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Vaginal smell = infection?

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Sarah asks:

I've read your article on vaginal secretion several times but I'm still confused. All of my symptoms of my discharge point to normal except the smell. I have to constantly spray perfume (not down there) on myself because I'm afraid that everyone around me has to deal with this very strong smell, almost like urine. I'm not sure what to do. I try to keep clean in the shower and I'm a virgin so I don't think I have an STD but it's getting to the point where it is really becoming a pain and I'm so self-concious whenever I'm around people. Occasionally it will also feel like my vagina is just dripping wet. I look and there is some discharge but not enough to warrant feeling like I just had an accident. I can be walking around and then all of a sudden it just hits me. It's terrible.

Do I have some sort of infection that I need a prescription for or do I just have really bad vaginal secretions?

Heather Corinna replies:

Sarah,

Sometimes, some folks just have REALLY sensitive noses, and will be convinced their genitals smell awful when they smell completely normal. That might be the case here with you. Too, if that profuse discharge is only happening for a few days once each menstrual cycle, that may simply be the type of discharge that occurs around ovulation -- it can be very fluid, drippy stuff sometimes.

But too, know that not all vaginal infections are sexually transmitted, or acquired via sexual partners. Some can just develop all on their own: in your case, since you're saying your discharge looks normal, but is just pretty profuse sometimes, and seems to have a strong smell, the one I'd be sure isn't hanging around is bacterial vaginosis.

You say you try and keep it clean, so I also wanted to make sure that you're not trying to clean INSIDE your vagina with soap and water when you shower. When you're bathing, by all means, you can wash your mons, outer labia, your rectum, perineum, and even your external clitoris and inner labia. But what you don't want to mess with is anything internal -- you don't want to be puting soap or water into your vagina internally, because that can cause imbalances to an organ which cleans itself. Soap, douching, other foreign agents inside the vagina are one way to wind up with genital infections like BV or yeast infections, because that pH balance in there can get upset and be unable to correct itself.

This obviously is really troubling you, and you do want to make sure you're not walking around with an untreated infection per your health, so I'd suggest getting in and seeing your gynecologist. If you haven't started seeing a GYN once a year for your reproductive health, sounds like now would be the best time to do it. If you do have an infection -- and that healthcare provider will take a look for all of them you might have, so no need to feel like you have to know in advance what to ask them to look for -- you can get the treatment you need, and if you do not, then you get to find out once and for all that you really don't have anything to worry about, and rest assured you're just being overly sensitive to normal scents.

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