The vagina is your sexual organ. It is part of a canal or tube that measures about 3 inches long from end of the cervix on the inside of your body down to the vulva on the outside where it opens. The vulva is made up of opening to the vagina (inner and outer labia) and the clitoris, which is located at the top of the organ.
Contrary to common belief, there is no vaginal difference in terms of size for a woman of child-bearing age. The difference can only be in the size of the labia, which can be large or small. The other difference can be in the shape of the organ although all are similar. There may also be variation in terms of color, which can either be pink or red-pink. The vagina is designed to provide for three main functions; a path for secretions, sexual activity, and childbirth.
- A path for secretions – It is an important path through which secretions from the uterus and cervix. It is also through this path that spent up vaginal lubricant exits your body. Note that while secretions from the uterus and cervix include menstrual flow and other secretions, the vaginal lubricant is naturally produced by the Bartholin’s glands located near the vaginal opening. Production of vaginal lubricant is very important during sexual activity. It is naturally produced by the glands when you become sexually aroused.
- Sexual activity – It is a very important organ when it comes to sexual activity. The vagina is naturally designed to accommodate nerve endings just near its opening, nerves that make it possible for you to experience pleasure when about to engage in sexual activity. It is naturally designed to lubricate and enlarge when you are aroused with the clitoris playing the important role of encouraging sexual stimulation. Deep in the anterior vaginal wall lies the G-spot, the erogenous zone that is believed to be responsible for ejaculation (orgasm).
- Childbirth – It functions as the canal through which a fetus moves from your womb (uterus) to the outside word as a newborn baby when the right time (delivery) arrives. In preparation for impending delivery, the vagina goes through several changes including the production of vaginal discharge, rupture of surrounding membranes and contractions. Completion of these changes causes the cervix to relaxes, softens and thins before opening. This allows the fetus to move down into the pelvis, causing labor pains before a fetus is eventually expelled through the vagina as a newborn baby.
All these functions mean that the vagina is a dynamic ecosystem. This is the reason why the environment within the vagina is full of healthy bacteria, hormones. This also means that the environment remains acidic with a PH ranging between 3.8 and 4.8. It also means that the vagina has some level of odor, which is perfectly normal and healthy.
Causes & Treatment
Although it is normal for the vagina to emit some odor, you need to be concerned when the vagina produces pungent or strong odor. It can be because of any or some of the following:
- Hormonal changes – The vagina is bound to produce secretions as the level of hormones fluctuate in your body. This particularly occurs when you ovulate, which causes your next menstrual flow to gave unpleasant odor. You have the option of consulting your doctor who is most likely to prescribe topical estrogen that helps in eliminating the unpleasant odor. This may be necessary in case the odor is intense and causes you distress.
- Infection – Infection of the vagina is often the main cause of unpleasant or pungent vaginal odor. Infections caused by bacteria, yeast or fungi normally causes fishy odor and the vagina is most likely to produce a grayish, whitish, green or yellowish discharge that can cause burning sensation and/or itchiness. Oral antibiotics and topical creams are normally the first lines of treatment for vaginal infections.
- Sweat – Although normal sweating can only cause mild vaginal odor, excessive sweat maintained over a long period can cause unpleasant vaginal odor. The only way to address this is to ensure that you do not wear tight underwear when engaging in strenuous sports or other activity. It is also beneficial to clean yourself soon after such activity.
- Diet – Your regular diet can also be a cause of unpleasant or strong vaginal odor. Making such foodstuff as pepper, chilies, cabbage and broccoli as part of your regular diet can have a negative impact on your vagina odor. You can easily address this by simply avoiding such foodstuff so long as you have identified them as the cause.
- Tampon – It is not impossible to forget to remove a tampon. Unfortunately, a forgotten tampon can lead to a build-up of bacteria and menstrual flow, which can easily lead to itching, irritation, and possibly infection. This leads to unpleasant or rotten vaginal odor. It is always necessary to remember removing a tampon and consult your gynecologist just in case you forgot to remove one and are experiencing unpleasant odor.
- Poor hygiene – The vagina is naturally designed to be self-cleaning. However, you need to do your part to ensure that the external part remain clean at all times. Regular baths and regular change of underwear go a long way in preventing any possible unpleasant odor.
There are a number of home remedies that some women use to eliminate vaginal odor. Some of the ingredients used in doing so are apple cider vinegar, baking soda, yogurt, white vinegar, tea tree oil, garlic and fenugreek among other ingredients. Although effective in combating unpleasant vaginal odor, using such remedies can alter the overall environment of the vagina including the killing of healthy bacteria within, which can be a cause of other vaginal and overall health problems.