Vaginal odors and secretions

G. R. Huggins, G. Preti

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Vaginal secretions are composed of several components: vulvar secretions from sebaceous, sweat, Bartholins and Skeens glands, transudate through the vaginal wall, exfoliated cells, cervical mucus, and endometrial and oviductal fluids. The type and amount of the last three are known to be influenced by biochemical processes that are dependent on sex steroid levels. Consequently metabolic byproducts of these processes vary with changing levels of circulating estrogens and progesterone. Some constituents of the vaginal secretions provide substrate for proliferation of vaginal microflora, which in turn add their metabolic products to the secretions. Therefore the vaginal milieu has several sources from which organic compounds may originate. The vulvar contribution although significant will not be considered in detail in this article. These organic compounds found in vaginal secretions range from high molecular weight biopolymers, such as proteins and polysaccharides, to low molecular weight odoriferous compounds, such as acetic acid and cresol. Characterization of the biopolymers in body fluids has traditionally been the province of biochemists and clinicians, while the lower molecular weight compounds have, within the last 15 years, come under the scrutiny of the analytical organic chemist. In this article we will review what is known about the origins and makeup of vaginal fluids as well as discuss the nature of the organic constituents present.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-377
Number of pages23
JournalClinical Obstetrics and Gynecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1981
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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