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Why Does My Period Blood Smell So Bad? Get the Answers Here

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Period blood or menstrual blood smell is a common problem for many people, but understanding why it might have a strong odor is essential for women’s health and hygiene. 

Hormonal changes, bacterial interactions with blood, personal cleanliness practices, and food can all have an impact on the odor of menstrual blood. Although a mild odor is common due to the presence of naturally occurring bacteria and other causes, a particularly strong or foul odor may signal an underlying problem. 

Read further to get the answer to the most common question of many women- why does my period blood smell so bad?  Also, find ways to overcome unpleasant period smell.

Why Does My Period Blood Smell So Bad: Possible Causes

The odor of menstrual blood can change for a variety of reasons, and recognizing these aspects is essential for maintaining good menstrual health.

The causes of foul period blood smell include Bacterial Vaginosis, excess sweat, cervical cancer, Perimenopause, prolonged use of menstrual products, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), poor hygiene, and dietary habits.

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Bacterial Vaginosis is the leading medical cause of vaginal odor. Good bacteria, such as Lactobacilli, known for maintaining your vaginal health, are lost during menstruation which increases your risk of Bacterial Vaginosis.

It is a frequent vaginal infection that results from a bacterial imbalance in the vagina.

BV can induce a fishy odor, which may combine with blood during your period to produce an extremely pungent smell.

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  • Excess Sweat

    Sweating more than normal is a common sign of menstruation. Sweat creates a wet environment that can support bacterial development. The naturally occurring bacteria in the vaginal region can combine with menstrual blood and perspiration to produce a stronger foul smell.

    Sweat can also combine with other variables, such as pH imbalance, bacterial infections, or menstrual hygiene products, contributing to a bad odor.

    Do you know?
    Around 75 % of women experience changes in the vaginal odor during their menstruation, some of which can be unpleasant.

    Cervical Cancer

    Cervical cancer is rarely the direct source of a bad odor during periods. However, advanced cervical cancer can occasionally cause infections or discharge from the cervix. This discharge may have a strong or unpleasant odor that can be noticed during menstruation.


    Perimenopause written on a white paperSource: getty_images

    Perimenopause, the transitional phase of menstruation before Menopause, can affect the menstrual cycle and may contribute to changes in period blood odor. During Perimenopause, Estrogen levels vary erratically. 

    Estrogen is essential for maintaining bacterial equilibrium in the vagina. The hormonal fluctuations during Perimenopause can upset this equilibrium, resulting in variations in vaginal odor, notably during menstruation.

    However, Perimenopause can lead to several other symptoms that can affect your well-being. If you want to learn more about the symptoms of Perimenopause, read Understanding Perimenopause Symptoms: A Comprehensive Guide

    Prolonged Use of Menstrual Products

    Prolonged usage of menstruation products, such as tampons and sanitary pads, may contribute to a bad period smell.

    When pads or tampons absorb menstrual blood and remain in place for a prolonged period of time, a warm, moist environment is created that promotes bacterial development. Bacteria that are naturally found in the vaginal region can proliferate fast in this environment, causing an increase in odor.

    Additionally, menstrual products can occasionally trap blood in the vaginal canal, especially if they are not replaced regularly. This trapped blood might begin to disintegrate, producing a more pungent and unpleasant smell.

    Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

    STIs can sometimes cause changes in vaginal odor, particularly during menstruation. Gonorrhea and Chlamydia are bacterial STIs that can infect the reproductive organs, such as the cervix and uterus. 

    While they may not directly affect menstruation odor, they can induce inflammation and infection in the reproductive system, resulting in irregular vaginal discharge and odor

    If not treated, STIs can progress to more severe health issues, such as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), causing long-term damage to reproductive organs.

    Poor Hygiene

    The vagina possesses a specific balance of bacteria that aids in pH regulation and general health. Poor hygiene, such as infrequent washing or the use of strong soaps, can upset this pH balance, resulting in an overgrowth of odor-causing bacteria.

    When menstrual blood comes into contact with these bacteria, it might produce a more pungent, unpleasant odor. Also, wearing dirty underwear or clothes can trap perspiration and bacteria against the skin, increasing the smell. 

    Dietary Habits

    Eating habits can affect the odor of menstruation blood through the way particular meals are digested and eliminated by the body. 

    Foods with strong odors, such as garlic and onions, contain sulfur compounds that can be eliminated through perspiration and other physiological fluids, including menstrual blood. These chemicals can give menstrual blood a stronger, more pungent odor.

    How to Get Rid of Bad Period Blood Smell

    Managing and eliminating the odor of menstrual blood is crucial for personal hygiene and comfort. Although some smells during menstruation are natural, certain strong or harsh odors may suggest an underlying problem that requires immediate medical attention. 

    You can overcome bad period smells by adopting the following measures:

    • Wash your vaginal area with mild, unscented soap and water at least once or twice a day, especially during periods
    • Change your pads, tampons, or menstrual cups every 4-6 hours to minimize bacteria growth and decrease odor
    • If you experience a prolonged smell from tampons or pads, switch to other menstrual products like menstruation cups or period panties
    • Eat a well-balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats to improve general health and minimize body odor
    • Avoid using scented soaps and feminine washes, as they can alter the vagina’s natural pH balance and intensify odors
    • Consume probiotics that may assist in maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in the vagina, lowering the risk of bacterial overgrowth and odor


    Understanding the factors affecting the odor of menstruation blood is vital for women’s well-being and personal hygiene. A minor smell during menstruation is common due to the presence of bacteria and hormonal changes.

    However, a very strong or nasty odor may suggest underlying concerns such as Bacterial Vaginosis, poor hygiene practices, eating habits, or infections. Individuals can effectively manage and reduce the smell of period blood by practicing good menstrual hygiene, changing menstrual products regularly, and eating a healthy diet. 

    It is advisable to consult a doctor if the smell persists even after periods or is accompanied by itching and a burning sensation in the genital region.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    Is it normal to have smelly discharge after periods?

    A minor odor or change in discharge consistency after menstruation is normal and should not be a matter of concern. This discharge, also known as Postmenstrual discharge, generally occurs by the vagina’s natural cleansing process.

    Am I unhygienic if my periods smell fishy?

    A fishy smell during periods does not necessarily indicate poor hygiene. One common cause of a fishy odor during periods is Bacterial Vaginosis (BV), which produces a characteristic fishy odor when blood interacts with vaginal bacteria.

    Why does my period smell like ammonia?

    If your period blood smells like ammonia, it might result from trapped menstrual blood. If menstrual blood gets trapped in the vagina, it might produce a more harsh smell, such as ammonia. This can occur if you use menstruation products, such as pads, for a long period without changing them.

    Why does my period blood smell like metal?

    The metallic odor of period blood resembling metal is common and usually not cause for concern. This smell is generally caused by iron in menstrual blood, which can have a metallic fragrance.

    Why does my period blood smell sweet?

    Sweet-smelling menstrual blood isn’t common and could be a sign of an underlying medical problem that needs to be addressed immediately. Sweet-smelling menstrual blood might indicate elevated blood sugar levels. Excess glucose in the circulation can cause a sweet or fruity smell that can be detected in body fluids such as menstrual blood.

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    Photo of author Janet Fudge
    Janet Fudge is a highly skilled and experienced pharmacologist who serves as a contributing writer for With a strong academic background from a premier US University and a passion for helping others, Janet has become a trusted voice in the pharmaceutical world. After completing her Doctor of Pharmacy degree, Janet embarked on a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry, working with various clients, including hospitals, retail pharmacies, and drug manufacturers. Her in-depth knowledge of pharmacology and dedication to patient-centered care has led her to excel in her field. As a writer for, Janet uses her wealth of expertise to provide readers with accurate, reliable, and up-to-date information on various topics related to medicine and healthcare. Her engaging writing style and ability to break down complex topics into easily digestible content make her a valuable resource for healthcare professionals and the general public.
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