Having a specific vaginal odour is quite common. But most of us run away from discussing it. And because of this, many women assume that their odour is indicative of a serious medical condition.
However, this isn’t always the case. There isn’t always a need for worry and you should not feel ashamed of your vaginal odour — unless there are certain red flags which we will tell you about shortly.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), “A certain amount of vaginal odour is normal. If the odour is strong and noticeable, an infection or other problem may be the cause.”
For instance, a strong “fishy” smell might be abnormal and may indicate a medical condition. Or, if a peculiar vaginal odour is accompanied by itching, irritation or discharge, you may need to visit the doctor.
But what are these specific vaginal odours you need to be worried about? Let’s take an in-depth look at this subject.
Vaginal odour: everything you need to know about it
Did you just sniff something not so pleasant wafting out from your lady parts? It could just be that you haven’t had time for a shower after a workout. But, the smell may also be related to a medical condition.
In general, you need to be aware of nine specific types of vaginal odours that can be a cause of worry.
When you have a healthy vagina, your vaginal odour may vary based on your physical activities. For instance, if you hit the gym or go out for a run, you will notice a strong, musky smell. This is due to the moisture that the sweat glands release around the area.
While this is normal, any smell that makes you want to shower your vagina with perfume is a cause for concern. As per SCOG, “If you feel that you need to cover up the odour, you may have a medical condition that needs treatment. Sprays, deodorants, and douches are not recommended and may make things worse.”
Possible cause: Increased amount of sweat.
Treatment: Take a shower after your sweaty gym sessions and slip into comfortable and clean clothing, including cotton underpants.
If your vagina gives off a strong, fishy odour, chances are you have an infection down there. There are a few situations you should bear in mind.
For instance, right after sex if you notice that your vagina gives off a fishy smell and there is an increase in discharge, you could be suffering from bacterial vaginosis.
This is a mild infection of the vagina where there is an imbalance between the good and bad bacteria. However, it can be cured with antibiotics. Take precautions such as avoiding multiple sexual partners and quitting smoking.
If you notice a green vaginal discharge you could be suffering from trichomoniasis. As per the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “It is caused by infection with a protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis.
Although symptoms of the disease vary, most people who have the parasite cannot tell they are infected.”
If you notice any itching, burning or soreness of the genitals, or a burning sensation while urinating, it could be due to trichomoniasis. This condition can be treated, but for that you will need to visit your doctor.
Possible cause: Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) or Trichomoniasis.
Treatment: Visit a doctor for prescriptions to antibiotics. Only they can cure both bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis.
Bleach or chlorine
The use of condoms or lubricants can lead to this smell, which most women associate with that of chlorine or bleach. Luckily, it is nothing to worry about. You just need to clean out your drawers and buy some fresh condoms and lubricants.
Remember, even though it may smell like there is a swimming pool in your vagina, resorting to douching of any kind is not a solution. Do not force-clean your vagina to get rid of the smell.
This odour is not indicative of any medical condition. Incidentally, this smell is not even produced by your vagina.
Possible cause: Transfer of smell from the use of condoms or semen after sexual intercourse.
Treatment: Wash your vagina with some warm water and a natural soap. However, if the smell doesn’t go away, you should consult a doctor to understand why it still remains.
Does your vagina smell like you have bread dough rising in there?
You may know that there is some amount of yeast already present in our vaginas. But when the numbers increase due to artificial lubrication, spermicides, the use of antibiotics or even pregnancy, it can lead to a yeast infection.
ACOG explains, “A yeast infection is caused by an overgrowth of yeast in the vagina. This can result from lubricants, spermicides, taking antibiotics (which destroy the ‘good’ bacteria in the vagina), or pregnancy. The most common symptoms are itching and burning of the vulva.”
As mentioned in our previous article, a yeast infection can be characterised by a thick discharge that is white like cottage-cheese; and may lead to itchiness, burning or vaginal irritation.
The best solution to this problem is an anti-yeast medication prescribed by a doctor. “Yeast infections can be treated either by placing anti-yeast medication into the vagina or by taking a pill,” advises ACOG.
Possible cause: Yeast infection.
Treatment: Visit the doctor if along with the smell, the discharge is also abnormal. You may have to take an anti-yeast medication that can be taken orally or inserted into the vagina.
If your vagina smells metallic, almost like you are smelling a tin, then chances are it’s because you are about to get your period or you may be on it. Usually, when the menstrual blood mixes with the natural smell of a healthy vagina, it causes this metallic smell.
It could also be because of semen. When semen enters your vagina it can result in this smell, unless of course, you wash it away.
Both of these things change the pH balance in your vagina. But after a proper clean up, your vagina will start smelling like its normal self again. Therefore, any vaginal odour that is akin to metal is not harmful. It is absolutely normal.
Again, if you do pick up on this peculiar smell, do not try to clean your vagina by douching.
Possible cause: Your menstrual cycle, or semen after sexual intercourse.
Treatment: Wash it with some warm water and mild fragrance-free soap.
You might think this is strange. But, it’s actually not.
As mentioned in our previous article, out of all the vaginal odours on this list, nobody would mind a sweet scent coming from down there. The possible cause is your diet. Yes, you read that right!
Having citrus fruits such as pineapple, oranges, and grapefruit can sweeten the smell and taste of your vaginal fluids. If you are not happy about this smell, then you might want to cut down on citrus fruits.
Possible cause: Daily diet.
Treatment: Cut down on citrus fruits.
Onion or garlic odour
While on one hand, citrus fruits can help your vagina smell sweet, excess intake of vegetables such as onions, garlics, asparagus, and curry can cause it to smell almost onion or garlic-like.
Unless you are working towards warding off Dracula from going down on you, this smell can be quite unpleasant. However, the good news is that it is not indicative of a medical condition.
If you change your food patterns, the smell should go away.
Possible cause: Diet.
Treatment: Change your diet and reduce the consumption of onions and garlic or any food that gives off a peculiar smell.
Chemicals or ammonia
You may already know that our urine has ammonia. It becomes more prominent when you do not wash your vagina properly or do not drink enough water during the day.
It increases the concentration of ammonia in the body, thereby causing that lingering smell when you pee. The other reason could be bacterial vaginosis (BV).
As stated before, BV is because of an imbalance in good and bad bacteria. Apart from a fishy smell, it can also lead to the vagina smelling like ammonia. In order to get rid of this smell, drink lots of water and maintain good hygiene.
Possible cause: Poor hygiene or Bacterial Vaginosis.
Treatment: Keep your vagina clean by using warm water and a mild soap. Keep yourself well-hydrated and drink a minimum of 10 glasses of water per day.
As mentioned in our previous article, “forgotten feminine hygiene products can lead to an awful stench from the vagina.” Sometimes you may just leave a tampon inside for longer than necessary and that can cause this type of vaginal odour.
Basically, a foreign object lodged inside the vagina can lead to accumulation and growth of bad bacteria. If the object is not taken out in time, it can even lead to toxic shock syndrome.
As we stated before, “if you use kinky sex objects and use foreign objects to turn up the heat with your partner (or by yourself), always remember to make sure everything is accounted for and has been retrieved after your hot and steamy session.”
Possible cause: Forgotten tampon or any foreign object stuck inside the vagina.
Treatment: Make sure there’s nothing lodged inside of you. If you cannot get it out by yourself, get a doctor’s help.
First published on AfricaParent.com