orange with fake blood to mimic period
orange with fake blood to mimic period

Smell-Free Periods: Strategies To Reduce Period Smell & Leakage In Your Pants

Self conscious about period smell? Join the club!

Being an owner of a vagina is hard work. Did we sign up to this painful life? No. But, do we deal with it anyway? Of course.

Periods are the bane of our existence. The pain, the mess, the smell, too. As if we didn’t have enough to worry about already? Like getting our pals to spot-check us for leakage every time we stand up. It’s exhausting.

And when it comes to odours, our self-consciousness increases tenfold. What’s normal? What’s healthy? What is it supposed to smell like?

We’re here to give you advice and support on how to stop bad period smells and how to reduce any leaks.

Why does period blood smell?

Periods happen when the uterus lining, unfertilised egg, and blood all shed and come out through the vagina. As it exits, the bacteria and acidity can play a role in contributing to the smell.

Period blood can and will sometimes smell, and that’s completely normal.

A “healthy” period can have a slight smell of blood, potentially a little bit metallic smelling from the iron and bacteria that are found in the blood.

Most of the time, period smells aren’t noticeable to others, and the smell can seem a lot worse to us when we know we’re on our periods. Odours can also fluctuate during your period which is normal.

If you notice a strong odour though, it may be an underlying issue, especially if accompanied by other symptoms, like discharge or extreme pain . But, an odour may be down to your personal hygiene, too.

However, no one really has a vagina that smells like roses (and TBH, it shouldn’t be smelling like roses anyway).

Why does my period smell so bad?

If you notice a particularly strong, unpleasant smell, your period might be trying to signal to you a cause for concern.  

If your period blood smells fishy, it could be an indication of Bacterial Vaginosis (BV). BV is a type of infection caused by unbalanced levels of bacteria. It’s often treated with antibiotics (either from a GP or sexual health professional). The bacteria mingles with the blood and the reaction can cause a fishy smell.

Another reason your period can smell bad is simply down to hygiene. While you don’t need to be washing the inside of your vagina — douching is a huge no-no for vaginal health — keeping the external bits (the vulva) clean is recommended for good sexual hygiene.

If your period blood has a smell reminiscent of onions, it could indicate inadequate hygiene. You should follow proper hygiene practices like wiping front to back, and ensuring you’re wearing clean underwear. To clean your vulva, use non-fragranced soap and water, or just water to clean the external areas. The vagina is self-cleaning, so there’s no need to clean inside and risk causing a pH inbalance.

Don’t forget your bed sheet hygiene, too. Unclean sheets = unclean you.

If your period blood smells off or slightly rotten, it may mean it’s time to change your tampon or pad. Depending on the heaviness of your flow, changing your pad/tampon every 4-6 hours is good practice and can help reduce any lingering odours. Plus, it will make you feel more comfortable, too. If your flow is heavy, you may need to change it more often. Most of the time, you’ll be able to tell from how your tampon feels or your pad looks to determine whether it’s time to change it or not.

I can smell my period through my pants

As we’ve mentioned, periods are going to sometimes smell. It should generally go unnoticed by other people, though.

If you can smell your period through your pants, it’s more likely that you’ve leaked or your pad needs to be changed. If the smell is stronger and smells fishy then this could be a sign of infection, like Bacterial Vaginosis. Seek advice from your GP to determine if that’s the case.

How to stop bad period smell

Cliterally the Best’s Evie Plumb (founder, sex educator and relationship therapist-in-training), explains that “your period shouldn’t have an obvious smell if you are regularly changing your period products, but if it smells pungent for the whole of your cycle this might be something to go to your GP about”. 

If you notice your period smelling more unpleasant than usual, here are some things you can do to try and minimise the smell and your anxiety around it.

  • Maintain adequate menstrual hygiene: hygiene is typically key to remaining smell-free, and periods are no different. Ensure you’re changing your pad or tampon (or other alternatives) often enough (every 4-6 hours depending on your flow is recommended). 
  • Wear cotton underwear/clothes: Cotton is super breathable and absorbent, making cotton underwear the best choice to wear, especially during your period. Synthetic materials like nylon can make you sweat more and trap in moisture, not allowing for your bits to breathe! The same goes for tight bottoms — they can be too restrictive and cause sweating, leading to odours. 
  • Keep your bits clean: Like the rest of the body, your privates need to be clean, which will help reduce odours and prevent bacteria from growing. However, avoid douching. Your vagina is self-cleaning and douching can upset the balance of healthy bacteria and pH levels, resulting in high risk of infections. Just wash your external bits (the vulva) with a gentle, unscented soap and/or water.

How to stop period leaks

Period leaks are normal and happen to the best of us! It’s usually down to incorrect placement of your pad or tampon, but also while you’re tossing and turning during the night — or doing anything active.

Here are some tips to help prevent any accidental leaks:

  • Use the correct absorbency for your flow — pads and tampons are available in different absorbency levels, suitable for light to super heavy flows. During your period you’ll typically experience a variety in your flow pattern, often getting lighter towards the end. You should try different absorbency levels during your period to find which ones help you best and this can reduce the chance of leakage. 
  • Wear extra protection when sleeping — some people bleed more at night due to the lack of movement. It’s also possible to reach the absorbency of your pad while sleeping as you won’t be able to change it often, which can lead to leakage. To prevent this, there are pads that are designed specially for night time. They typically have a higher absorbency level and are longer to cover more surface area. 
  • Ensure you’re using the correct techniques — whether your weapon of choice is a tampon, a pad, menstrual cup or anything else, you need to make sure you’re using it properly. Not inserting a tampon far enough or in the right spot can cause leaks, as well as not inserting a cup properly.

Best period products

Nude & CBD tampons — Daye

Daye CBD tampons. Stop period smell

Sustainable and organic tampons with optional CBD coating to help your period.

Enjoy 20% products with our Daye student discount.

CBD Balm — Daye

CBD balm Daye. Stop period smell

Perfect for relieving aching muscles with CBD and essential oils. 

Enjoy 20% products with our Daye student discount.

Menstrual cup — BeYou

Menstrual cup from BeYou

Better for the environment and your wallet, a reusable menstrual cup is a great alternative to one-time-use pads and tampons. 

Get 20% off Period Pain Patches with our BeYou student discount.

Period pants — ModiBodi

period pants worn by model - ModiBodi

Reusable, comfortable, invisible through clothes and protective, these period pants will ease any anxiety you have around leaks.

Enjoy 15% off when you spend £80 or more with our ModiBodi student discount.

Shop incredible student discounts at Student Beans.