One of the most commonly occurring and least talked about feminine concerns is vaginal odour. Every woman has a unique scent that fluctuates during her menstrual cycle and may change depending upon hormone levels. The scent originates from vaginal secretions and can vary throughout the month.
Normal vaginal odour
It’s hard to exactly pinpoint what a healthy vagina smells like because every woman has a different scent. But some women use words like earthy, ripe, or even pungent or slightly sour to describe their normal vaginal odour.
The key is to know what your ‘normal’ smell is. All of us with a vagina usually know that awkward feeling if a new and strange smell comes our way. The vagina is especially sensitive to different changes in your daily environment, so anything that affects this delicate balance will affect the smell as well as the type of discharge and its consistency.
Changes in vaginal odour
Factors that affect the odour of the vagina include antibiotic use, douching, spermicide, new sexual partners, and frequency of sex. Changes in hormone levels caused by pregnancy, breastfeeding, or menopause can also alter your scent. Vaginal infections including yeast, bacteria, and sexually transmitted infections will change your smell down below, as will a forgotten tampon.
“These factors can not only cause a weird odour but can also create other uncomfortable symptoms. In fact, if something is up with your vagina, it’s likely that you’ll experience other symptoms beyond a change in odour.
A vaginal infection typically includes vulvar itching, burning, redness, and swelling as well as a change of odour—especially if it’s a strong, fishy smell, which might signal bacterial vaginosis or the STI trichomoniasis. If you think you might have a vaginal infection, it’s important to see your doctor for tests and the right treatment.
Switching up your diet might also make your vagina smell different. Certain foods disrupt the vagina’s delicate pH balance, which could lead to an odour that might be off-putting. The worst offenders include garlic, onions, mint, turmeric, blue cheese, cabbage, cauliflower, asparagus, red meat, and vinegar. Smoking, alcohol, and not drinking enough water can also change things up down below.
Hygiene habits also affect the vaginal scent. Remember, your vagina is like any other part of your body—it needs to be kept clean. The vagina has sweat glands and hair follicles, which can attract bacteria and contribute to a strong odour. Also, the vagina’s location near the anus makes is crucial that you keep the area clean, to avoid bacteria buildup that can lead to foul odours.
No matter how clean and healthy your vagina is, it will probably never naturally smell like “citrusy bergamot and cedar absolutes.” But that doesn’t mean it can’t smell just as good, in its own unique way.
In general, abnormal odours should be easy to spot. They’re the ones that make your face scrunch up. Rotting fish, dead organism, decay — these are all red flag odours. If there’s a serious cause, often other symptoms will appear alongside the smell.