Why Does My Vagina Smell Like Chlorine?

A chlorine smell in the vulva can be a sign of urinary incontinence or a UTI. If this scent persists, it’s important to contact your doctor as soon as possible.

Sweat from the apocrine glands that populate your armpits and groin can produce a milky fluid that’s usually odorless, but it interacts with bacteria on your vulva to give off a skunky smell.

1. Urinary Incontinence

A chlorine-like odor isn’t a good sign, and you should seek medical attention immediately. It can be a symptom of urinary incontinence, and you may also notice a tinge of yellow or green in your vaginal discharge. Urinary incontinence occurs when your bladder muscle weakens, and it allows urine to leak out of your vagina and into your underwear.

If you’re experiencing urinary incontinence, try wearing a panty liner to absorb any urine leakages and a pelvic support belt to strengthen your core muscles. You should also change your underwear often and avoid using scented soaps, vaginal deodorants or antiseptic products on your vulva to prevent infections.

Eating certain foods can also affect the odor of your vulva, and garlic, fish and spices may cause an unpleasant association in your vaginal discharge and urine. If you notice a new smell, start keeping a food diary to track it down.

A strong, putrid or dead-fish smell can indicate a health issue, most commonly due to bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis (trick-oh-mo-NEE-ah-sis). Both of these conditions are caused by an imbalance of the good and bad bacteria in your vagina. Both of these diseases are treatable, so consult with your gynecologist for antibiotics.

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2. Bacterial Vaginosis

A strong, fishy odor from your vagina is usually a sign of an infection. One such infection is bacterial vaginosis (BV). This condition occurs when healthy bacteria in the vagina are replaced with an overgrowth of mixed, unhealthy bacteria. This change causes a watery, white or gray discharge with a strong, fishy odor. The odor can become stronger after sexual activity and during menstrual periods. It may also irritate the vulva and cause itching. BV is treatable with antibiotics such as metronidazole. If you suspect you have BV, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Bacterial vaginosis can lead to serious complications, including pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), infertility and premature delivery. It can also infect the fetus during pregnancy, making it especially important to visit your gynecologist as soon as you notice this unpleasant symptom.

Some women can smell like chlorine after sex due to the apocrine glands that produce sweat in the groin and vulva as a response to emotional stress. These glands can also give off a skunky smell when they are overactive during times of anxiety or nervousness. The odor from these glands can combine with the odour of semen to create a chlorine-like scent. This odour is typically temporary and isn’t cause for concern, but if it doesn’t go away after a few days, make an appointment to see your gynecologist.

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3. Emotional Stress

A bleachy smell can be a sign that you have a little urine around the vulva, but if it’s really strong it might mean you have an infection. According to experts from female healthcare provider Cheeky Bonsai, if the scent is accompanied by a fever or painful urination, you should see your gynecologist. The odor may also be caused by sexually transmitted infections such as trichomoniasis, chlamydia, or gonorrhea.

A skunk-like or body odor-like odor is not normal and could be a sign that you’re stressed, which makes your sweat glands work overtime. This could also be a sign of vaginitis, or an overgrowth of bacteria. The best way to treat it is with plenty of soap and water, avoiding perfumed menstrual products, and eating a balanced diet.

Another common odor is tangy and yeasty like sourdough bread or yogurt, which comes from the good bacteria that normally dominate your vagina. However, if this smell is accompanied by a thin white discharge, it might indicate bacterial vaginosis or a sexually transmitted infection.

Your natural vaginal flora is a delicate ecosystem that can be disrupted by many things, including hormonal imbalance, hygiene practices, and your diet. So don’t stress if your vagina’s scent changes every now and then, it’s totally normal. Just take a deep breath and know that you and your vulva are in good hands.

4. Body Sweat

Despite what your awful ex or the latest douching ad might say, your vagina is supposed to have a slight odor. Like your gut, it’s full of different bacteria that make the secretions that keep you healthy and arouse potential sexual partners (yup).

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If you notice a chlorine-like smell, it’s likely coming from sweat that’s accumulated in your underwear or around your vulva from your body’s natural process of cooling itself. Sweat can also make your vulva have a slightly sour or metallic taste, and these scents are completely normal.

A strong fishy smell is usually a sign that you have bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis, and both of these conditions can be treated with antibiotics. Once your bacterial balance is restored, the smell and taste will return to their normal state.

But if you’re noticing an out-of-the-norm odor or a strange taste, it’s important to see your gyno so they can get to the bottom of it. Then, together, you can figure out a way to solve the problem and get back to your regular, beautiful vulva. And please, don’t solve the problem by douching — this is not only an unsanitary practice, but it can disrupt your vaginal pH levels and can also lead to infections. So, instead, try a pH-balancing gel that will help to keep the vulva healthy.

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