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Harvard Medical School
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General Medical Questions
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Question : How can I prevent vaginal odor and light discharge?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Joan Marie Bengtson, M.D., is assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School and a member of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproduction at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

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July 05, 2011
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A:

Some vaginal odor and discharge is normal. Here's why: The vagina is normally kept moist by gland secretions near its opening and from fluids produced by the vaginal walls. Female hormones also cause the cervical glands to secrete fluid. This fluid may have a mild odor.

During your period, the secretions may become more noticeable as a clear, stringy discharge. And the odor might be a little stronger. This is normal.

However, if the smell or discharge becomes strong, unpleasant, or irritating it could point to an infection. See your doctor if this happens.

Some women douche to try and get rid of even normal vaginal secretions and odor. It can make a woman feel 'fresher.' But claims that douching provides health benefits have not been proven. In fact, there are studies that show douching too much can raise the risk of vaginal infection, endometriosis, preterm labor, and ectopic pregnancy.

Most commercial douching solutions contain watered-down vinegar. Some products also add fragrances, deodorants and antiseptics. So, douching can change the normal environment inside the vagina.

The vagina has a natural way of maintaining the proper acid-base balance that permits the growth of "good" bacteria. Since douching may disrupt this natural balance, it is not recommended.

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