The topic of vaginal smell is often submerged in myths and misconceptions, which then leads to discomfort and insecurity for many people. In reality though, just like any other part of the body, your vagina has its own natural scent. This article will help you uncomplicate the topic, and explain why your vagina smells, what is considered normal, and when the odour might indicate an underlying issue.
The Natural Vaginal Smell
Your vagina is naturally acidic, with a pH level that ranges from 3.8 to 5. This acidity is maintained by the healthy bacteria and your sweat glands, giving your vagina its unique scent. Many people describe the odour as earthy, sour, garlicky, or even sweaty. Remember, this natural smell is entirely normal and varies from person to person.
Read: VAGINAL CARE 101
7 Factors That Influence Your Vaginal Smell
There are several factors that can affect the smell of your vagina, here are a few:
1. Diet and Hydration
The foods and beverages you consume can affect your body’s pH balance, potentially impacting the smell. A balanced diet and proper hydration support overall bodily functions, including maintaining a healthy environment down there.
2. Hormonal Changes
Hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, menopause, or while using hormonal contraceptives can alter the scent of your vaginal discharge.
3. Menstrual Cycle
The smell of your vagina often changes throughout the menstrual cycle. It might be slightly metallic during menstruation due to iron in the blood, while it may have a milder scent during other phases of the cycle.
Physical activity, especially intense exercise, can cause sweating in the genital area, leading to a musky odour. Proper hygiene, including changing out of sweaty clothes promptly, can lessen this effect.
5. Sexual Activity
Intercourse can introduce new scents due to the mixing of bodily fluids. Semen, lubricants, and condoms can interact with your vaginal secretions, influencing the overall smell temporarily.
6. Tight Clothing
Wearing tight or non-breathable underwear and pants will trap moisture and heat, creating an environment that contributes to the growth of odour-producing bacteria. Opt for breathable fabrics like cotton to help minimise this effect.
7. Intimate Hygiene Practices
Harsh soaps, douches, or perfumed products can disrupt the natural pH balance of your vagina, leading to an unpleasant smell. Use mild, unscented cleansers for intimate hygiene to maintain a healthy vaginal environment.
Usual VS Unusual Vaginal Smell
|Normal Vaginal Smell||Abnormal Vaginal Smell|
|Earthy, musky, slightly tangy||Fishy, foul, strong ammonia, rotten, or chemical-like|
|Temporary change post-sex and returns to normal after a few hours||Persistent, foul smell that lingers even after washing|
|None or mild discomfort||Itching, burning, irritation, unusual discharge, pain during urination, changes in colour or texture of discharge|
|The smell is temporary and mild, lasting briefly after activities such as sex or exercise||It smells for an extended period, not related to specific activities|
|Improves with proper hygiene practices such as washing with mild soap and water||Present even after good hygiene practices|
How To Maintain Vaginal Health?
Here’s how you can maintain good vaginal health without worrying about funky odours:
1. Practice Good Hygiene
Clean your external genital area with mild, unscented soap and water regularly. Avoid any harsh chemicals or douches, as they disrupt your natural balance.
2. Choose Breathable Underwear
Wear cotton underwear and avoid any tight-fitting pants to allow air circulation, reduce moisture and prevent bacterial growth.
3. Stay Hydrated
Make sure you drink plenty of water to maintain your overall bodily functions and support your vaginal health.
4. Proper Menstrual Products
Use tampons, menstrual cups, or pads that are suitable for your flow. Change them regularly, and follow the recommended guidelines to prevent any smells or infections.
5. Maintain A Balanced Diet
Consume a nutritious diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as a healthy diet will support your overall health, including vaginal well-being.
6. Regular Exercise
Engage in regular physical activity to boost your blood circulation, reduce stress, and support your hormonal balance – all of which contribute to your vaginal health.
7. Safe Sexual Practices
Obviously, use protection during any sexual activities to prevent the spread of infections. Urinate and clean your genital area after sex, as it reduces the risk of urinary tract infections.
8. Regular Health Check-ups
Visit a healthcare professional for regular gynaecological check-ups, especially if you notice any changes in the smell or discharge of your vagina, or if you feel any discomfort.
9. Avoid Irritants
Avoid using scented products, harsh soaps, or perfumes in your genital area. Choose hypoallergenic and fragrance-free products.
When To Consult A Healthcare Professional
- Persistent or worsening smell despite practising good hygiene.
- Foul or unusual smell accompanied by itching, burning, or irritation in the genital area.
- Changes in vaginal odour along with abnormal discharge, such as green or grey colour, or a cottage cheese-like texture.
- Strong, persistent smell, even after menstrual periods or sexual activity.
- Smell accompanied by pain during urination or sexual intercourse.
- Presence of blood in vaginal discharge with an unusual or foul smell.
- Unexplained changes in vaginal smell during pregnancy.
- Any sudden, noticeable change in vaginal odour that causes concern or discomfort.
In a nutshell, you just need to accept that the way your vagina smells is completely natural, normal, and okay! When you unravel the mysteries that surround your vaginal odour and learn the many different factors that contribute to the smell, you can feel more confident about yourself.
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