Her hooha smells... off. What's going on?
July 18, 2010 12:21 PM   Subscribe

A question from Ms. Ash3000: "My vagina smells funky, but I don't have the symptoms of a yeast infection. Could this be just a side effect of the summer heat, or is it more likely that something else is going on?"

For the past 2-3 days, my girlfriend's vagina has smelled differently than it normally does. It is more pungent, and smells like a combination of urine and, for lack of any better way to describe it, overripe moist cornflakes. (That's honestly what comes to mind.)

We're both concerned that she might have some kind of infection, but it doesn't seem to match the symptoms of anything we're familiar with. Here's what she says about her habits:
I sleep in the nude, and usually wear cotton underwear (though not exclusively; to wear dresses, which I do a couple days a week, I have to use spanx-type shorts). I shower regularly, and wash my vulva with warm water (no soap).

It seems that the only symptom I have is this weird smell. There is no change in discharge, and no itchiness, or discomfort. I just smell different than normal, in a slightly unpleasant way.
What could be going on here? She's going to see her OB/GYN soon, but should she try to get an urgent appointment, or is it okay for her to see the doctor in a few weeks? Thanks, AskMe.
posted by Ash3000 to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
where in her cycle is she?
posted by nadawi at 12:22 PM on July 18, 2010

To answer nadawi's question:
"I use the NuvaRing. I had my period earlier in the week (during the week between rings), and I've just put in a new ring."
posted by Ash3000 at 12:25 PM on July 18, 2010

It could be bacterial vaginosis. It's very common and while it can resemble a yeast infection in some ways, it's not the same thing at all.

Actually, given the heat and the spanx she wears with her dresses, I wouldn't be surprised if that is what it is. Good thing is, it's highly treatable. Bad thing is, it can require multiple treatments to clear up (and that also means no sex during the course of the treatment).
posted by zizzle at 12:26 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is it possible that she pushed something in with the NuvaRing? I'm thinking that a small bit of toilet paper might be capable of producing a minging smell without being particularly irritating.
posted by Coobeastie at 12:28 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

No major change in eating habits?
posted by salvia at 12:29 PM on July 18, 2010

It is unlikely to be BV, I think. BV has an extremely strong and distinctly horribly fishy smell that appears immediately; there's no buildup of odd smell to noticeably wrong smell.
posted by elizardbits at 12:33 PM on July 18, 2010

More follow-up, to Coobeastie and salvia:
"Coobeastie: The smell started before I reinserted my NuvaRing, and I know there isn't anything else there (I don't exactly use it like a pocketbook).

salvia: No dietary changes."
posted by Ash3000 at 12:34 PM on July 18, 2010

I would see a healthcare practitioner to assess things it could be other than BV. The thing is, it could be anything from an inflamed cervix to a-typical chlamydia. If it's noticeable, it's symptomatic of something, so I'd ask for a more urgent appointment or go down to Planned Parenthood next week.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:45 PM on July 18, 2010

Why doesn't she use soap when she washes? If it's as hot where you are as it is here, a little soap and water might do the trick.
posted by amro at 2:15 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

No, no soap. That can cause BV. BV is not always strong and pungent. When I've had it (mild cases), it's been more like hummus than rotten fish. If that's it, it's not urgent, but get to the doc when you can.
posted by emilyd22222 at 3:18 PM on July 18, 2010

but should she try to get an urgent appointment, or is it okay for her to see the doctor in a few weeks

A bad smell coming from her vagina should always be cause for an urgent appointment.
posted by crankylex at 3:25 PM on July 18, 2010

BV is caused by bacteria, not soap. I agree with amro that soap seems like a natural thing to try next -- especially if the odor includes the smell of urine. Soap should be fine on the outside (vulva); it is problematic on the inside (vagina). If there is a concern about pH, then use a soap with a pH near 5.5.

Summer's Eve feminine wash: 5.5
Johnson & Johnson baby wash: 6.5
Cetaphil: 6.7
Dr. Bonner: 8.0
Ivory: 9.5
Burt's Bees: 10
posted by Houstonian at 3:34 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

BV is caused by bacteria, not soap

Sure, but soap can throw off pH, facilitating the growth of bacteria. I know you mentioned pH, but I wanted to clarify.
posted by emilyd22222 at 3:37 PM on July 18, 2010

Another possibility could be vaginal strep. It could just be a change in body chemistry prompted by just about anything, though.
posted by annsunny at 4:53 PM on July 18, 2010

Thanks for all the suggestions and input, everyone. She'll be making an appointment tomorrow to get this checked out.
posted by Ash3000 at 6:08 PM on July 18, 2010

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