Some people might notice different types of smell to their period blood, such as a metallic or sweaty smell. This is not unusual, but a rotten or fishy odor may be a sign of a health condition that needs medical attention.
Several factors can influence the smell of menstrual blood, such as the vagina’s pH and the presence of bacteria.
This article will discuss different types of period blood smell and when to contact a doctor.
Menstruation involves the shedding of blood and tissue from the uterine lining through the vagina. It occurs when the egg released during ovulation is not fertilized to result in pregnancy.
The menstrual fluid, consisting of blood, the unfertilized egg, and uterine lining tissue, might have a slight smell to it.
A person might notice that their period blood smells metallic due to the presence of blood and iron.
The vagina’s acidic environment and the presence of different types of healthful bacteria may also play a role in the smell of vaginal secretions and period blood.
The normal pH of the vagina is 3.8–4.5, which is acidic. A pH of 7 is neutral. The presence of blood, semen, or urine in the vagina can affect the pH and cause different odors.
The vagina is home to different types of healthful bacteria, including Lactobacillus. A disruption in this environment can cause infections and other problems.
Period blood can have different odors based on numerous factors. The following are common menstrual blood odors:
Period blood can have a metallic smell, like a copper coin. This is typically due to the presence of iron in the blood and is not usually a cause for concern. However, it should not persist much longer after the period ends.
A person might notice a bad or rotten smell during their period, which could be a sign of a problem. This type of smell is often due to a foreign body, such as a tampon, that a person has accidentally left in the vagina for too long. A person can try to remove an old tampon from the vagina by finding the string and pulling it out. Otherwise, a doctor will need to remove it.
A sweet smell in the period blood is likely due to the acidic environment and the presence of bacteria in the vagina.
A person might notice a smell that is similar to body odor during their period. This is due to the presence of apocrine sweat glands in the genital region. Apocrine sweat mixes with bacteria on the skin to produce body odor. The glands release this type of sweat during periods of stress or anxiety. It is different from the sweat lost during exercise, or when the body has a high temperature.
A person might notice a fishy smell during their period and also outside of menstruation. This smell is often related to an infection, such as bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis.
Bacterial vaginosis is a common vaginal infection caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina. Risk factors for bacterial vaginosis include new or multiple sex partners and douching.
Bacterial vaginosis produces a fishy smell, which is more pronounced during menstruation, as blood increases the vaginal alkalinity. A person might have white or gray vaginal discharge outside of menstruation. Doctors diagnose bacterial vaginosis using a range of tests and typically prescribe antibiotics for treatment.
Another infection that produces a fishy smell during a person’s period is trichomoniasis, which is a sexually transmitted infection.
A person with trichomoniasis might notice an unusual fishy smell from the vagina and a change in vaginal discharge. They might also notice itching, burning, or soreness in the genital area.
Sometimes, unusual smells during a person’s period are related to hygiene practices. Generally, period blood smells are not noticeable to other people.
A person should aim to bathe daily to improve unwanted odors. Additionally, during menstruation, they should change a pad every time they go to the restroom and change a tampon every few hours.
There is no need to use special cleansers or sprays to clean the vagina. These products can irritate the vaginal area. Read more about whether feminine hygiene products are safe or even necessary here.
People do not have a period during pregnancy, but should still be aware of vaginal health.
Due to hormonal changes, a person might have more normal vaginal discharge during pregnancy than they usually do. They are also at risk for vaginal infections due to the changing balance of yeast and bacteria in the vagina.
Anyone who experiences unusual changes in vaginal discharge, strange odors, or vaginal bleeding during pregnancy should speak to a doctor.
A person should be aware of new or unusual smells during their period or changes in vaginal discharge outside of their period. Green or yellow vaginal discharge is usually a sign of problems.
People should also speak to a doctor if they experience the following during their period:
- a fever
- severe pelvic or stomach pain
- heavier bleeding than normal
A doctor can help to identify whether or not a person has an infection or a more severe condition.
Certain smells during a person’s period are completely normal. The vagina is an acidic environment with a balance of bacteria that produce odor.
Some smells, such as a fishy or rotten smell, are unusual, and a person experiencing them should see a doctor for further investigation. People should also pay attention to changes in vaginal discharge outside of their period.
If an infection is a cause, then it will require prompt treatment by a doctor.