Thu | Dec 5, 2019

Dear Doc | I have a smelly vagina

Published:Sunday | January 20, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Q Dear Doc, I have a problem. I have a funny smell coming from down there, and I have tried special washes, powder, and deodorants but they haven't helped. I now want to try douching, because it will wash out inside properly and get rid of the funny smell. Is there one you can recommend?

A Douching is a method to wash out the vagina, commonly using a home mixture of water and vinegar. Commercially prepared douches contain antiseptics and fragrances. the douche is placed in a bottle or a bag and is sprayed through a tube upwards into the vagina.

There is a misconception among women that vaginal douching will make them feel fresher, get rid of unpleasant odors, wash away menstrual blood after their menses, prevent them from getting a sexually transmitted infection and even prevent a pregnancy after intercourse.

So let me be very clear by saying, douching is NOT effective for any of these purposes! In fact it actually does more harm than good, and increases the risk of infections, and pregnancy complications.

Douching causes an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina. These changes makes the vaginal environment more favourable for the growth of bacteria that cause infection, such as bacterial vaginosis. Women who stop douching have fewer episodes of bacterial vaginosis than when they were douching. Having bacterial vaginosis also causes a vaginal odour, and douching to try to get rid of the odour can result in pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

PID is an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and/or ovaries, and women who douche have a 73 per cent higher chance of getting PID.

With that said, having some vaginal odour is normal, and simply washing the vagina with warm water is enough to keep clean. However if you are having a very strong odour, it could be a sign of an infection, and you should see your gynaecologist.


The 'period cup' is nasty


Q I need you to talk some sense into my sister who has clearly lost a screw, and is taking this ecofriendly lifestyle too far. She has been trying to convince me to follow her to use some 'period cup' thing instead of regular pads or tampons. It sounds simply nasty to me and unsanitary. Is this cup thing healthy and safe to use?

A What you are talking about is called a menstrual cup. There has been a lot of talk recently about this ecofriendly alternative to pads and tampons.

It is a small, flexible cup, made of silicone or latex rubber. It catches and collects your menstrual flow, instead of absorbing it, like a tampon or pad would.

At the time of your period, you tightly fold the menstrual cup and insert it into the vagina, like you would a tampon without an applicator. If it is fitted correctly, you shouldn't feel it. It's similar to putting in a diaphragm or contraceptive ring.

The cup will spring open and rest against the walls of your vagina, forming a seal to prevent leaks. The menstrual flow then drips into the cup.

Some cups are disposable, but majority are reusable. To remove it, you pull on the stem that sticks out the bottom of the cup and pinch the base to release the seal. You can then empty the cup, wash it with soap and water, and reinsert it.

At the end of your cycle, you can sterilise your cup in boiling water, as you would a baby bottle.

While it is now becoming more popular, menstrual cups, have actually been around since the 1930s. Generally advertising for menstrual cups is very low and most women learn about them through the Internet or word of mouth.

I understand your concern, and has a similar reaction to you when I first hear about them, but here are some good points.

1. It is ecofriendly as you said, and also wallet-friendly. A reusable cup that costs US$30-$40 can last up to 10 years. That results in less waste in landfills and less money spent over time. This benefit only applies to reusable cups though.

2. Where tampons need to be changed every 4 to 8 hours, depending on your flow, cups can stay in longer. You can leave a cup in for 12 hours, so they are good for overnight protection.

3. No more leaks. They form a tight seal, so once you get the hang of inserting it, there will be no need to wear a backup pad or pantyliner.

4. It also holds more. A menstrual cup can hold one ounce of liquid, which is about twice the amount of a super-absorbent tampon or pad. You can have mess-free sex during your menses! Yes! you read correctly! The soft, disposable cups are designed with sex in mind. They look like a diaphragm, a contraceptive device, so your partner cannot feel it, and there is no blood to worry about.

5. There is less odour. Menstrual blood may begin to have an odour when it's exposed to air; but since the cup forms an airtight seal, there is no exposure to air, and so no odour.




1. It can be difficult to find the correct fit, because cups come in different sizes depending on age, menstrual flow, and whether you have had a child. Finding the perfect fit can be challenging, and it will take some trial and error, and you may have leaks until you do.

2. Removal can be messy and embarrassing. Even though inserting the cup can be easy, removing it not easy at all. In a sitting or squatting position, you will have to use your pelvic floor muscles to push the cup down in the vagina, and then reach in and grab the stem. The base then needs to be pinched in order to break the seal and the cup the tilted slightly backwards to help prevent it from spilling. Also if you need to change the cup in public, you may need to wash out the cup in the bathroom sink.

3. It could interfere with an intrauterine contraceptive device (IUCD). Some manufacturers do not recommend using a menstrual cup if you have an IUCD in place, because the cup could pull on the string and dislodge it.

I do agree that the menstrual cup can be difficult to accept and even sound gross to some persons; it really is not for everybody, but there is nothing unhealthy or unsafe about it.