During your menstrual cycle, your body develops a lining in the uterus in preparation for pregnancy. If no pregnancy occurs, hormones cause you to go through menstruation in order to remove that old lining so a new one can grow for the next cycle. Douching is not necessary after your period. Meghan Lane, the Health and Sexuality Peer Education Program’s coordinator, says that the vagina naturally cleans itself. A study by Rebecca M. Brotman and colleagues found that douching increased the risk of bacterial vaginosis. There are ways to be fresh after your menstrual cycle without douching.
Drink enough water so that you stay hydrated, especially during your period. Hydration helps to maintain body moisture and normal blood flow. This makes it easier for your vagina to cleanse itself after your period. Drinking 6 to 8 eight-ounce glasses of water a day is recommended.
Menstrual blood mixed with oxygen can have a normal smell. Change your pads or tampons every two to four hours to help decrease those odors. Frequent changing also helps to prevent bacterial infections and improve hygiene. Wearing tampons too long is linked to toxic shock syndrome.
Wash the outer vaginal and pubic area at least once a day to help decrease odors. You may want to wash gently with water or mild soap, or use hypoallergenic baby wipes, more often if you have heavy menstrual flow. This may help prevent buildup of odors or bacteria after your period is complete.
Use feminine hygiene products that do not have fragrances or deodorizers. Pads, tampons and sprays with these ingredients may actually cause irritation or infections and therefore increase odors.
Wear loose clothing and cotton underwear to improve ventilation and avoid increased temperatures. Bacteria and odors are less common in cool, dry conditions.
After your period, use mild soap and water to wash the outside vaginal and pubic areas every day to remove any remaining blood and decrease odors. Normal vaginal secretions will flush out any remaining lining.
Strong odors such as fishy ones are not normal menstrual odors. Make sure you have not forgotten to remove a tampon. If your odors are very strong or you have unusual discharge after your period, you could have a bacterial or yeast infection or sexually transmitted disease. See your doctor or gynecologist to determine if you have problem. Women who are diabetic or are on antibiotics are more likely to develop yeast infections. Other causes of vaginal odors include cancer or a tear between the vaginal wall and rectal wall (rectovaginal fistula).