While it’s perfectly natural for your vagina to have some sort of aroma, certain vaginal odours can indicate a serious infection, particularly when accompanied by a change in colour, amount, or consistency of vaginal discharge, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Here are the smells you should look out for to assess whether your scent is super normal, or soured and in need of medical treatment.
When your vagina is healthy, its scent can vary based on your activity level. For instance, after a super-intense spin class, you may notice a stronger, muskier smell due to moisture released by sweat glands in the surrounding region, according to Dr. Wider. While this tends to be 100 percent normal, any scent that bothers you enough to want to cover it up warrants a call to your doctor just in case something more serious is up, since an out-of-the-ordinary or intolerable change could signal an infection.
If your vagina gives off a strong, fishy odour that smells foul, chances are you’re suffering from an infection, according to ACOG. If the odour increases right after sex, or it’s accompanied by an increase in discharge, it could be bacterial vaginosis, a condition marked by an overgrowth of bacteria that upsets the vagina’s delicate PH balance, which can be cleared up with antibiotics. Or, if you notice green discharge, vaginal itching, and pain when you pee, you could have trichomoniasis, a common and treatable sexually transmitted disease. Either way, you’ll want to see your doctor for treatment.
Dr. Wider says lubricants or condoms can contribute to this smell, which most women liken to chlorine or bleach, she says. Luckily, it’s nothing to be worried about — just restock your sex drawer if these scents bother you.
While there’s normally a small amount of yeast present inside your vagina, yeast infections occur when there’s an overgrowth due to lubrication, spermicides, antibiotic use, or even pregnancy, according to ACOG.
You’ll know something’s up if you notice a faint, bread-like smell along with cottage cheese-like discharge. While you should inform your doctor to confirm this diagnosis, most yeast infections can be cured with OTC anti-fungal medications, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
If your vagina seems to smell a bit off or vaguely metallic when you get your period, don’t sound the alarms. See, when you have your period, the blood can mix with the natural state of a healthy vagina and give off a different — but typically normal — smell, according to Dr. Wider.
Anecdotally, your diet can affect the taste and scent of your vagina. For instance, citrus fruits like oranges, pineapple, and grapefruit have been known to sweeten the smell and taste of vaginal fluids, according to Dr. Wider. On the other hand, onions, garlic, broccoli, and asparagus can cause what some describe as an “unpleasant” odour and taste, she says.