Despite what many people may think, having some type of vaginal odor is perfectly normal. Whether described as earthy, ripe, or even pungent, vaginas are anything but scent-free.
So if you’re panicking because your lady bits don’t smell like a bushel of roses or freshly cut daisies, stop it right now — the vagina isn’t meant to smell like a flower garden.
That said, if you’ve recently noticed a change in the way your vagina smells, it might be worth mentioning to your primary care provider.
Why? Because your personal fragrance just might be more than a pesky nuisance.
Read on as we explore everything you need to know about vaginal odor, including what certain smells mean and how to kick them to the curb.
What Is Vaginal Odor?
Simply put, vaginal odor is any odor that comes from the vagina. In most cases, vaginal scents are totally normal, and odor alone isn’t necessarily a telltale sign or symptom of a problem.
You see, your vagina resides in a warm, dark place that is jam-packed with glands and lymph nodes. It has its very own delicately balanced ecosystem, complete with its own unique, scent-producing bacterial flora.
Chances are you may not even notice your vaginal odor, and even when you do get a whiff of something questionable, it may be because of your time-of-the-month, because you’ve just had sex, or due to a number of other perfectly normal odor-emitting reasons.
That said, if you happen to pick up on a persistent, not-so-normal odor — especially if it’s accompanied by itching, weird discharge, or a burning sensation — it may be an indicator of something a bit more serious.
What Causes Vaginal Odor?
From the forgotten tampon to bacterial infections, below you’ll find some of the most common causes of vaginal odor:
Sometimes called BV, bacterial vaginosis is a common culprit for funky smells down there. This infection can be caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina — or an imbalance in the vaginal flora.
The first telltale sign of BV is usually a fishy odor, which may progress to frothy, grey, or greenish vaginal fluids. Your vagina may also feel swollen and scratchy.
To treat BV, your gynecologist will likely prescribe antibiotics. They may also suggest that you start taking a daily prebiotic — like Good Girl Probiotics — to help maintain vaginal pH balance and healthy levels of vaginal yeast and bacteria.*
For a more complete approachk, our Flora Power suppositories act like a spot treatment to help control odor while your Good Girl Probiotics work hard to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria.*
Like any body part that gets sweaty, the area around your vulva can get smelly. But soaps, scrubs, and washes can disturb the natural balance of your delicate vaginal bacterial flora and ultimately increase your risk of developing BV. Douching can do the same.
A method of flushing water up into the vagina, douching doesn’t only disrupt the vaginal flora. It also runs the risk of forcing pathogens through the cervix and into the uterus, causing uterine infections.
In addition, the chemicals in many OTC douches have the potential to irritate or inflame the sensitive skin around the vagina, which could make an existing infection worse — or leave you more susceptible to a new infection.
When it comes to keeping your lady bits squeaky clean, it’s important to remember that your vagina is a self-cleaning organ. In other words, it does not need to be douched or covered and smothered in an array of alleged odor-nixing lotions and potions.
A little water might be enough to keep your vulva feeling clean on days when you skip the gym or aren’t feeling particularly sweaty, but if you feel like you need a little something extra to feel fresh, we have you covered.
To support the health of your vagina when you need a refresh down there, skip the douche and reach for our fragrance-free pH Balancing Cleanser. This ultra-clean formula gently cleanses the vulva without disrupting vaginal flora and pH levels to help you feel fresh and scent-free.*
No judgment here, it happens — and probably more often than you’d think.
A forgotten tampon can cause a very unpleasant vaginal odor that is often described as rotting onions or rotting meat. It can be pretty foul, but don’t worry — as soon as the old tampon is removed, the rancid smell will likely vacate, too.
Note: Often caused by high-absorbency tampons that are left in the vagina for a long time, Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a serious illness that requires immediate medical attention. So if your vaginal odor is accompanied by a high fever, blood pressure changes, and dizziness, be sure to seek emergency medical attention, as you may have TSS.
Called “trich” for short, trichomoniasis is the most common non-viral sexually transmitted infection (STI) on the planet. It’s a parasitic disease that typically doesn’t cause a whole lot of symptoms, but some folks may experience a yellow or green vaginal discharge accompanied by an unpleasant odor.
Think the funky fragrance coming from your nether regions might be a trich infection?
Make an appointment with your doctor, who can prescribe treatment to get rid of the odor-producing parasites. To fully eliminate the infection and, therefore, any weird smells, it’s of the utmost importance that you take all of the medication prescribed by your doc.
Note: Other STIs — such as chlamydia and gonorrhea — typically don’t produce strong vaginal odors but may be the culprit. Your primary care provider can run tests to identify the true cause.
As mentioned earlier, your most beautiful organ is designed to take care of itself with a healthy balance of bacteria. This balanced microbiome helps prevent infections and keep irritation at bay.
That said, if you don’t wash your vulva or change your undies daily, you may end up having an issue with funky smells down there.
Poor hygiene of your labia and vulva may also result in irritation, and bacteria may grow in an unbalanced way, ultimately increasing the risk of infection and unwanted vaginal smells.
You can practice good hygiene by washing your most intimate area regularly with a feminine-friendly vaginal cleanser, like our fragrance-free pH Balancing Cleanser.* You may also want to:
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes
- Opt for cotton underwear
- Change out of gym clothes immediately after your sweat sesh
- Remove wet pool clothes as soon as possible
What Are Other Possible Culprits Behind Vaginal Odor?
As you can see, there are quite a few culprits that could be to blame for your questionable vaginal odor. Other reasons why your vagina might smell include:
- Fluctuating hormones
- Rectovaginal fistula
- Your menstrual cycle
- Certain foods
- Cervical cancer
- Yeast infection
- Unprotected intercourse
Generally speaking, strange odors should be pretty easy to spot; they’re the ones that make your face scrunch up or your arm hairs raise. Rotting meat, fishy, or decay — these are all red flag odors that you should consider having evaluated by a doctor.
On the other hand, copper, metallic, or tangy smells are all odors that are usually nothing to worry about.
A Final Word
So, why do vaginas smell?
In short, all vaginas produce some kind of smell. Whether tangy, earthy, pungent, or ripe, vaginal odor is normal and not always a surefire sign of a medical problem.
Your vagina is home to trillions of bacteria, and the precise makeup of this bacteria changes all the time. Change is normal, but it can contribute to confusing scents that come from down under. Plus, when you consider all the sweat glands that live on the groin, it’s really no surprise that the vagina isn’t odorless.
With that in mind, some smells can indicate a serious issue, so it’s important to keep an open and honest relationship with your health care provider. Although it may feel a bit odd to discuss, there’s no need to feel embarrassed when describing what’s going on in your nether regions to your doctor.
After all, they are there to support your overall health and well-being.
As for all of your other wellness needs, check us out here at Love Wellness — whether you’re dealing with recurrent bacterial infections, on the hunt for a pH balancing cleanser, or simply trying to find support for your gut, you can always count on us to have just what you need to help you feel like your best self.
Vaginal odor Causes | Mayo Clinic
What is toxic shock syndrome? | John Hopkins