Firstly, it’s COMPLETELY NORMAL for period blood to have a smell. There’s absoloutely no reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed, because everyone that gets their period experiences this. If you’re concerned that other people can also smell the odour, the chances of that happening is very slim unless they’re right next to you when you change or empty your period product.
So, what makes period blood smell? Well, it’s got to do with the bacteria in the vagina. The vagina is a self-cleaning and self-regulating organ, and in order to do this it has good bacteria which make these functions possible. This bacteria also helps keep the vagina’s pH balanced so that the bad bacteria can’t take over and cause infection or disease. You may have also noticed that your period blood smells almost metallic, that’s from the iron in the blood. Essentially, all blood including period blood doesn’t have a smell. However, because period blood can sit in the vagina for quite some time and it comes into contact with bacteria it develops a smell once it exits the vagina.
If you leave your tampon or menstrual cup inserted for too long, or you don’t change your pad as often as you should, the smell could become quite intense especially on heavy flow days. So, it’s important to change/ empty your period products as often as you can.
If you notice a particularly intense ‘fishy’ smell, it could be a symptom of bacterial vaginosis. You’ll be able to tell by the smell being VERY different to the usual period smell, and if it’s accompanied by itchiness, burning when peeing and irritation then you should see a doctor. It’s really not anything to be stressed out about, and can be treated with antibiotics.
To avoid an unusual smell or an infection, stay away from scented period products specifically tampons and don’t ever use a douche. These are just two ways that can throw off the natural pH of your vagina which will cause an imbalance of the good and bad bacteria, making you more prone to infection and intense smells. Also, make sure to change your period products as often as you can and wash regularly (only use warm water to clean your vagina and vulva, don’t ever use soap), especially on heavy flow days.