What vaginal infection is this?
February 8, 2013 12:33 PM   Subscribe

Embarrassing and unusual symptom has been plaguing me for months now. Your insight, experience and advice appreciated.

Married late-30s female. My underwear smell of urine and sweat. It used to be intermittent, it's all the time now. I'm scrupulous with my hygiene, I don't have a loose bladder, I only wear cotton underwear. I'm going to replace all my underwear, since even when they've been through the wash it seems to be worse on days when I wear older underwear. The smell used to be the only symptom, but last night I noticed an unpleasant prickly, feverish sensitivity all around my vaginal area during sex. I'm going to make an appointment with my doctor but in the meantime does anyone have any idea what this might be? Google isn't very helpful.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
We can't say. Your doctor is the right person to ask, so it's good you made an appointment with them.

The most common explanation for when someone's genitals' smell changes suddenly, or the smell or consistency of their vaginal discharge changes suddenly is an infection of some kind, maybe bacterial vaginosis. But since you're noticing a urine smell, another possibility to consider is a urinary tract infection. Or stress incontinence, which might be causing you to release tiny amounts of urine when you cough or sneeze.

I've had BV (as a child, actually---damn you, Mr. Bubble!) and plenty of UTIs in my day and the odd round of stress incontinence. They all cleared up just fine with treatment.

Of course, something else entirely could be going on for you, but those are three possibilities that are issues lots of women experience.

Best of luck!
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:47 PM on February 8, 2013

It could be a few things so it's a doctor trip, but wash your undies in vinegar, don't throw them out. Unless you want to get some nice new ones to cheer you up.
posted by taff at 12:48 PM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Bacteria vaginosis?
posted by JacksonandFinch at 12:49 PM on February 8, 2013

It could be so, so many things that it's hard to say. A lot of time dirty underwear just sort of smells like urine, and the urine smell could be masking another smell. So, good for you for seeing your doctor! In the mean time:

1. Make sure your genitals are completely dry after you shower before getting dressed. A blow dryer - I'm serious - is a good idea sometimes.
2. Do you exercise? Change out your exercise clothes as soon as you can. I.e., don't run errands in bike shorts.
3. If you do have BV, do consider boric acid suppositories. Also, ask your partner to take a dose of antibiotics as he can reinfect you even if he shows no symptoms.

Good luck! I hope it's easily fixable and not a big deal.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 1:01 PM on February 8, 2013

Are you wearing tight pants a lot, or the same ones for a long time? Running around/exercising more often? Maybe your clothes aren't coming completely clean in the wash? And if you're not already, change your underwear after sweating a lot for any reason, or they'll smell a few hours later. That kind of thing seems more likely to me than BV - vaginal bacteria tend to smell a lot more foul than urine/sweat, although they're always a possibility.

Another thought - since you're late 30s, your hormone levels could be changing a bit and might be altering the amount/smell of your normal discharge. Doctor's a good one to talk to about this, although there might not be anything you can do to fix it.
posted by randomnity at 1:07 PM on February 8, 2013

Did you recently (any time in the last 6 months, maybe even more?) get a high-efficiency washing machine? My clothes are all slowly rotting and never smell clean. For undies and jeans, this means crotches that smell like pee / sweat / mildew.

(NO TIPS PLEASE, I know them ALL, they don't work, and I'm dumping this POS washer as soon as feasible.)
posted by peep at 1:42 PM on February 8, 2013 [6 favorites]

Another vote for it may be the washer and/or your laundry routine. Wash underwear with hot water and add some borax to optimize detergent performance and also disinfect and remove odors. If your underwear aren't getting clean and odors/bacteria are in the cotton fibers, you could easily create a loop of bad odors. Of course, also see a doctor to rule out infection.
posted by quince at 2:26 PM on February 8, 2013

It's good that you are seeing a doctor to rule out any medical issues. Seconding checking that your underwear is getting completely clean in the washer.

Are you wearing pure cotton underwear? Synthetic fibers do not breathe and they trap and accumulate odors, so nylon underpants are going to stink worse than cotton ones. It's best to wear all-cotton underwear - not just a cotton crotch, but 100% cotton - at all times except for the fun sexy times that call for filmy undies. Wash your underpants on the sterile cycle in the washer and add bleach or borax, and if you can, dry them in the sun - the sun does a much better job than any store-bought product at killing germs and making clothes smell good.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:54 PM on February 8, 2013

One thing you can do to eliminate underwear vs secretion smell is to wear a liner; then you can smell the liner and underwear separately to see if the odor is stronger on either.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 5:19 PM on February 8, 2013

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