That not-so-fresh feeling usually indicates "a change in the chemical balance of the vagina," explains Sumeeta Nanda, M.D., an ob-gyn in private practice in Oklahoma City. "Vaginal odor can occur for a variety of reasons, including intercourse, oral sex, or just sitting around in a wet swimsuit. And sometimes there's no known cause."
But if it's a chronic problem, you may have a medical issue. In most cases, the culprit is bacterial vaginosis, an infection that results from an overgrowth of organisms normally present in the vagina. (Other signs include vaginal itching and a grayish discharge.) A yeast infection, some sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia and trichomoniasis, or pelvic inflammatory disease, an infection of the uterus and other reproductive organs, could also be responsible.
Get relief from feminine odor with these simple solutions.
Regular washing with warm water and a mild, unscented soap when bathing or showering will keep the outside of the vagina clean and healthy. Also steer clear of douching: Studies have shown that these prepackaged mixes of water and vinegar, iodine, or baking soda can introduce new bacteria into the vagina, disrupting its delicate chemical balance and making any infection worse.
ARTICLE: Down-There Health: Menstrual Disorders
If the odor persists, your best bet is to make an appointment with your doctor immediately. "It's tempting to ask for a prescription for antibiotics over the phone, but your gynecologist can give you a better treatment in person," says Nanda. A quick swab of your vagina will result in a speedy, accurate diagnosis (and keep you from taking antibiotics unnecessarily). If your physician determines that an infection has been causing your symptoms, it can be treated effectively with a prescription antibiotic cream or pill.