there is no one smell. Most are delightful but others need work."
  19. "Liberals love everything that is hairy and tastes like rotten fish."

The truth is vaginal pH can change and be easily disrupted by everyday occurrences like menstruation, sex, and normal hormone fluctuations. Ladies, here’s my quick guide to what that odd vag smell can indicate with simple solutions:

  1. A tangy or sour aroma. The pH of a healthy vagina is slightly acidic, between 3.8 and 4.5. "The Lactobacilli bacteria keep the vagina acidic, protecting against an overgrowth of the bad bacteria that cause odor and infection.
  2. A metallic or coppery odor. Blood during menstruation or after sex contains iron, which has a metallic smell. This is usually due to vaginal dryness or vigorous sex that can cause small cuts or scrapes. To prevent this, try using a silicone lube like Silky Smooth to prevent abrasion. If the metallic smell lasts long after your period is over, and you’ve had sex, the pH of sperm (7.5-8) can be the culprit and elevate the natural vaginal pH.
  3. Bleach or ammonia. Urine contains urea, a byproduct of ammonia and release a chemical smell. Ammonia smelling urine can also indicate dehydration. A chemical-like or fishy smell can be a sign of bacterial vaginosis as well, causing an irregular odor, itching, burning and thin gray, white, or green discharge.
  4. A sweaty earthy scent. Stress and anxiety can cause vaginas and body odor alike to smell similar due to the sweat glands, apocrine and eccrine. The eccrine glands produce sweat to cool your body down and the apocrine glands can respond to your emotions by producing an odorless milky fluid in your armpits and groin. When in contact with the large quantity of vaginal bacteria on your vulva, the fluid can produce a pungent aroma.
  5. A rotten fishy smell. Most vaginal odor is not the result being dirty. Trimethylamine is the chemical responsible for the strong scent of rotting fish and irregular vaginal odors. That smell can indicate the onset of Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) or an overgrowth of odorous anaerobic bacteria in the vagina. The STI, Trichomoniasis, can cause a pungent fishy odor. If you are experiencing this odor, see your health care provider for antibiotics. But be aware that antibiotics can kill both good and bad bacteria, so you will need to take a vaginal probiotic to keep the normal vaginal flora in balance. A review of the research and literature regarding bacterial vaginosis (BV) by Boston Commons High Tech reported that specific probiotics can help reduce the risk of recurrent BV by providing healthy bacteria (lactobacilli), which combat harmful bacteria and maintain a slightly acidic vaginal pH, preventing overgrowth of harmful bacteria that cause most of the infections that migrate toward the bladder. RepHresh Pro-B is an oral probiotic lactobacillus supplement designed to protect the delicate balance of the vagina and keep it in a normal range by providing two lactobacillus strains: reuteri and rhamnosus. Because excessive pathogenic bacteria in the urinary tract is associated with BV, introducing helpful lactobacilli can be a good preventive measure to maintain and restore vaginal microbial balance. The recurrence rates of BV are high so, the best way to prevent BV is to maintain a normal, slightly acidic vaginal pH and keep both yeast and bacteria balanced with an oral, vaginal probiotic. Instead of just masking odor with scented soaps, fragrance sprays, and irritating wipes that can be harmful to delicate tissue, the secret is to keep the vaginal pH balanced. RepHresh Gel keeps the pH balanced to the normal and eliminates odor for up to 3-days. If you douche, remember to balance pH immediately afterwards with RepHresh Gel, or use a RepHresh Clean Balance kit that includes both a cleaning solution and pH balancer all-in-one.
  6. A putrid or decaying odor could indicate it may not be your vagina but something in your vagina like a forgotten tampon. But don’t worry it’s perfectly safe to remove a forgotten tampon on your own, just make sure to normalize the vaginal pH afterwards with RepHresh Gel to eliminate the odor.
  7. Menopause. Declining estrogen levels can cause less vaginal mucosa which lines the vagina and nurtures the Lactobacilli bacteria, causing a much higher pH. I suggest my patents use Replens which not only keeps the pH balanced but provides needed comfort and moisture for 3-days.

"My advice is to learn how to take control of your vaginal health. Odors can be trying to tell you something, so pay attention. The better you understand your fluctuating vaginal odors, the more prepared you’ll be when something goes wrong," adds Minkin.

View source version on businesswire.com: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20200113005270/en/

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