Health & Wellness

Q&A: Is your period blood supposed to smell like fish, or is that abnormal?

Believe it or not, menstrual blood has no odor. Neither does sweat for that matter. But, let’s be real, we have all experienced a smell or felt less than clean down there. First, menstrual blood is made of both blood and tissue that sheds from the uterus. When menstrual blood mixes with our own bodies, bacteria and odor may develop. Many describe this as fishy. Just like when we sweat. Perspiration has no odor, mix that with our body’s bacteria and we all know what that odor smells like. Noticing a fishy odor is common, and very likely unnoticeable to anyone else. Think about it, have you ever been able to tell if someone is on their period? To decrease odor, change your pad frequently. Assure you are using the pad or tampon with the right amount of absorbency. If a fishy odor persists after your period is over, an infection such as bacterial vaginosis may be present. Contact your healthcare provider for an in-office examination.

Believe it or not, I have a friend who went to an all-girl high school and their mascot was the Tuna. Can you imagine the jokes those girls had to endure? There are all sorts of bad jokes about vaginas and fishy smells, but if you're concerned about your body, it's no laughing matter. Just be sure to change your pads or tampons regularly and wash your vulva (the external areas) with a mild soap and water when you bathe or take a shower; those simple measures will help control any natural odors. You should know that when you're not on your period, there may be a subtle odor as well. If the smell you're noticing is unusual for you — a stronger or distinctly different odor than what you normally experience — then it might be wise to bring up the question with your health professional.

There are a lot of different smells that can come from down there and it’s great that you are asking this question. If you think about it, smelling is one way of listening to your body. Every woman has her own ‘scent,’ and you should try to be familiar with yours. And yes, sometimes period blood mixes with the bacteria in your vagina and creates a smell that might not be the greatest. But if you feel like you’re sniffing something suspicious, ask your healthcare provider. It could just be as simple as something in your diet, or something that requires treatment, but you won’t know unless you ask!