This week I want to address your questions about Vaginal Odor without an infection.
I am perplexed that such an important topic, such as vaginal odor and certainly one that affects so many women, has so little data and so few treatment options. Everywhere you go for answers, even medical books, it is described in the context of bacterial vaginosis (BV), being the main cause.
For the most part vaginal odor is accompanied by an increase in the pH of the vagina, normal pH usual runs lower around 4.0. It is this acidic environment that allows the 'resident' bacteria to remain higher than the yeast and infectious forms of bacteria. When the pH rises it can allow for an overgrowth and takeover by the yeast and infectious bacteria and with this comes the symptoms of malodor.
Sexual intercourse is a common cause of increased vaginal pH and is one reason women will notice strong odors after intercourse. The normal pH 7.8 for sperm allows them to live and is also very surgary in order to nourish the sperm. However, the alkaline, sugary solution can drastically affect the vagina as the 'bad' bacteria enjoy the surgary alkaline environment and begin to multiply. This, as stated above, can cause odor.
There are other changes a woman's body can go through that may change the normal vaginal odor such as pregnancy, menopause, and the taking of certain medications and vitamins. We talked about this a little bit last week, and this should not be in such a way as to create stress, irritation, foul odor or abnormal discharge. In these cases it would be best to be seen by your doctor for a check up.
The real concern are the many who battle with unwanted vaginal odor without an infection. Almost on a daily basis and no matter what treatments they have tried, it always comes back, always. This can be extremely heartbreaking and embarrassing as no matter how often creams and gels are used or how many times the area is cleansed the odor remains. One more trip to the doctor and you are given the same medications again and once again all the cultures and tests are negative, but the problem is still there.
I'm frustrated as a Doctor and I didn't know what to do until now. The one new thing I've found, most recently, has me so excited and I feel so good about getting you started with it. I stumbled on it by accident and after seeing it and getting it for the office for my patients to see and begin using, the results were amazing.
It is called WaterWorks Vaginal Cleansing System and is a simple device that resembles a douche, however, the nozzle portion is made of stainless steel and it has a reservoir for plain tap water and they connect together with a small tube. It works on the concept of a douche , using no chemicals only plain tap water, and it can be used as often as you like. It eliminates odor by the reaction of the stainless steel & water reaction with the vaginal mucosa. The same as chefs use stainless steel bars in the kitchen to remove onion and garlic odors from their hands when they are cooking.
The most wonderful part is my patients reported that their odor was eliminated the first time they used it. WOW! I was so happy for them. No more having to take medications or making the problem worse by over the counter douching or using harsh soaps. This is gentle, safe and effective vaginal cleansing device for anyone. Plus it is FDA approved. You can see for yourself. Go to WaterWorksHealth.com Oh, and most importantly, reusable that made us all smile.
When douching, a woman pours a solution of water mixed with soap,
vinegar, iodine or other chemicals into a squeezable bottle with a long
neck. The neck is inserted into the vagina and the fluid pushed up
inside. This is usually done in the shower or tub area so as not to
make a mess. Most douches today are found premixed and are sold in
most grocery and drug stores.
Because of the way douching forces fluid into the vagina, it should never be used as a method of birth control. Sperm are extremely fast swimmers and most have likely made it through the cervix and into the uterus before you have even thought of sitting up to go douche. Even if you had it by the bedside and ran to the bathroom, it would probably be too late. In fact, douching can actually push sperm into the uterus and towards the fallopian tubes faster.
But in the worst case, not only can sperm be pushed further up toward the uterus, but so can all types of bacteria and viruses, including those which can cause STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). Resulting infections of the uterus and fallopian tubes, called PID(pelvic inflammatory disease), can cause scarring of the tubes and can lead to ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy in the tubes). This makes it impossible to get pregnant without assistance from a fertility center.
Some women are taught to douche to keep themselves clean down there, when in reality the vagina is one of the cleanest parts of the female's body because it cleans itself out everyday with its natural lubrication. The white/clear discharge that a woman finds in her underwear or on the toilet paper is from the vagina cleaning itself out. Once a douche is used, it can disrupt the natural environment of the vagina, removing the normal discharge and preventing the self-cleaning action.
I know that many of you douche anyway, even knowing all these facts, because I talk to the women I see in my office everyday. Many of you are concerned about odors that are impossible to get rid of. But, douching can just make it worse, as it removes the natural bacteria that clean and help keep the vagina odor-free.
Thankfully, there is a natural way to cleanse inside the vagina without traditional douches and harsh chemicals …..and which many women are now starting to use.
The new WaterWorks system is the only FDA-cleared natural way to cleanse inside your vagina. It will not remove the natural bacteria or make you more susceptible to yeast and bacterial infections. This is a reusable device that uses only plain tap water and that can be used in the privacy of your shower as many times a week as you wish.
The secret is in the medical grade stainless steel nozzle that is designed to fit easily into the vagina, while the water gently sprinkles out to rinse out semen, blood or discharge. The reaction that takes place between the water, stainless steel and vaginal mucosa effectively removes unwanted odor. Please note that, like traditional douches, WaterWorks does not prevent pregnancy.
So, dismiss the old idea that douching can prevent pregnancy. Continue to use proven birth control methods. But, leave the cleaning to WaterWorks. It's the only proven, natural, drug-free and chemical free way to rid yourself of unwanted feminine odors.
Yeast and bacterial infections come as a result of vaginal imbalance that can be caused for many reasons. Some of the more common causes are taking antibiotics, wearing a wet swimsuit or nylon/lycra clothing during long periods of time in hot weather, wearing thong underwear, douching or allowing semen to remain in your vagina.
Yeast infections can cause an abundant amount of thick, whitish discharge, vaginal swelling, and intense puritis or itching that can be unbearable. This irritation and itching may also be felt around the anus, labial area and urethra. It can also cause burning on urination. I have had many patients come in worried about a urinary tract infection, when it was really a vaginal yeast or bacterial infection.
Now, as for the men - you may have heard or boyfriends talk about 'jock-itch'. Well that is usually just external yeast or fungal infections men get from sweating in the heat. In answering the question as to whether we pass yeast or bacterial infections to our partners, the answer is no. But men can get a little itching for a few hours after sex that usually goes away quickly.
Women have found that the odor associated with their infections can really interfere with intimacy, and they have been turning to alternative solutions to help. More and more women are seeking non-pharmaceutical ways to prevent yeast and bacterial infections from coming back again and again.
Waterworks is the only vaginal cleansing system made just for this purpose. It uses only natural tap water, with it's uniquely designed stainless-steel nozzle, to clean out the vagina of unwanted discharge or left-over semen. Many women are reporting that they stopped vaginal odor the first time they used it, even after battling with vaginal odor for years. The best thing is that since WaterWorks can be used everyday they have been able to stay ahead of yeast and bacterial infections by keeping the vagina clean and rinsing out semen right away, before it has a chance to change vaginal pH.
I continue to be amazed when a couple comes into my office for various health issues and, during the conversation, they are surprised to learn that odorous vaginal discharge is not normal.
One husband told me, “Well, Doc, all men know it's like deep sea diving, just take a deep breath and go in." Really? That's pretty sad to think that so many women (and the men they love) feel that pungent, strong or "fishy" vaginal odor is just normal.
So what causes vaginal odor to start in the first place? Why is it so hard to get rid of? Why does it keep coming back over and over again? Can it cause health problems?
It concerns me that so many of you, because you're worried about odor or cleanliness, continue to believe that DOUCHING is 'okay' once in a while. Right? You ask yourselves, “What can it hurt? It makes me feel clean and fresh, and it's so nice to clean out discharge or old period blood. I don’t’ want him down there if it's not fresh and clean.” But it's this obsession that causes the problem in the first place. We are not supposed to smell or taste like chemicals or perfume! It is shocking to a man to smell that, and the perfumes and chemicals in douches, mixed with the odor you are worried about, is like covering up the bathroom with freshener spray. The smell is still there, just now mixed with freshener – which can be worse.
An estimated 40% of American women between the ages of 15 and 44 continue to use a vaginal douche, even though there are no studies that have ever shown that douching has benefits at all. In fact, we know that douching can actually increase the risk of infections, cause pregnancy complications, and create other health problems.
Douching started many years ago and is practiced in Europe and many other countries. It is a method to wash out the vagina, usually with a mixture of water and vinegar. Douches that are sold in drugstores and grocery stores contain antiseptics and fragrances. A douche comes in a bottle or bag and is sprayed through a tube upward into the vagina toward the cervix, sometimes with too much pressure.
Douching is known to cause many problems for women. One of the most common is vaginal infections like yeast or bacterial vaginosis. That's because it upsets the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina (called vaginal flora) which has the purpose of maintaining a low, more acidic, pH. Changing this acidic balance makes the environment more favorable for the growth of bacteria that cause infection. We have talked before how the low pH is the vagina's defense against infection and how it is able to self-clean. If the good bacteria is constantly being washed out, how can the vagina protect itself?
We know that women who stopped douching were less likely to have bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, and vaginal odor. Note, having bacterial vaginosis can increase the risk of preterm labor and other more serious infections:
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). PID is an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and/or ovaries that can actually get inside your entire body through the tubes as they are open into your abdomen. Douching can push infection from your vagina into your uterus through your tubes and into your abdomen. Women who douche have a 73% higher risk of getting PID!
- Women who douche more than once a week also have more difficulty getting pregnant than those who don't douche.
- Douching also increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy – for the same reason it puts you at risk for PID. With an ectopic pregnancy, the embryo implants outside the uterus, like in the fallopian tube or ovary.
- Douching at least once a week has also been linked to an increased chance of developing cervical cancer.
WaterWorks, which is FDA-cleared to alleviate vaginal odor, is a wonderful help to women. It has a design like a douche, but is very different. With WaterWorks, the water sprinkles outward, not upward, to gently clean the inside of your vagina. It uses only fresh, warm water (no chemicals), so it is all natural. It is used by so many women for regular feminine hygiene, like cleaning out period blood, semen after sex and excess discharge. It can be used daily as part of your normal bathing. The unique, patented design of the medical-grade stainless steel nozzle is what prevents and removes vaginal odor.
Feminine hygiene is so important to our overall health. In addition
to keeping our skin clean and free of bacteria, it can prevent odor,
itching and discomfort from perspiration.
Feminine hygiene involves more than just bathing or showering. It encompasses a whole spectrum of practices women should follow to be healthy. Most of us learn these skills from our mom, sister or friends. Or we just figure it out for ourselves.
But, not every aspect of this topic is well-known. For example, whoever taught us to always wash our new jeans, panties, shorts, or other clothing bottoms before we wear them? You should, because dyes and other chemicals on new clothing can cause your vaginal area to become irritated or infected. I have noticed some clothing that will put this on label, but not often.
During your menstrual cycle, be sure to wear fabrics that allow your vaginal region to breathe. Wear loose, breathable, clothing like loose panties that allow for air circulation. Natural, breathable fabric such as cotton is preferred. Wear thigh-high pantyhose or pantyhose made with a cotton crotch to reduce the vaginal sweating caused by nylon and other synthetic fabrics.
When not on your cycle, try to sleep without wearing panties or pajama bottoms if possible, as this will provide your vagina with the air circulation needed to help prevent infection.
Tight pants, shorts, or panties made from synthetic fabrics can reduce the air circulation around your vagina and cause it to sweat, which can increase your chances for odors and infection.
Remove wet, sweaty bottom clothing as soon as possible. Wet or sweaty panties and pants can cause bacteria to multiply and increase your likelihood for getting odors and infections. Take a shower and wear fresh, clean clothing after you have gone swimming or exercised.
Of course, bathing or showering daily is the beginning of developing healthy habits. It is so important to wash the skin daily to get as much bacteria off as possible to prevent sickness and infection. Sweat is the body's way of removing waste & bacteria from the body. So it should be washed off every day. In the shower, wash the vagina externally with mild soap, then rinse with fresh water and dry off immediately with a clean towel. For internal cleansing, use WaterWorks, which is described at the bottom of this post. If you have problems with excessive sweating, abundant discharge, rashes, folliculitis, or pimply lesions on your Mons Pubis or inner thighs, be sure that you use a new sharp razor to shave and that you change the razor after 4-5 uses.
You can use a blow dryer to gently dry the external vaginal area around pubic hair, inside the creases & around the vaginal lips (Labia Majora & Minora), between your buttocks and all over the outer groin area. This can reduce irritation and infection.
Use moist baby wipes instead of toilet paper and always wipe from the front toward the back. This will help ensure that fecal matter and bacteria won't be pushed into the vaginal canal.
Never use chemical douches, deodorants, sprays or powders. We never recommend douching, as these products usually cause more infections by disrupting your natural pH, hormones and the delicate chemical balance of your vagina. Women who use these products and douche with chemicals will be battling ongoing irritation and infections on a regular basis.
Be sure to change tampons, sanitary napkins, and panty liners frequently - this means every time you use the restroom or at least every 3-4 hours. When pads and tampons are worn for long periods of time bacteria can build up. Not only can it cause foul odors, but especially with tampons, it can cause mild to very serious infections like toxic shock syndrome.
If you can, try to use menstrual products that do not contain scents or dyes. And try to find the all-cotton pads and tampons because some of the commercial products contain fiberglass. This fiberglass can find its way into your vagina or under your skin, causing non-infectious irritations.
Always wash your vaginal area after sex to rinse out the semen, bodily fluids and residue from condoms and other intimate products. All of these can cause infection, irritation, and odors if not removed. For this purpose, WaterWorks is wonderful, as it is an all-natural, FDA-cleared method for feminine cleansing. (See www.waterworkshealth.com for more details). WaterWorks is so gentle. It uses only the pressure from gravity for a gentle water flow to rinse the vagina. It can be done every day while in the shower.
I think it's important for us all to just get into a routine like we do with our hair and nails. Then it just becomes easy and we feel better.