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Learn facts about periods, foul and rotten smells during periods, the causes of these smells, and ways to treat them.

Sep 20, 2023 By Madison Evans

For many women, menstruation is a natural part of life. However, changes in the odor of period blood can be a concern. This comprehensive guide seeks to demystify the reasons behind the different smells associated with period blood and provides actionable solutions to address them.

The Fundamentals of Menstruation

Menstruation, a natural physiological process experienced by women, signifies the shedding of the uterine lining in the absence of pregnancy. Beyond just blood, menstrual fluid comprises several elements that collaborate to serve specific functions.

The Menstrual Cycle Explained

Menstruation is one step of the cycle. The average process takes 28 days for women. However, this can vary. They start on the first day of the period and end with the next. Mid-cycle, the ovary releases an egg. If no sperm fertilizes this egg, the menstrual period begins, releasing the egg and endometrial lining.

Components of Menstrual Fluid

Period blood smell can be attributed to its unique composition:

  • Blood: The primary component. Its iron content is often responsible for the metallic smell many women recognize.
  • Endometrial Tissue: The uterus develops a thickened lining as the body prepares for a potential pregnancy. If pregnancy doesn't occur, this lining is shed.
  • Mucus Lining: Assists in easily expulsing menstrual fluid from the body.
  • Unfertilized Egg: While only a minute part of the overall fluid, it's a crucial cycle component.

Typical Odors: Breaking Down the Science

Every woman's body is unique, as is the scent of her menstrual fluid. Yet, some commonalities exist which can be classified and understood.

Metallic Aroma

The metallic nature of period blood smell can be pronounced for some women. It's primarily due to the iron content in the blood. When blood is exposed to oxygen, it oxidizes, producing a characteristic scent. This is the same reason a small cut or injury might have a similar smell, making it a familiar and generally non-concerning odor.

A Hint of Sweetness

Some women might detect a slightly sweet note in their period blood smell. Does period blood smell sweet for everyone? Not necessarily. This aroma emerges because of the reaction between period blood and the natural acidity of the vagina. Mild sweetness is often not problematic and can be considered a regular variation.

Body Odor Resemblance

At times, especially post-exercise, women might feel that their period blood smell mirrors body odor. This aroma is usually not from the period of blood but from the combined effect of sweat and bacteria around the vaginal area.

Odors of Concern: Identifying and Addressing Them

While many smells related to menstruation are typical, some may signify potential health issues.

The Fishy Undertone

A fishy period of blood smell can be unsettling. More than just an unpleasant scent, it often indicates bacterial vaginosis. This common vaginal infection can result from an imbalance of good and bad bacteria. It's not just the foul period blood smell that's a concern; untreated, it can lead to more severe reproductive health issues.

The Unpleasant Rotten Scent

Experiencing a rotten or very foul period blood smell is not only concerning but can also be embarrassing. This odor may indicate the presence of a forgotten tampon or foreign object. It can also suggest an infection or, in rare cases, a blockage. Immediate attention is recommended in these scenarios to avoid complications.

Common Culprits: Triggers of Distinct Menstrual Odors

Every woman's body chemistry is unique, and so is the precise scent of her menstrual fluid. Although some commonalities exist, understanding potential triggers can help women manage and identify causes behind unusual or foul period blood smell.

Bacterial Interactions

The vagina houses diverse bacteria, which are vital in maintaining health. These bacteria can interact with menstrual fluid as it exits the body. While many of these interactions are harmless, imbalances can produce more pungent odors. When women ask, "Does period blood smell due to bacteria?" the answer is that it can, especially if harmful bacteria overtake beneficial ones.

Hygiene Products

The type of menstrual hygiene products used can also influence period blood smell. For instance, a tampon left inside for an extended period can create a foul odor. Materials of sanitary pads, especially non-breathable ones, can promote bacterial growth when saturated, leading to odor development.

Hormonal Changes

Fluctuating hormone levels can influence the consistency and volume of menstrual fluid, indirectly affecting its scent. Situations like pregnancy, menopause, or certain medical conditions can trigger these hormonal changes. Although not directly responsible for foul period blood smell, hormonal imbalances can shift the vaginal environment, making it more susceptible to odor-producing infections.

Diet and Lifestyle

Believe it or not, what one eats can influence the period's blood smell. Foods rich in sulfur, like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, might intensify the odor. Moreover, smoking, alcohol, and certain medications can also change the scent of bodily fluids, including menstrual discharge.

Remedies and Precautions: Taking Control of Menstrual Odors

A foul period of blood smell can be distressing, but understanding remedies and precautions can help alleviate concerns and restore normalcy.

Maintain Good Vaginal Hygiene

Regular cleansing of the vaginal area, especially during menstruation, can assist in controlling odors. Opt for mild, unscented soaps to avoid irritation. Remember, the vagina is self-cleaning, so internal douching is not recommended as it can disrupt the natural pH and bacterial balance.

Choose Breathable Sanitary Products

Opt for menstrual products that allow airflow. Materials that trap moisture can create a conducive environment for bacterial growth, intensifying the period of blood smell. Changing pads or tampons frequently is vital to keep the area clean and odor-free.

Consider Diet Modifications

As mentioned, certain foods can intensify menstrual odor. A balanced diet with ample water can help flush toxins and reduce strong scents. Including yogurt and other probiotics can support a healthy vaginal environment.

Seek Medical Advice

Persistently foul period blood smell can indicate an underlying issue, like an infection. If home remedies don't alleviate the odor, or if it's accompanied by other symptoms like itching or unusual discharge, consulting a healthcare professional is essential.

Period Blood Smell: Myths and Misconceptions

Myths for centuries have surrounded menstruation. These myths can cause unnecessary anxiety and stress. Addressing them head-on is vital for women's overall well-being.

Menstrual Odor Indicates Poor Hygiene

One common misconception is that if a woman's period blood smells, she needs to maintain proper hygiene. While hygiene can influence scent, factors beyond one's control can contribute to the period's blood smell.

All Menstrual Blood Should Smell the Same

Every woman's body chemistry is different, leading to slight variations in scent. Factors like diet, medications, or hormonal levels can all cause variations in period blood smell from one cycle to another.

A Strong Odor is Always a Concern

Not all strong scents are problematic. Factors like prolonged use of a tampon or pad can sometimes intensify the period's blood smell without indicating a severe issue. Recognizing what's normal for one's body is essential.


Changes in period blood odor can be influenced by various factors, both internal and external. Mild fluctuations are usually harmless, but persistently solid or bad scents should be checked out by a doctor, especially if accompanied by other symptoms. Good hygiene, a balanced diet, and frequent gynecological checkups can improve menstrual health.

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