Why does period blood smell bad?


Do you think period blood smells bad? On your first or second day of periods, as you remove the blood-soaked sanitary napkin from your panties, there is this odd smell that hits you! Unpleasant smell for sure! But does this mean period blood is impure?

What exactly is in period blood?

The period blood is not just blood. It also contains remnants of the endothelial lining. The endothelium is the innermost lining of the uterus. Every month endothelium gets rich with blood supply as it prepares to nourish and help a fertilized egg that gets implanted on the wall of the uterus. A fertilized egg is an egg that has been fused with the sperm. It is the fertilized egg that further divides and grows to become an embryo and later the foetus and finally the baby. It is the endothelium that provides all the needed nutrition in the early stages of the fertilized egg. 

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Now what happens every month when fertilization does not occur is: the endothelial lining will shed itself from the uterus and exit through the vagina during the monthly bleeding. These linings are not chunky big tissues that you can see in the period blood! 

Period blood can also contain remnants of an unfertilized egg. Well, none of these cells and tissues is visually distinct in the period blood. As in, they are so small that it is difficult to see them with naked eyes! 

Why does period blood smell?

The smell of period blood is because of the long-standing microbial activity in the genital area. The blood by itself has no off-putting smell when it exits from the vagina. When the blood is soaked up by the sanitary napkin, it stays put in the napkin for hours! Thus the microbes in the genital area act on the blood and release byproducts that cause the smell. Something like how if we don’t take a shower daily, the armpits start to smell because the sweat created there is feasted upon by the microorganisms and we end up stinky stinky!

If you don’t believe us, you can try this for yourself: on your periods day, use the menstrual cup for an hour and take it out and check whether the period blood smells as bad as the blood that has been on a sanitary pad for many hours. 

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That said, tampons and cups can also have a smell. But this is only because of the microbial activity inside the vagina. This is the reason why you can clearly make out the difference in smell when you change the tampon/ empty the cup within a few hours, as against having them in your vagina for hours at stretch and then changing/ emptying. The former barely has a smell, while the latter does smell, but nowhere as strong as period blood on a long-used sanitary pad!

Pure and impure?

Period blood is the blood that comes out of your vagina during your monthly cycle. Vagina = bad? Absolutely not! Blood = bad? Again, what rubbish! Then why do we attribute purity and impurity to period blood? Is it because it has more than just blood? But aren’t these remnants of cells and tissues present in the period blood, the very same stuff that can give life if they were to remain in the uterus during pregnancy? 

If you are bleeding elsewhere in the body, will your folks isolate you, telling you that you have become impure? Definitely not! They will spring into action and get you the needed supplies to stop the bleeding. 

So, if you are bleeding from the vagina, why is it that you are labelled as impure? Just because the blood comes out of your vagina? In that case, anything that comes out vagina must be impure right? Well, then that includes every human being on the earth who was pushed out of the vagina during childbirth, including the very same folks who are labelling you as impure! 

So next time, if any of your folks stamp you as impure because of your periods, you give them a Biology 101 lecture and educate them about modern science and the latest menstrual hygiene products. 

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