Vaginas do have a distinct, not necessarily pleasant scent but that’s normal — as normal as the smell of your sweat. However, if there’s a foul stench, it may indicate an underlying problem. The odour can vary during your menstrual cycle, pregnancy, menopause or any other hormonal changes. Many other activities like exercise or sexual intercourse also are one of the causes of the smelly vagina. It is a cause for concern if the odour is accompanied by other symptoms like itching, burning, discharge or irritation.
7 Different Types Of Vaginal Odour
There isn’t exactly any specific smell that is normal because it varies from woman to woman and there are so many different types of vaginal odour. Many use words like ripe, earthy or even sour to describe their normal vaginal scent.
1. Tangy Or Fermented
This is a very common odour. It is often compared to the smell of fermented food. Yoghurt, sourdough bread and even some sour beer contain the same good bacteria that dominate most healthy vaginas, which is Lactobacilli. This type of odour is normal.
Cause: The pH of a healthy vagina is between 3.8 and 4.5 i.e. slightly acidic. The Lactobacilli keeps it acidic and that helps prevent overgrowth of all types of bad bacteria.
2. Like A Penny (Coppery)
Sometimes people also report vaginal odour smelling coppery or metallic. It’s usually normal and nothing to worry about.
Blood contains iron and it has a metallic smell. The most common reason for blood is your periods. During your period, blood and tissue shed from the inner uterine lining and travel through the vagina. Light bleeding after sex can be due to vaginal dryness or vigorous sex and this may also result in a metallic scent. This type of smell can also be due to some serious vaginal bleeding. This scent shouldn’t linger too long after your period. It’s best to see a doctor if you’re experiencing bleeding unrelated to your period and the scent lingers followed by itching and discharge
3. Sweet Like Molasses
It’s a different type of sweet; more like an earthy, pungent and robust scent. A bittersweet or sweetish scent isn’t a cause of concern.
Cause: The vaginal pH is an ever-changing bacterial ecosystem and that sometimes means a little sweet smell.
4. Chemical Smell
An odour similar to bleach or ammonia could be a reason to visit the doctor sometimes, although it could also be totally normal.
- Urine: The urea in the urine causes a smell like ammonia. A buildup of urine in your vaginal area or underwear could cause a smell like that of ammonia. However, urine smelling strongly of ammonia could be a sign of dehydration
- Bacterial Vaginosis: The chemical smell could be because of this. It’s a very common infection
Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis:
- Foul/Fishy odour
- Thin grey, white or green discharge
- Burning sensation during urination
These symptoms are a few causes of a smelly vagina.
5. Like Body Odour Or Smoked Herbal Earthly Scent
There are sweat glands present down there which often is the reason why the scent is so similar to body odour.
Cause: There are two types of sweat glands, apocrine and eccrine. The eccrine gland produces sweat to cool down the body and the apocrine glands respond to your emotions. The apocrine glands are present mostly in the armpits and the groin. Emotional stress of any kind can cause this type of smell.
When you are stressed, the apocrine gland produces a milky fluid which when comes in contact with the vaginal bacteria in the vulva causes a pungent aroma.
6. Dead Fish
An abnormal vaginal smell can be described as a fishy vaginal odour. Fresh fish doesn’t smell much at all but a certain underlying infection could act as causes of a smelly vagina. Trimethylamine is a chemical that is responsible for both the distinct aroma of a rotting fish and some abnormal vaginal smell.
- Bacterial Vaginosis: An overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria in the vagina can cause bacterial vaginosis. These anaerobic organisms cause odour
- Trichomoniasis: It is one of the most common curable sexually transmitted infections and is easily treatable with a course of antibiotics. It is known for its pungent fishy odour
In some rare cases, the fishy odour is an indication of a more serious disease.
7. Rotten Odour
A rotten odour like a dead organism in the vagina is not normal. It may not be your vagina but something in it. It could be a tampon that you forgot to remove. A tampon left inside the vagina for days, even weeks is more common than we’d think. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about and it is safe to remove one by yourself.
5 Simple Ways To Get Rid Of Unpleasant Vaginal Odour
Here are some home remedies for vaginal smell:
1. Adopt Good Hygiene Measures
Adoption of gentle and safe vaginal hygiene practices can help reduce vaginal odour.
- Wiping the vagina front to back to prevent faecal matter from entering the vagina
- Using a fragrance-free soap only on the vulva
- Changing underwear daily
- Washing the underwear properly and with unscented products
- Not allowing the sweat to accumulate by taking a shower after sweating
- Washing the vulva with water if there is an unpleasant odour
2. Use Internal Menstruation Products
A bad odour from the vagina is noticeable during menstruation. Hormonal changes can also cause odour. Some menstrual products can trap odour thus, compounding its effect. It is advisable to use an internal menstruation product because sitting on a wet pad for a long time can cause infection. Also one should change the menstruation products frequently to avoid any types of unwanted odour or infection.
3. Consuming Probiotics
Probiotics support the growth of healthy bacteria throughout the body including the vagina. They may also help prevent vaginal infections including yeast infections. Probiotics can reduce the risk of odour and help maintain the healthy pH of a vagina.
4. Avoid Wearing Tight-fitting Clothes
Very tight clothing can trap fluids and substances around the vagina including:
- Dead skin
Faecal matter that reaches the vagina can cause infections and bad odour from the vagina so it is important to avoid certain clothing that encourages the spread.
Breathable cotton is the best choice and it helps prevent vaginal smell as it is less likely to hold moisture close to the vagina. It also makes it more difficult for bacteria and other sources of odour to build up and produce a strong smell.
5. Cut Sugar & Boost Hydration
Consuming sugary foods can cause an overgrowth of yeast leading to the strong odour of the vagina. All women should also try to drink plenty of water. Remaining well-hydrated prevents bacterial overgrowth in the vagina. It also prevents the sweat from smelling too much, resulting in a less pronounced vaginal smell. These are some of the remedies for vaginal odour.
When Should You See A Doctor?
- If the odour is accompanied by other symptoms, you should see a doctor
- Also, a fishy smell is a sign you should see a doctor. A foul smell is usually a symptom of infection
- These odours could be because of some underlying problem that isn’t getting better
- Some infections can be serious enough to cause problems regarding pregnancy later on
- Some vaginal discharge is normal but when it is no more white or translucent and accompanied by a very abnormal smell, you may have an infection
- Occasional itching is also normal but a more frequent itch or painful itch may be a bigger problem
- A doctor will prescribe medications and tips required as the treatment for a smelly vagina.
Hygiene Tips To Prevent Vaginal Odour
Once the unusual odour is eliminated, keep in mind a few tips to avoid future problems.
- Consider probiotics as they help maintain the normal pH of the vagina
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Drink lots of water and stay hydrated
- Avoid douches and scrubs
- Avoid tight clothes
- Wear cotton underwear
- The vaginal scent is normal
- There are a lot of scents a vagina could smell. Some are normal while some require a bit of attention
- See a doctor if the odour is followed by symptoms
- There are a few home remedies that could help get rid of the odour
- Change in lifestyle and diet could also affect your vaginal scent
- Know when to see a doctor
- Follow hygiene tips to avoid future odour problems
Home remedies can be a treatment for a smelly vagina but if it keeps getting stronger and the symptoms persist, you are advised to see a doctor. A strong vaginal smell can be a sign of a bigger problem than you may be unable to treat by yourself. To prevent the problems from getting worse, it’s better to see a doctor.