How can I prevent vaginal odor and light discharge?

Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
Some vaginal odor and discharge is normal. Here's why: The vagina is normally kept moist by gland secretions near its opening and from fluids produced by the vaginal walls. Female hormones also cause the cervical glands to secrete fluid. This fluid may have a mild odor.

During your period, the secretions may become more noticeable as a clear, stringy discharge. And the odor might be a little stronger. This is normal.

However, if the smell or discharge becomes strong, unpleasant, or irritating it could point to an infection. See your doctor if this happens.

Some women douche to try and get rid of even normal vaginal secretions and odor. It can make a woman feel 'fresher.' But claims that douching provides health benefits have not been proven. In fact, there are studies that show douching too much can raise the risk of vaginal infection, endometriosis, preterm labor, and ectopic pregnancy.

Most commercial douching solutions contain watered-down vinegar. Some products also add fragrances, deodorants and antiseptics. So, douching can change the normal environment inside the vagina.

The vagina has a natural way of maintaining the proper acid-base balance that permits the growth of "good" bacteria. Since douching may disrupt this natural balance, it is not recommended.

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There are many key areas in the field of female reproductive system health, including menstruation, pregnancy, fertility, and menopause. As a woman, you may be concerned about other issues related to your sexual health, including ...

genital problems and sexually transmitted diseases. If you are a female that is sexually active, or over the age of 18, it is important to begin seeing a womans' health specialist in order to make sure that your reproductive system stays healthy. Before that, any concerns with menstruation should be addressed with a physician. As you get older, most women become concerned with issues pertaining to avoiding or achieving pregnancy, until menopause begins around age 50.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.