Why Does Me Period Blood Smell?
Updated: Jan 16
A lot of women and girls worry about the odor than can accompany menstrual blood, and want to know how they can hide or avoid it. Unfortunately, many “feminine hygiene” products make money off of this insecurity, and advertise “feminine odor” as something to be eliminated with chemically-laden perfumes. The truth about menstruation and odor is very different.
What causes period blood to smell?
Menstrual blood is a mixture of blood and the tissue that makes up the lining of the uterus. Just like any other biological material, if left outside the body it will begin to die and decompose. Imagine if you cracked an egg, but instead of cooking it you simply left it in a cold pan on the stove. For a while nothing would happen, but eventually the egg would begin to take on a foul odor as it started to rot. In a very basic way, this is what happens with all human blood or tissue once it leaves the body.
When menstrual blood is first expelled from the uterus, it doesn't have a strong odor (besides the expected coppery smell of blood). But after an hour or so it will begin to take on an odor as it starts to decompose. So in reality, you don't need sprays or perfumes to avoid an unpleasant smell – you just need to change your pad more frequently.
How to Avoid Smelling During Your Period
Products advertised to “prevent feminine odor” are really just masking the smell, not preventing or eliminating it. The only way to avoid odor is to practice good feminine hygiene by discarding old pads for fresh ones. The rate at which you'll have to do this depends on your flow and the type of pad you're wearing. For example, if you find that your pad is beginning to smell bad, but it barely has any blood on it, switch to a lower absorbency. It's tempting to try to save money by wearing larger pads for longer, but that leads us to another important fact…
Protecting Your Health
It isn't just the smell you should be concerned with. If the blood on your pad has started to smell bad, it means that it's been outside your body to long and may now be a breeding ground for bacteria. One advantage of wearing pads over tampons is that you aren't holding that bacteria inside your body (this is why tampons can – in rare cases – lead to Toxic Shock Syndrome), but you're losing that advantage if you don't change your pad as often as you need to.
To stay safe and smell fresh, alternate the type of pad you use throughout your menstrual cycle. If you're experiencing a light day, wear a liner. Never try to save money by using overnight pads for several hours at a time. These are designed to be worn only once per day; when you're asleep and can't get up every few hours to change. If you're worried about the possibility of leaking while using a lighter pad, consider switching to period panties such as the kind offered here through Ruby Love. These period panties prevent leaks even when your pad fails, so you never need to worry about whether a pad is too light.
Remember, hiding odor with a spray will not reduce your risk of an infection by wearing soiled pads, so don't take the chance.