Here's Why Your Vagina Might Smell Like Poop, According To Experts
There could be an easy solution, but there could be something more serious happening.
If you're noticing a particularly fecal smell emanating from your vagina, you've every right to be concerned. This is certainly not a normal or desirable aroma to be experiencing. And wondering why your vagina smells like poop may not be something you're comfortable asking your BFF about as you chat over mimosas and french toast at brunch.
While many vaginal smells are easily explained away, a fecal smell from your vagina is not only embarrassing, but also can be worrisome if you’re unsure why it’s happening. No one wants to think about their downtown smelling foul, but it does happen. If you find yourself wondering why your vagina smells like poop, you probably want some possible answers before heading into your OB-GYN. Forewarned is forearmed and all that.
Your Vagina Is Really Close To Your Rectum
While it’s not terribly common, “the bacteria from the bowel — the lower intestines — indeed can easily become the bacteria in the vagina,” Mary Jane Minkin, an OB-GYN at Yale University, tells Romper. She emphasizes that this issue does not mean you aren’t taking care of yourself or that you necessarily have bad hygiene, noting that “it's just that the vagina is literally right next door to the rectum — very close — and the bacteria can give the odor.
“So this would likely be a variant of bacterial vaginosis — when the ‘bad guy’ bacteria predominate over the ‘good guys’ of the vagina,” Minkin says. She explains that the Lactobacilli in the vagina make lactic acid that keeps the vaginal pH low-acidic, which is considered healthy for the vagina. When this bacteria is out of balance, problems occur.
Other Reasons Your Vagina Smells Like Poop
Nurse Practitioner and lecturer Dr. Tara Carpacci of New York City tells Romper that while this is not a normal smell, it can happen — especially after giving birth. "Sometimes, there's some damage done to the anus or the muscles in the region that might cause some leakage and make you think that the smell is coming from your vagina because gravity pulls it that direction every time you stand." She says if you notice any discharge at all around your rectum, this is likely the case.
"There's also a chance that it's some sort of infection that's happening, or you might have forgotten a tampon and it's beginning to rot, which may smell vaguely like poop before it begins to putrefy in earnest." She notes that this is not as uncommon as you think, and moms especially are given to distraction and having this happen. If your period smells like poop, this could be the culprit. "If you have twin 2-year-olds banging on the door while you're trying to change your tampon, as I did, it could easily happen. In fact, I'm surprised it hasn't happened to me yet." (Side note: it's also possible to forget you're wearing a diva cup and think you're just wearing a pad. Trust me.)
Unfortunately, a poop smell from your vagina is not always so simply solved. "There is something called a retrovaginal fistula, which is an opening that forms between the rectum and the vagina, that can cause your vagina to smell like feces. While it's rare, it does happen, and it has more implications to your health and wellbeing than smell. It also means you can get pregnant from anal sex," Carpacci says. She adds that this problem can only be fixed surgically, and healing is not a fun process.
How To Get Rid Of A Poop Smell In Your Vagina
So, how do you solve this embarrassing issue? Well, a quick Google search of the subject about this particular subject could lead you to a dark place. Tons of message boards and really bad advice could lead you to many remedies that of course include essential oils, crystal healing, and various other accouterments that Gwyneth Paltrow thinks you should hold in your vagina while steaming your butt and eating mushroom powder. In a word: don't. Your vagina is a precious thing that can serve as an escape route for babies and give you orgasms; don't mess with the magic — talk to an expert.
“One way to help keep a good flora is to try a product like Pro-B, which is a combination of probiotics very similar to the 'good guys' of the vagina,” Minkin suggests. “Another way to help is to actually acidify the vagina directly — a product like RepHresh, which is available as an over-the-counter vaginal gel, can be inserted every two to three days to maintain a good acidic pH.”
While these products may help, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before using any over-the-counter medications that could impact your health. Minkin says that if the odor persists, your health care provider would likely perform an examination and testing to determine a course of treatment to get your vagina back into balance and smelling more like it should.
"No matter what, this is not an issue you can self-diagnose or self-treat. You need to see your provider and get a full evaluation to determine what is causing the smell and how it can be remedied," Carpacci says.
Mary Jane Minkin, MD, OB/GYN at Yale University
Dr. Tara Carpacci, nurse practitioner and lecturer
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