BLOG

PUBERTY TO WOMANHOOD

ONLINE CONSULTATION

If you need a more personal approach I’m just a phone call away.

Meet Sally!

In this video Sally will give you an introduction to the blog about puberty to womanhood.

Menstrual cycle 101

Puberty - the time of more

Does your vagina smell like IPA?

Did you know … 

  • Puberty prepares the body and mindset for pregnancy
  • Puberty in girls usually begins between the ages of 9 and 12 and lasts for several years.
  • Because there’s such a wide age range, it’s common for two girls of the same age to look really different – one still like a little kid, and the other more like a young adult.
  • The changes are caused by hormones
  • Hormones are everywhere
  • Hormones are chemical messengers that coordinate different functions in your body produced by various glands, organs and tissues in fact some cells can make their own hormones
  • The main ones responsible for changes are

– Estrogen

– Progesterone

– Testosterone

  • These changes can be exciting, confusing, awkward and wonderful.
  • Puberty can be thought of as ‘the time of more’
  • More:

– Breast tissue

– Curves – hips and boobs and the tiny waist in between

– Vulva, vagina and uterus

– Hair – underarms and pubes

– Lubricants, like sweat and vaginal discharge and of course blood aka menstruation

– Smells and odours

– Oiliness – pimples and acne and oily hair

– Mood swings

– Etc.

  • Womanhood aka the state of being a woman ie expressing the distinguishing character or qualities of a woman
  • Biologically womanhood has life stages divided into

– Infancy

– Puberty (adolescence)

– Sexual maturation (reproductive age)

– Climacteric period

– Post-climacteric (elderly) years

  • We really need to come up with a new word for post-menopause or post-climacteric – something sexy and more appropriate for today’s 50+ woman – come on give me some names
  • Apparently Finnish mythology have 7 stages of womanhood

– Maiden

– Wife

– Mother

– Crone

– Sage

– Warrior

– Healer

  • In a modern day family the woman is a multitasker and performs these role all at the same time:

– Wife

– Partner

– Organizer

– Administrator

– Director

– Re-creator

– Disburser

– Economist

– Mother

– Disciplinarian

– Teacher

– Health officer

– Artist

– Queen.

Puberty 101

  • In short – a child’s body and mindset changes in the response to the increased production of hormones, maturing them sexually making them capable of reproduction.
  • These changes can be exciting, confusing, awkward and wonderful.
  • For girls, puberty generally begins between the ages of 9 and 12.
  • Because there’s such a wide age range, it’s common for two girls of the same age to look really different – one still like a little kid, and the other more like a young adult.

The changes

In reality it’s the time of more:

  • Breast
  • Bone – trousers become too short
  • Curves – hips and boobs and the tiny waist in between
  • Vulva, vagina and uterus
  • Hair – underarms and pubes
  • Lubricants, like sweat and vaginal discharge and of course blood aka menstruation
  • Odour
  • Oil – pimples and acne and oily hair
  • Mood swings – oh so sensitive.

The Menstrual Cycle 101

  • Regular ovulatory menstrual cycles are how women increase the production of Testosterone, Estrogen and Progesterone.
  • These ovarian hormones are not just about getting you pregnant they are also exceedingly beneficial for health.
  • The average menstrual cycle is 28 days
  • But a cycle can be a few days longer or shorter and still be considered regular. 

The Phases

  • Menstrual – bleed time – day 1 – 7
  • Follicle – production and maturing of an egg – day 7 – 12
  • Ovulatory – releasing of an egg – day 13 -14
  • Luteal – all about the egg – day 14 – 28
  • The cyclic increase and decrease of the hormones during these phases impact of aspects of body biochemistry

– metabolism and energy levels

– immune system

– skin

– appetite

– gut health

– moods

– sleep patterns

 The Hormones

Brain hormones

  • The menstrual cycle is controlled overall by the brain
  • The Hypothalamus – the commander in chief produces Gonadotrophin-Releasing-Hormone (GnRH) which is sent to the Pituitary
  • The Pituitary produces Luteinising-Hormone (LH) and Follicle-Stimulating-Hormone (FSH) which is sent to the ovaries (and testicles) at varying levels during the cycle

Ovarian hormones

  • There are 3 hormones which directly affect (and control) the actions in the ovaries and thereby the cycle

– Testosterone

– Estrogen

– Progesterone

The Phases and Hormone Production

Menstrual phase

  • The onset of menstruation is considered to be the start and end of a menstrual cycle, as it signifies the end of an opportunity for fertilization for one egg and the beginning for millions more.
  • Commonly called Day1 of the new cycle
  • The length and intensity of a period varies from person to person and cycle to cycle, but usually lasts between 4-6 days.
  • FSH has a slight increase during this time – signalling – get and egg ready
  • The hormones Estrogen and Progesterone are low
  • Testosterone can be dominant creating

– Powerful, stabile, assertive mood, even aggressiveness

– Spots and acne flare ups (maybe already from day 26 in the cycle)

– Day 3 – 5 is high performance time especially if you’re an athlete – a time for personal best performance

  • Once the period stops, the proliferative phase begins again, starting the reproductive process anew.

Follicle phase

  • Estrogen is the important hormone in this phase increasing to get eggs/follicles ready – one will usually become dominant
  • Mood changes to sexy, passionate, lovey dovey
  • The endometrium the uterine wall also known as the womb is activated as is breast tissue, all in preparation for a fertilised egg

Ovulation phase

  • FSH levels increase
  • LH levels become exceedingly high

– Testosterone increases

– Mood changes to horny – the need for sex now on the kitchen table

– The animal part of you knows that you have 24-36 hours to get that egg fertilised

  • Estrogen drops radically

– Some ladies feel abdominal pain or cramps, bloating, slightly elevated body temperature, changes in cervical mucus and saliva, and breast tenderness.

Luteal phase

  • FSH and LH are very low during this phase
  • Testosterone levels drop again and are low
  • The follicle from where the egg popped out transforms to the corpus luteum which produces hormones
  • Progesterone is produced and thickens the lining of the uterus in preparation for a fertilized egg to make its home there for the next nine months.
  • If conception occurs, the corpus luteum continues to produce Progesterone (and Estrogen) to maintain a healthy pregnancy at least until the placenta takes over.
  • If the egg is not fertilized, the corpus luteum ceases its hormone production after about two weeks. This drop in hormones (especially progesterone) signals menstruation to begin.
  • Estrogen also produced by the corpus luteum increase again, though nor as high as in the follicle phase
  • Estrogen is needed for cell division, so it only takes 9 months and not 19 to complete gestation
  • NB! it’s the drop in hormones that allow the bleed, which is the shedding of the endometrium
  • When Estrogen and Progesterone levels drop, Testosterone can become dominant and breakouts can occur.

Overview of Menstrual Cycle Challenges

Every challenge will relate back to imbalances in the hormones that control the cycle:

  • GnRH
  • FSH
  • LH
  • Testosterone
  • Estrogen
  • Progesterone

Puberty

  • For the first two years, periods can be very unpredictable.
  • Have one period and then wait as long as six months for the next one.
  • One period may last a day, another, ten days.
  • Maybe spotting between periods.
  • It takes one or two years for your periods to even out – maybe even longer.
  • Eventually, the cycle will settle into a regular pattern that’s unique to your body.

Irregular periods

  • Your periods are considered irregular if your menstrual cycle is shorter or longer than average.
  • Ie – the time from the first day of your last period up to the start of your next period is less than 24 days or more than 38 days.

Unusual bleeding

  • Unusual or abnormal bleeding is any bleeding that is different from your typical menstrual period or happens when you do not have your period

Prolonged menstrual bleeding

  • Bleeding that exceeds eight days.

Menorrhagia

  • Heavy menstrual periods
  • Periods may be so heavy that you find it hard to do normal activities such as going to work or school.

Dysmenorrhea

  • Painful menstrual periods
  • Pain is the most common problem women have with their periods.
  • More than 50% of women who have periods get some pain around their period.

Oligomenorrhea

  • Infrequent menstrual periods that occur more than 35 days apart.

Amenorrhea

  • Absence of menstrual periods before menopause

– Haven’t had a period for three months in a row

– Haven’t had your first period by age 15

  • Amenorrhea happens in 3% to 4% of women.

Dysmenorrhea 101

  • Painful menstrual periods
  • Pain is the most common problem women have with their periods.
  • More than 50% of women who have periods get some pain around their period.
  • Some women may get just a feeling of heaviness in the abdomen or tugging in the pelvic area.
  • Other women experience severe cramps
  • There are two types of dysmenorrhea:
  • Primary dysmenorrhea.

– This is the most common type of dysmenorrhea.

– The pain is usually caused by contractions of the uterus (womb).

– The uterus contracts during your period to help the uterine lining leave the body.

– Teens may get dysmenorrhea soon after they get their first period.

– For most women, primary dysmenorrhea gets less painful as they get older.

– But some women get severe menstrual pain.

  • Your risk for dysmenorrhea may be higher if you

– Got your first period before age 11

– Have longer or heavier periods

– Smoke

– Have high levels of stress

  • Secondary dysmenorrhea.

– This type of dysmenorrhea is usually caused by another health problem.

– Pain from secondary dysmenorrhea usually gets worse as you get older.

– It also lasts longer than normal menstrual cramps.

  • Problems that cause secondary dysmenorrhea include:

– This condition happens when the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus where it does not belong. In response to monthly changes in levels of the hormone Estrogen, this lining breaks down and bleeds outside of the uterus and can cause swelling and pain.

– Uterine fibroids. Fibroids are tumors that grow in or on the wall of the uterus. They are almost always not cancerous. Some women with fibroids experience pelvic pain and vaginal bleeding at times when they do not have their period.

– Ovarian cysts. Cysts are fluid-filled sacs on the ovary. Ovarian cysts usually don’t cause any symptoms, but some can cause pain during your period or at ovulation.

Possible Treatments

  • Hormonal birth control, such as a hormonal intrauterine device (IUD), the pill, shot, or vaginal ring,
  • Surgery to address the cause.
  • A majority of period pain can be relieved by over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen, ibuprofen, or aspirin.
  • Starting an over-the-counter NSAID medicine when your period first starts may also lessen heavy menstrual bleeding and help control the pain better.
  • Evening Primrose Oil, GLA interferes with the production of inflammatory prostaglandins released during menstruation and so can offer some relief from menstrual cramps, as well as bloating, headaches and breast tenderness – beware it can decrease blood clotting which could increases bleeding
  • Try this pre-bleed cocktail

– Start 3 days prior to your first bleed day

– 1 tbsp. fish oil am and pm

– 200mg magnesium am and pm

Menorrhagia 101

  • Heavy menstrual periods
  • Periods may be so heavy that you find it hard to do normal activities such as going to work or school.
  • Bleeding quickly soak through pads or tampons — or have to double up on different types of protection
  • Have quarter-sized or larger clots in your period blood
  • Bleed in between periods
  • Are very tired or short of breath

Causes of heavy bleeding include:

Problems with ovulation

  • In a normal menstrual cycle, your uterine lining builds up and thickens to prepare for pregnancy.
  • If pregnancy does not happen, the uterine lining leaves your body during your period.
  • If your hormones get out of balance or if you do not ovulate, the uterine lining can build up too much and bleed heavily and in an unpredictable pattern.

Problems with the uterine lining

  • If your hormones or uterine lining get out of balance, the uterine lining can bleed too much.
  • This can cause heavy bleeding as the lining is pushed out during the next menstrual period.

Thyroid problems

  • Heavy bleeding can be a sign of hypothyroidism aka underactive thyroid.
  • Hypothyroidism happens when your thyroid does not make enough thyroid hormones.

Uterine fibroids

  • Fibroids are made of muscle tissue that grows in or on the wall of the uterus.
  • They are almost always not cancer.
  • They can cause pain and heavy or irregular bleeding.

Uterine polyps

  • Polyps are an overgrowth of the endometrial tissue that lines the inside of the uterine wall.
  • They are usually small.
  • They are usually not cancer but can cause heavy or long periods.

Certain medication

  • Such as blood thinners, can cause heavy or long periods.

Miscarriage

  • An early pregnancy that ends
  • An ectopic pregnancy, which is when the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus (womb) where it does not belong, putting a woman’s life in danger.

Bleeding disorders

  • Hemophilia and von Willebrand’s disease are inherited bleeding disorders that cause heavy bleeding during periods.
  • Studies show that up to one in five white women with heavy periods has a bleeding disorder.
  • For many women, heavy menstrual bleeding is the only sign they have a bleeding disorder.

Obesity

  • The extra fat in the body makes the hormone Estrogen.
  • The extra Estrogen changes the normal menstrual cycle and can cause missed, irregular, or heavy periods.

Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS)

  • Some research has found that women with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) have a higher risk for heavy bleeding..

What to do

  • Think hormone imbalance

Home Remedies

  • Tweaks the diet
  • More rest
  • OTC pain relievers can decrease the amount of blood
  • Hydrate – Drinking 4 to 6 extra cups of water each day can help to maintain your blood volume
  • Eat vitamin C-rich foods – to absorb more iron
  • Vitamin C in citrus fruits, red and green peppers, kiwis, strawberries, etc
  • Add more iron-rich foods to your diet to prevent anaemia
  • Signs of anaemia include

– Fatigue

– Weakness

– Dizziness

– Pale skin

  • Iron foods:

– Any meat with red blood in it – but it doesn’t need to be eaten bloody

– Oysters

– Chicken and turkey

– Leafy green, such as spinach

– Cooking in cast iron pots

  • Supplement with Vit C and iron
  • Some OTC pain relievers can help reduce blood loss during your periods. This includes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil, Motrin, or aspirin.
  • NB! High doses or long-term use of NSAIDs can lead to unwanted side effects.

Aids making it more endurable

  • Use a menstrual cup. This small silicone cup fits inside your vagina and catches the blood as it’s released from your uterus. It can hold much more blood than a pad or tampon, and it’s less likely to leak. And because menstrual cups are reusable, they’re better for the environment than disposable sanitary products.
  • Wear period panties. These absorbent undergarments are designed to back up tampons and pads for preventing leaks. You can also wear them on their own.
  • Apply a heating pad. Although it won’t lighten your flow, a heating pad can help relieve painful menstrual cramps.

Medical help

  • Birth control pills, patches, and rings are different forms of hormonal birth control.
  • Hormonal birth control thins the uterine lining, typically resulting in less menstrual bleeding. It may also relieve other period symptoms, such as painful cramps.
  • Common side effects of the pill and other hormonal methods include:

– Sore breasts

– Bloating

– Nausea

– Mood changes

– Bleeding or spotting between periods

– Weight gain

– Headaches

  • Birth control shot – Depo-Provera shot is another form of hormonal birth control. Injected by your doctor every 3 months
  • Hormonal intrauterine device (IUD) – Mirena Coil — can be effective for 3 to 5 years.
  • NB! Copper IUDs aren’t recommended for this purpose.
  • Tranexamic acid (Lysteda) – is an antifibrinolytic tablet.
  • It reduces bleeding by preventing your body from breaking down clots.

– Only need to take it for a few days each month.

– Side effects include muscle cramps and headaches.

– Norethindrone (Aygestin) pill containing the hormone progestin.

– Women with very heavy bleeding can take a 5-milligram dose, two times a day, from day 5 to 26 of their menstrual cycle.

– Its side effects are similar to that of hormonal birth control methods.

  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists.

– These drugs are used to temporarily treat heavy bleeding caused by endometriosis and uterine fibroids.

– They come in an injectable form and a nasal spray.

– GnRH agonists shouldn’t be used for more than 3 to 6 months.

– Side effects, which may worsen over time, include:

– hot flashes
– headaches
– weakened bones

Surgery

  • Focused ultrasound – non-invasive treatment helps with bleeding caused by uterine fibroids, ultrasound waves shrink the fibroids.
  • Uterine artery embolization – Tiny beads will be injected into the blood vessels that feed your fibroids, causing them to shrink.
  • Myomectomy – removes uterine fibroids but leaves your uterus intact.
  • Endometrial ablation – removes most of your uterine lining with a laser, heat, or radiofrequency energy. Afterward, your periods will be light to non-existent, and you won’t be able to get pregnant.
  • Endometrial resection – similar to ablation – removes the entire uterine lining and you won’t be able to get pregnant afterward.
  • Partial Hysterectomy – remove your entire uterus – won’t be able to get pregnant afterward.

Signs you need to involve your doctor

  • your period is unusually heavy for more than 1 or 2 months.
  • you have to double up on protection to provide adequate coverage
  • you soak through one or more pads or tampons an hour
  • you have to change your pad or tampon during the night
  • you pass blood clots
  • you’re experiencing symptoms of anaemia, such as fatigue, shortness of breath, and pale skin
  • your periods last for more than a week at a time.

Amenorrhea 101

  • Absence of menstrual periods before menopause

– Haven’t had a period for three months in a row

– Haven’t had your first period by age 15

  • Amenorrhea happens in 3% to 4% of women
  • Amenorrhea is always related to Estrogen deficiency (maybe FSH)

Possible Causes

  • Pregnancy
  • Breastfeeding
  • Eating disorders, especially anorexia nervosa
  • Too much exercise and or too little food leading to low fat %

– models

– athletes RED-S (relative energy deficiency in sport) previously called the female triad

  • Long-term stress and or severe stress can affect the Hypothalamus.
  • PCOS
  • Brain tumours

Possible Tests

  • Pregnancy test – to rule out or confirm a possible pregnancy.
  • Thyroid function test – measuring the amount of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) to determine Thyroid function
  • Ovary function test – to measure the amount of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) to determine if the ovaries are working properly.
  • Prolactin test – low levels of the hormone prolactin may be a sign of a pituitary gland tumour.
  • Male hormone test – If there is increased facial hair and a lowered voice, testosterone levels can be evaluated.
  • Hormone challenge test – Hormone medication taken for 7 – 10 days to trigger menstrual bleeding. Results can indicate a lack of Estrogen.
  • Imaging tests, such as ultrasound, Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
  • Scope tests – to look at the inside of your uterus.

Possible Treatments

  • Hormone medication, such as the contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
  • Overactive thyroid gland, treated with medication to stop your thyroid producing too many hormones
  • Cut out all intense exercise
  • Increase calories
  • With a tumour or structural blockage surgery may be necessary.

Changing the Way we Understand and Appreciate Ovulation

Benefits of ovulation – Lara Briden – READ MORE 

  • A monthly dose of Estradiol promotes muscle gain, insulin sensitivity, and the long-term health of bones, brain, and the cardiovascular system.
  • A monthly dose of progesterone reduces inflammation, regulates immune function, and supports thyroid, brain, bones, and breast tissue.
  • The benefits of ovarian hormones are both short-term by making women stronger and long-term by building metabolic reserve and health.
  • According to Canadian endocrinology professor Jerilynn Prior, “women benefit from 35 to 40 years of ovulatory cycles, not just for fertility but also to prevent osteoporosis, stroke, dementia, heart disease, and breast cancer.”
  • In that sense, every ovulation is like a monthly deposit into the bank account of long-term health.

Changing the menstrual focus

  • In December 2015 The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG), together with the American Academy of Paediatrics, ‘quietly’ issued a ground-breaking statement called Menstruation in Girls and Adolescents: Using the Menstrual Cycle as a Vital Sign.
  • In it, they state that doctors should always ask patients about menstruation and advise girls to chart their cycles.
  • By doing so, they say, “doctors will demonstrate to patients that menstruation is an important reflection of their overall health.”
  • Learning to observe, chart, and interpret an ovulatory cycle is called body literacy, a term coined by menstrual activist Laura Wershler.
  • Think of ovulation as a valuable, health-giving event.

Obstacles to ovulation

Hormonal birth control

  • Of course that’s its purpose
  • Some studies show that compared to women who cycle, women who take contraceptive drugs have altered brain structure and a greater risk of depression and autoimmune disease.

Undereating

  • Losing ovulation and periods because of undereating is called hypothalamic amenorrhea.
  • It’s not a disorder, but rather a smart, adaptive decision by the brain to pause reproduction when there’s not enough food to safely make a baby

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

  • The hormonal state of excess androgens or testosterone can cause anovulatory cycles (cycles with no ovulation) and is usually associated with insulin resistance.
  • Reversing insulin resistance with diet, exercise, and natural supplements such as inositol can help to restore ovulation.
  • NB! – PCOS cannot be diagnosed by ultrasound – you may have PCO poly (many) ovarian cyst (follicles) but that doesn’t mean to say this a problem or that you have PCOS (syndrome)
  • You may have hypothalamic amenorrhea

NB! – if men could menstruate, menstruation would become something to brag about

Infertility

  • 10% to 15% of couples are infertile.
  • Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant despite having frequent, unprotected sex for at least a year
  • Infertility may result from an issue with either you or your partner, or a combination of factors that prevent pregnancy.
  • Fortunately, there are many safe and effective therapies that significantly improve your chances of getting pregnant.

Possible Causes of female infertility

  • Ovulation disorders, which affect the release of eggs from the ovaries. These include hormonal disorders such as

– Polycystic ovary syndrome / PCOS

– Hypothalamic amenorrhea

– Hyperprolactinemia

– Hyperthyroidism

– Hypothyroidism

– Too much exercise

– Eating disorders

– Tumours

  • Uterine or cervical abnormalities, including

– Abnormalities with the cervix

– Polyps in the uterus

– Shape of the uterus

– Noncancerous (benign) tumours in the uterine wall (uterine fibroids)

– Fertilized egg not implanting in the uterus.

  • Fallopian tube damage or blockage, often caused by inflammation of the fallopian tube (salpingitis) from pelvic inflammatory disease, usually caused by a sexually transmitted infection, endometriosis or adhesions.
  • Endometriosis, which occurs when endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus, may affect the function of the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes.
  • Primary ovarian insufficiency (early menopause), when the ovaries stop working and menstruation ends before age 40. Although the cause is often unknown, certain factors are associated with early menopause, including

– immune system diseases

– certain genetic conditions such as Turner syndrome or carriers of Fragile X syndrome

– radiation or chemotherapy treatment.

  • Pelvic adhesions, bands of scar tissue that bind organs that can form after pelvic infection, appendicitis, endometriosis or abdominal or pelvic surgery.
  • Cancer and its treatment. Certain cancers — particularly reproductive cancers — often impair female fertility. Both radiation and chemotherapy may affect fertility.

Risk factors

Age                

  • Women’s fertility gradually declines with age, especially in the mid-30s, and it drops rapidly after age 37.
  • Infertility in older women is likely due to the lower number and quality of eggs, and can also be due to health problems that affect fertility.
  • Men over age 40 may be less fertile than younger men.

Tobacco use

  • Smoking tobacco or marijuana by either partner may reduce the likelihood of pregnancy.
  • Smoking also reduces the possible effectiveness of fertility treatment.
  • Miscarriages are more frequent in women who smoke.
  • Smoking can increase the risk of erectile dysfunction and a low sperm count in men.

Alcohol use

  • For women, there’s no safe level of alcohol use during conception or pregnancy.
  • Alcohol use may contribute to infertility.
  • For men, heavy alcohol use can decrease sperm count and motility.

Being overweight

  • An inactive lifestyle and being overweight may increase the risk of infertility.
  • For men, sperm count may also be affected by being overweight.

Being underweight

  • Women at risk of fertility problems include those with eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia, and those who follow a very low-calorie or restrictive diet.
  • Exercise issues

– over training can cause low fat % and anovulation

– lack of exercise contributes to obesity, which increases the risk of infertility.

Helpful Strategies

Quit smoking

  • Tobacco has many negative effects on fertility, not to mention your general health and the health of a foetus.
  • If you smoke and are considering pregnancy, quit now.

Avoid alcohol and street drugs

  • These substances may impair your ability to conceive and have a healthy pregnancy.
  • Don’t drink alcohol or use recreational drugs, such as marijuana, if you’re trying to get pregnant.

Limit caffeine

  • Women trying to get pregnant may want to limit caffeine intake.
  • Ask your doctor for guidance on the safe use of caffeine.

Exercise moderately

  • Regular exercise is important, but exercising so intensely that your periods are infrequent or absent can affect fertility.

Avoid weight extremes

  • Being overweight or underweight can affect your hormone production and cause infertility.

Vaginal Odours 101

  • Ladies a healthy vagina can smell like many different things — but flowers or cookies aren’t one of them.
  • Your vaginas are home to billions of bacteria.
  • And the precise makeup of this bacteria changes on a daily — sometimes hourly — basis.
  • Subtle shifts in your vaginal fragrance are natural.
  • How your vagina smells has everything to do with its pH.
  • There are lots of things that affect your pH

– Menstrual cycle and the fluctuating hormone levels

– Your hygiene habits – it is widely acknowledged by the medical community that douching and using products to mask the ‘natural vagina smell’ is harmful to the balance of vaginal flora, and can cause bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection.

– Semen has a relatively high pH, so it’s typical to notice a different smell after penile-vaginal sex, but the change is only temporary.

– Menopause increases vaginal pH, due to a lack of Estrogen there is less vaginal mucosa which lines the vagina and nurtures the Lactobacilli bacteria, and without the bacteria up goes the pH.

  • And the groin contains a collection of sweat glands, which can also affect vaginal scent
  • Bottomline your vagina always has an odour
  • Don’t be afraid to get to know your vagina, in all its fragrant glory.
  • Remember vaginas do so many wonderful things for us, it’s about time we increase our knowledge and understanding
  • Fall in love with your vagina

Overview of the scents

Tangy or fermented

  • It’s common for vaginas to produce a tangy or sour aroma.
  • Some compare it to the smell of fermented foods.
  • Yogurt, sourdough bread, and even some sour beer contain the same type of good bacteria that dominate most healthy vaginas: Lactobacilli.
  • So if it smells curiously similar to an IPA there’s no need to stress.
  • Lactobacilli bacteria keep the vagina acidic, by protecting against an overgrowth of the bad kinds of bacteria
  • A healthy vagina of a person of reproductive age is slightly acidic, between 4.0 and 4.5
  • May ‘re post slightly higher if you’re post menopause..”

Metallic

  • Blood contains iron, which has a metallic smell.
  • The most common reason for blood is menstruation.
  • During your period, blood and tissue are shed from your uterine lining and travel through your vaginal canal.
  • Light bleeding after sex can be common. This is usually due to vaginal dryness or vigorous sex that can cause small cuts or scrapes.
  • If the metallic scent persists there could be more serious reason for the bleed – contact your medical professional

Sweet like molasses

  • Not like fresh baked cookies sweet, more robust and earthy.
  • But a sweetish tinge is no cause for concern
  • It’s the ever-changing bacterial ecosystem affecting the pH

Chemical cleaning smell

  • An odour similar to bleach or ammonia.
  • Urine contains a by-product of ammonia called urea.
  • A build-up of urine in your underwear or around your vulva could put off a chemical smell.
  • Keep in mind, urine smelling strongly of ammonia is a sign of dehydration.

Fishy smell

  • Bacterial vaginosis a common infection gives off a foul, fishy smell
  • Overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria omit Trimethylamine, the chemical compound responsible for the distinct aroma of rotting fish
  • Other symptoms

– Thin grey or white discharge

– Vaginal itching

– Burning during urination

  • Trichomoniasis a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis can also give off a fishy smell
  • Other symptoms

– Vaginal itching, burning, redness or soreness

– Discomfort/burning during urination

– Clear, white, yellowish, or greenish vaginal discharge

  • Treatable with a course of antibiotics

BO or a smoked herbal, cannabis like scent

  • Many people find a similarity between body odour and cannabis.
  • Probably due to the sweat glands down below
  • Which means vaginas and general body odour can have a similar smell.
  • Might be due to emotional stress which affects the apocrine sweat glands
  • These sweat glands found in abundance under armpits and in the groin produce a milky fluid.
  • On its own, this fluid is odourless, but when it comes in contact with the vaginal bacteria on your vulva, it can produce a smoked cannabis aroma.

Rotten, Putrid, Decaying smell

  • Probably you forgot something in your vagina, like a tampon
  • Inadvertently letting a tampon go days, even weeks, inside a vagina is actually more common than you might think.

Should you see a medial professional?

  • Yes if putrid, or fishy odours persist
  • Especially if other symptoms are present

– itching or burning

– pain

– pain during sex

– thick, cottage cheese discharge

– vaginal bleeding unrelated to your period.

Best Bacteria for your Vagina

  • Meet the Lactobacillus family
  • They live in your mouth, gut and vagina.
  • Lactobacillus (L) rhamnosus is the most researched probiotic,
  • Research shows that L. rhamnosus kills bacteria and yeast in the vagina
  • L. rhamnosus GR1 + L. reuteri RC14 – this combo helps to maintain a healthy vaginal microbiome.
  • L. crispatus is one of the most common species in healthy vaginal flora
  • L. crispatus M247 is a well-documented probiotic for oral administration that demonstrates vaginal colonizing
  • L. crispatus can account for more than 80% of all vaginal bacteria and is considered to be one of the most active species in a healthy vagina

Lactobacillus-rich foods

Yoghurt

  • bulgaricus is a commonly used starter culture.
  • acidophilus, may be added as probiotics.

Sauerkraut

  • Fermented cabbage dish rich in friendly bacteria, including several strains of Lactobacillus.

Kefir

  • Kefir grains are a combination of lactic acid bacteria and yeast, fermented into a thin yoghurty drink.
  • Its precise microbial composition varies, but Lactobacillus is always present.

Sourdough bread

  • Lactobacilli are the most important group of sourdough-fermenting bacteria.

Kimchi

  • A Korean dish that has a Lactobacillus strain named after it, Lactobacillus kimchii.

Healthy vaginas and vulvas 101

  • Overall, your vagina doesn’t need much maintenance – it’s self-cleaning
  • Support by supportin whole-body health

– Sleep right

– Eat right

– Move right

  • Chronic conditions can put your private parts at risk, such as

– poorly controlled , which increases the likelihood of contracting yeast infections and urinary tract infections

  • Get regular screenings
  • Insist on using condoms for SDI protection
  • Just use water – harsh chemicals, pre-packaged wipes or douching can disrupt the vaginal microbiome. Even laundry detergents can cause irritation for the more sensitive vaginas
  • Consider natural lubricants

– Coconut oil

– Olive oil

  • Silicone or water-based lubricants as alternatives
  • Consider vaginal Estrogen for the ultimate healthy vagina. Estrogen can help prevent or reverse age related changes, such as:

– painful sex – due to thinning vaginal walls and less elasticity

– increased risk for UTIs/urinary tract infections – due to pH changes, the vagina become more alkaline and you do not want alkaline vaginas

  • Regular pelvic floor and vaginal exercises to prevent /control

– pelvic organ prolapse, where the internal supports of your uterus, vagina, bladder and rectum become weak over time

– urinary incontinence, or bladder leakage

  • Never ignore postmenopausal bleeding, which can be a symptom of

– vaginal dryness

– polyps (noncancerous growths)

– cancer.

WANT MORE?

CHECK OUT THE OTHER BLOGS ABOUT FEMALE HEALTH & HORMONES

ONLINE CONSULTATION

If you need a more personal approach I’m just a phone call away.

Estrogen

Surviving peri-menopause

Breast cancer

Vaginal health

All about menopause

Female health after menopause

Questions? Please don't hesitate to contact me

Sign up