After the birth of my second child, I was exhausted. I had a toddler underfoot and a very clingy newborn. When she wasn’t screaming to breastfeed or having epic blowouts of diarrhea and vomit, my 3-year-old son took the lead as head of the Whiny Toddler’s Club. Adjusting to my new life as a mother of two found me with little time for self-care much less five minutes in the bathroom by myself. I wandered around in stained yoga pants with dark circles under my eyes, and I looked downright scary.
One merciful afternoon, I managed to get both children down for a nap, and I luxuriated at the idea of standing in a hot shower for 20 minutes. As I undressed, I noted a faint fishy smell and was immediately disgusted with myself. Before kids, I showered daily, wore makeup, and actually ran a brush through my hair on the regular. Now I was reduced to smelling like a fish market because I couldn’t manage my life enough to find time to shower. I was beyond mortified.
When I finished my shower, I dried off and put on fresh yoga pants. Though I felt refreshed, I still smelled a faint air of eau de anchovy and I assumed that my four-day-old clothes were the culprit. I spirited them off to the laundry room where they could be properly ignored for another five days.
Nevertheless, the smell persisted.
No matter where I went, I was convinced I was standing in the middle of Pike Place Market. I started to think that sleep deprivation was getting the best of me. I emptied the garbage in the kitchen and the bathrooms. I made sure there was nothing rotting in my refrigerator. I even took a look outside to see if there was an animal that had died under my deck. Because that’s a totally normal reaction when you can’t identify a fishy scent, right?
Later, in the bathroom, I realized with horror that the rank stench was coming from “down there.”
As if it wasn’t bad enough that I was leaking breast milk all over my clothing and soaking through menstrual pads from postpartum bleeding, now I had a case of tuna twat. The indignity of it all was too much and I did what every woman who has just discovered that her lady flower smells like mahi-mahi tacos gone bad: I called my best friend in hysterical tears.
She listened to me calmly and said, “Relax, it’s probably just BV! It’s common.” To which I irrationally told her that crotch rot was the last thing I needed and continued to cry. Stupid postpartum hormones and fishy-smelling ladybits, I tell you.
When I calmed down, I called my gynecologist and made an appointment for an exam. After a quick pelvic exam, he confirmed my diagnosis of bacterial vaginosis (BV), aka fishy-smelling crotch. As my face registered horror at such a gross-sounding ailment, he informed me that bacterial vaginosis is actually the most common vaginal infection in women ages 15–44 and easily treatable with widely available antibiotics. Whew.
BV is nothing to get your panties in a bind over, ladies. Don’t be like me and let it force you into an emotional breakdown.
But believe me, I understand how gross BV makes you feel.
If you are reading this and suddenly smell foul salmon stank, relax; you probably don’t have BV and you should probably just go empty your garbage. But the symptoms of BV are pretty distinct, so if you have that not-so-fresh-sushi feeling going on in addition to any of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to make an appointment to see your gynecologist. Symptoms of BV include:
– A thin white or gray vaginal discharge
– Pain, itching, or burning in the vagina – A strong fish-like odor, especially after sex – Burning when urinating – Itching around the outside of the vagina
Yes, I know just reading those symptoms makes you want to head for the hills, but I promise, you aren’t gross if you have a bacterial vaginosis infection. And the good news is that once you start your antibiotic course, the fish smell in your hoo-ha will clear up faster than when you cook actual fish in your kitchen.
Because Mother Nature thinks she’s hilarious, I was lucky enough to have a recurrent BV infection about six weeks after my initial experience. Naturally, I freaked out again (I mean, really, why me?) and ran right back to my gynecologist. No one really knows why BV recurs or what exactly causes the bacteria to multiply, but it’s important to get it treated if symptoms resurface. So, basically, I got two orders of tuna twat with extra fish sauce as my postpartum push present. #blessed
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