When I was pregnant with both of my daughters, I felt like I had a supersonic sense of smell. That has somewhat stayed with me.
And thus, I couldn’t help but notice the feminine odor after having a baby. Even postpartum body odor is quite different than the normal one.
Was I the only one who could smell my postpartum feminine odor? Does it happen to everyone? I felt like people could smell me a mile away.
As it turns out, though, vaginal odor after c-section and vaginal odor after giving birth are relatively common complaints among new mamas. And thankfully, or unthankfully, depending on how you look at it, feminine odor after pregnancy is normal.
Well, to a degree.
Postpartum bleeding smells bad, though it shouldn’t completely bowl you over. Knowing what things should smell like down there and what to do will help you spot the signs of trouble so you can see your doctor or stop worrying.
Fundal massage can help prevent postpartum hemorrhage, which I have written about here.
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How long does smelly discharge last after birth?
I hate to be the bearer of unpleasant news, but you’re going to be smelling things out for a few weeks at least. That discharge will start after you give birth, whether you have done so vaginally or you’ve had a c-section.
And it will smell, though the odor is milder. Why does it feel like it’s stuck in your nose? That’s because your hormones are still balancing. So that super-sense of smell you had during pregnancy is still around. The chances are that the scent is only assaulting your nose.
But if you smell something more foul and strong, you may want to contact your doctor immediately. This could indicate an infection. Before you run to the OB, though, read on to spot the signs of infection and what else you should know.
Is it normal to have a bad smell coming from your vagina after giving birth?
Yes, it is normal to stink a bit down there after birth. You will have more discharge after having that baby because your body is cleaning out the uterus. That blood and tissue mess isn’t going to smell like roses. But it shouldn’t be ranked either. It will likely just smell a little bit.
The discharge that you have after giving birth is called lochia. It is usual for it to have a smell though the smell will be mild. If you breastfeed, you may have heavier lochia.
However, that lochia will start tapering off gradually over the next few weeks. If you see it giving heavier and/or the smell becomes so strong and unpleasant you just can’t ignore it, call your doctor right away.
For most of you, that lochia will normalize, and even seeing it in the first place is normal because it’s your body’s way of cleaning up and getting back to normal. Postpartum infection smell is something entirely different, though. For example, if lochia smells fishy, that’s not a normal smell it should have and is something to tell your doctor about.
What causes a foul-smelling discharge postpregnancy?
Your lochia, or after birth discharge, can smell a bit stinky. There are 3 stages of lochia that your body puts out too.
Lochia rubra is between days 2 to 5 after birth. This will be the heaviest and reddest. You should see clots, but none should be larger than a plum (a small plum, that is). If they are large clots that keep getting bigger, you need to tell your doctor. At the hospital post c-section, they will be keeping an eye on this for you too.
Then there’s lochia serosa. It will last about 2 weeks, starting around the 4th day after birth. It is blood and discharge, which should look watery and pink. You’ll notice it’s lighter than the lochia you had before, but blood will still come out since you’re still healing inside.
Then lochia alba is the last stage that begins around the 2nd week and will most likely continue to about 6 weeks postpartum. The lochia here will go from pink to yellow/white. You may see a spot of blood here and there.
|It lasts for||Color|
|Rubra||2-5 days||Bright Red|
|Serosa||About 2 weeks||Watery Pink|
|Alba||About 4 weeks||Yellow/ White|
So if your lochia looks like these stages at these times, then it’s probably a fair assumption that all is healing well. The smell is not the greatest, but it will be much like the way you recall your menstruations to smell. It may also have a musty and stale smell, which is normal.
Some report that metallic smell from the blood, but this is also normal. When the smell is strong, you want to make sure it’s normal.
Generally, you will be fine when the lochia comes in these stages and starts to taper off with each stage. But if lochia smells fishy or has a greenish color, it is likely an infection. Please don’t ignore it, as your doctor can treat it and get you on the path to recovery.
What does infected lochia smell like?
If you notice that your lochia smells like fish or has some other strong and foul stench to it, it could indicate a postpartum infection. Do not be afraid to contact your doctor about anything that concerns you at this time. They will not laugh! Your health is so important, and your baby needs you now more than ever.
You should know what is and isn’t normal with lochia so that if you spot something (or smell it), you can get treated right away.
A postpartum infection or hemorrhage will usually have the following symptoms, and you should contact your doctor if you see any of them:
- Blood clots that are larger than the size of a golf ball
- Bleeding so heavy you go through a new pad every hour or less
- Fishy smelling or foul lochia
- Green vaginal discharge
- You feel faint/dizzy/breathless
- Your heart is racing
- You have nausea or vomiting
- It is swollen and painful near your vagina or the perineum
- You have a fever higher than 100.4F
- You’re experiencing chills
- Cramping is severe
- Your vision is blurred
- Your blood flow increases over time rather than decreasing
- You have pelvic pain
Again, let your doctor know even if you have just one of these symptoms and you aren’t sure. It may be nothing, but it could be an infection that is easy to treat. The sooner you get it taken care of, the sooner everything will be ok!
How to get rid of smelly discharge after birth?
Ok, the first step in getting rid of smelly discharge after birth is first to determine if the smell is normal lochia or if you’ve got an infection. The symptoms above are good indicators that you have an infection or something that your doctor needs to help you with.
But even if you only have a smell down there and no other symptoms, and you’re not sure if it’s an infection or not, you can have great peace of mind by contacting your doctor. They will determine if everything is going ok in your postpartum time or if medications need to be prescribed.
Should the problem be bacterial vaginosis, a common infection down there, your doctor will prescribe something. And you may find they recommend boric acid suppositories. If not, you can most certainly ask, but I urge you to make sure your doctor advises using them first. Don’t just go shoving stuff up there, ok?
When it’s determined what is causing the odor – infection or simply the normal course of lochia doing what it does, you can find other ways to keep yourself from being stinky. Much of this is due to your hormones and lochia’s typical smell (which isn’t pleasant).
You may find a vaginal probiotic could be helpful. The microbiome down there needs the proper balance of good bacteria to help keep things healthy. Natural ingredients are a must when you choose a vaginal probiotic, but again, do not take one without speaking to your doctor first.
Something you don’t need to ask the doctor about…try high-waisted postpartum undies that let things breathe. This will help keep bad smells at bay too.
Herbal postpartum pads may be helpful too. These ones by The Honey Pot Company have an herbal infusion and are made with cotton and with no dyes and junk. This might help keep that lochia odor from bothering you.
Additionally, you may want to be sure you’re eating properly. Good nutrition goes a long way to helping your body heal during this postpartum time. Yes, you want to eat all the stuff you couldn’t have when you were pregnant. I get it.
Being in China, I had been forced to eat foods I didn’t want most of the time. After having my eldest, my husband ran out and got me a pizza, and boy was it amazing. My doctor said that was a great idea, but I should make sure most of my meals were full of fresh vegetables and fruits.
Above all, taking care of yourself is paramount. You need to rest and let your body heal. You’ll have to wait to exercise until the doctor says it’s ok, but some light walking is usually encouraged to help build up your strength, especially if you’ve had a c-section.
Getting movement in can also speed away the smells. If anything is bothering you, even if you don’t think it’s an infection, check it out or call the doctor. This will reduce your stress and keep you from breaking a sweat for the wrong reasons.
Bottom Line on Postpartum Vaginal Odor
The smells that can come from down there are never pleasant. While it’s been some time since I was in the postpartum period, I still remember the stink. It certainly wasn’t fishy, but it was not a smell I wanted to smell.
I do remember it getting better, though. And that’s the key. Watch your lochia flow, and you should see it taper off. The smell should improve too. For me, it was a bit stronger than a period smell but similar to that kind of smell.
Anything that smells like rotting fish or meat needs to be checked out promptly. Don’t be afraid, as medications your doctor can prescribe can clear that all up. Then you’ll heal up, and soon, that smell will be gone, and you’ll be smelling back to normal again!
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs. She loves eating too much sushi, exercise, and jamming out on her Fender.