Smells And Their Association

from ‘The Memoirs of a Midwife’

I was in my final year of training and was working on the antenatal admissions unit when I was asked to look after a woman who was being admitted for ? a small per vaginam bleed. She was informed to put a sanitary pad on before coming into clinic for us to inspect any loss.

On admission *Sabina appeared well. I took a synopsis of her pregnancy so far, had a look through her notes, palpated her abdomen, listened to the fetal heart, alongside other aspects of an antenatal check, such as urine testing etc.

Student midwives

*Lauren (L), Alice and I (R), as final year students going to our last clinical training in the School of Midwifery.

I then asked her if I could see the sanitary pad. There was no evidence of blood, just a fair amount of what looked like vaginal discharge, which is to be expected as it’s increased in pregnancy. This is normal, and helps prevent any infections travelling up from the vagina to the womb. I told *Sabina that I was then going to smell it. This is common practice and what we are taught to do, as I’m sure you’re aware that women are more prone to stress incontinence when they are heavily pregnant.

Therefore, as midwives we often smell the pads, as it is easy to tell the difference in smell between a pad that has amniotic fluid on, compared with one that might have leaked urine on it. Also you can detect potential signs of infection from smell too, so it’s best practice to do this as a diagnostic tool.

I took the pad into the dirty utility room, whilst *Sabina was on the bed undergoing continuous cardio-tocography (CTG) monitoring, which is a type of fetal heart rate monitoring which prints a trace, so you are able to identify patterns in the fetal heart rate. This was all part of her antenatal admission checks.

Pregnant mother and father

When I smelt the pad I thought to myself, ‘I recognise this smell, however I can’t quite put my finger on what it is.’ So I then proceeded to take the pad into the midwives’ office and said to the other midwives, “I really recognise this smell but I just can’t make out what it is.”

I put it under their noses to see if they were able to help identify. Still bewildered and with no such luck in successfully identifying this particular aroma, I went back into the bay where *Sabina was and said to her, “there is no evidence of a bleed and everything today looks normal, could you explain to me what the blood was like that you saw in your pants at home and did you do anything that could have provoked this?”

Sabina* then told me that her and her husband had had sex jut before they came into hospital when she noticed the ‘bleed’. It then dawned on me that the smell I recognised but couldn’t quite put my finger on- WAS HER HUSBAND’S SEMEN! And I had been smelling this and wafting it under the noses of all my colleagues. I died a little bit inside at that moment.

I had to recover from this embarrassment quite quickly though as her and her husband were in front of me. I went on explain that is quite common to notice a small amount/ light streak of blood in your discharge following intercourse when pregnant, particularly later on in pregnancy. This is due to the increased vasculature of the cervix and because pregnancy can cause changes to the cervix, and this may sometimes cause minor bleeding after sex. 

I reassured the couple that everything was fine with baby from the monitoring I had performed and all the checks I had done on Sabina* were normal. I reaffirmed that it was the right thing for them to have called, as any vaginal bleeding in pregnancy must be reported to a midwife straight away. 

I however, will perhaps never recover from the shame of how many times I smelt that pad, trying to decipher what the strange, peculiar and somewhat familiar smell was!

student union event*Myself and Alice (L) as student midwives and our friend Milly (R) as a student nurse, volunteering for the Student’s Union on their safe sex & alcohol awareness campaign. 

If you would like to learn more about me and my journey of how midwifery led me to develop a luxury, unique and award-winning range of nursing wear, please have a read of ‘The Journey So Far’ and while you’re at it check out the beautiful nursing tops too!

Olivia x

Olivia Swift

Olivia Swift

Hi, I'm the Creator, Founder & Owner of Lotus Maternity. I'm a qualified and experienced Midwife. I'm ambitious, hard working and highly competent, with experience gained in multiple industry sectors. A self motivated, outgoing and confident business professional, with a passion for acquiring new skills and an eye for creative opportunities.
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on facebook

More to explore...

Olivia Swift

Breastfeeding or bottle feeding. To shame or not to shame?

For those of you that don’t know me or haven’t read any of my previous breastfeeding blog or work, here is a slight introduction. My name is Olivia and I am the Founder of Lotus Maternity which in a nutshell aims to provide unique, UK made & premium nursing wear to help women breastfeed in public with confidence and complete discretion.

Read More »
Lotus Maternity banner
Olivia Swift

Top 10 tips for making the most of your time on the postnatal ward

After seeing a video on Mumsnet and experiencing a mix of emotions at the end, I had to start writing this blog immediately! Such feelings included anger, disappointment, sadness, guilt, frustration but overall a general remorse and empathy for the mothers and families who have had a negative experience as a result.

Read More »
baby with teething toy
Olivia Swift

Help with feeding a teething baby

Feeding a baby is hard work.

What can make things more tricky is when little one starts teething which can cause a whole host of different problems- boob biting, breast / bottle feeding refusal, loss of appetite just to name a few.

It’s important to advice new parents that symptoms of teething will precede the first tooth, sometimes long before the tooth actually appears.

Teething generally starts around 9 months but some babies can show teething symptoms as early as 3 months and although very rare, some babies are actually born with teeth.

This blog will hopefully provide information on teething symptoms, treatments and how to handle feeding your baby during these troublesome times.

Read More »
Olivia Swift

The Life of a Label

There are of course many other specialist technicalities involved, however, I am not an expert and it was quite difficult to take it all in.

Read More »

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Need Advice?

I’m Here To Assist You

Something isn’t Clear?

Feel free to contact me, and I will be more than happy to answer all of your questions.


0115 775 0012

Or Fill In This Form & I’ll Get Back To You

Thank You For Subscribing
As A Thank You, I'll Be sending you a

FREE eBook

"Breastfeeding. The dos and don'ts"

Check Your Email!

xx Liv

Your Cart
  • No products in the cart.