Does My Vagina Smell Healthy? 5 Common Vaginal Odors, Explained

There’s a common misconception going on that the vagina shouldn’t smell. Every vagina has a different scent, which is actually a combination of beneficial vaginal bacteria, the food you eat, your personal hygiene and the amount of sweat your body produces. Some women use perfumes and gels in order to cover up the smell, but this is a dangerous habit that can disrupt your vaginal pH balance and cause further problems.

Some women have a stronger vaginal odor than others. If your vagina smells fishy and is accompanied by swelling, pain or discharge, it may be an indication of a certain health problem. This is why you need to recognize the 5 common vaginal odors. Here they are:

1# Fishy Scent

The fishy scent is something that asks for immediate medical attention as it could indicate bacterial vaginosis, which is an infection caused by a bacterial imbalance in the vagina, or trichomoniasis – a common curable STI. Both of these infections give off a fishy scent, which is sometimes followed by a white or gray discharge. Luckily, both infections are treated with prescription antibiotics.

2# Metallic scent

This scent is most typical immediately after your period or after inside ejaculation, both of which can interfere with the pH of your vagina, and change its odor. This scent is typically short-term. Should it persist long after your period is gone, it’s well worth discussing with your gynecologist?

3# Yeasty / Bread scent

The thing with yeast infections is that they don’t normally produce a smell, or only give off a mild, bread-like odor, which can actually help you to tell a yeast from bacterial infection. Yeast infections are accompanied by other symptoms, such as thick, white discharge or itchiness.

4# Musky scent

If your vaginal smell is turning heavier and slightly muskier than your normal one, it either means that you’ve been sweating a lot, or that you’ve been wearing tight pants or underwear thus leaving little breathing room for your vagina. In this case, you could use some mild soap for intimate hygiene and wear loose-fitting clothes every now and then. This smell, however, isn’t alarming.

5# Rotten scent

A rotten vaginal scent is something that asks for immediate medical attention because it could be a sign of a lost tampon. Surprisingly, this happens far more often than you can imagine. On the plus side, a tampon that has remained inside your vagina will normally stay near the top of the vagina, until removed, which means it won’t travel to another part of your body.

Apart from the above-mentioned risk factors that can influence your vaginal smell, there are other factors that can change the smell of your lady parts. According to Sara Gottfried, M.D. and author of The Hormone Cure, “many women notice after having their periods that there is a different odor.” The normal pH of the vagina is below 4.7, which means it’s naturally acidic. Having your period also changes the vaginal pH because menstrual blood has a pH of 7.4. Semen, on the other hand, has a pH level of about 8, so inside ejaculation can also affect your vaginal smell.

But, on the plus side, keeping your vagina clean and healthy is easier than you think. As Gottfried explains “the vagina is a self-cleaning oven,” which naturally excretes discharge in order to get germs and bacteria out of your body. A bad habit many women get into is douching, which interferes with the vaginal bacteria balance. In reality, gentle soap and some warm water are all you need to maintain your intimate hygiene.

Last, but not least, synthetic underwear is a big NO-NO. It’s the perfect ground for odors; plus, it stimulates sweating. The most vagina-friendly material to use is cotton. Loose-fitting clothes are also recommended as your vagina needs to breathe too.