Dear Dr. Kate,
I’m STD and yeast infection free, but I just don’t like the way I smell down there. Are feminine washes and douches really as bad as I hear? What else can I do to help freshen things up?
— In a Funk
Short answer: YES. Douches and the like are exactly as bad as you’ve heard. Spraying chemicals into your vagina only throws off the bacteria balance and puts you at risk of a vaginal infection or more discharge. Plus, if you douche, you’re pushing bacteria up into your cervix and uterus, increasing the risk of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.
I bet your vagina smells the way it’s supposed to smell — like a vagina. Not a spring meadow, or a summer’s breeze (what does that even mean, anyway?). The only thing you need for vulvar hygiene is a regular shower and mild soap (I like Aveeno and Dove, but anything without a lot of chemicals). You can experiment with changing your diet — some women find that by changing how much fruit and veggies they eat, or by eating less meat, they change their odor or taste. It’s certainly less risky than a douche. Here are some earlier posts from this site that may also help you:
- Help! Something’s Off Down There
- How Can I Smell and Taste Better Down There?
- What Do Vulvas Taste Like?
— Dr. Kate
Dr. Kate is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City. She also lectures nationally on women’s health issues and conducts research on reproductive health. Check out more of her advice and ask her a question at Gynotalk.com.