8 Kinds Of Vaginal Odor And What They Mean

Vaginal odors are not something to worry about

Most women are less than enthusiastic about their vaginas and how they smell. They often grow up with a negative stigma of how their vaginas smell, but contrary to most intimate perfume and douche companies, your vagina isn’t supposed to smell like a meadow of flowers. That being said, odors are a good way to keep track of a vagina’s well being. Even if you’re not familiar with your natural healthy scent, it’s easy to tell when something that’s off. Here are some scents that your vagina may emit and what they mean.

Note: Your vagina is a self-cleaning organ. The discharge is there to continually flush out bad bacteria. This also keeps the pH at a delicate balance. Using scented perfumes, intimate washes, and douches can upset this pH balance and make you more susceptible to other problems and infections. All you need is warm water and mild soap to clean your vulva.


1. Fishy

Fishy odors signal an infection

This is one that worries most women. When you notice your vagina smelling fishy, the most common cause is an infection. If you notice the smell getting stronger with more discharge, it’s most likely bacterial vaginosis.1 It’s almost always caused by an overgrowth of bacteria which upsets the delicate pH balance. It’s easily corrected by antibiotics which can be prescribed by your doctor.


2. Musky

Musky scents linger when wet clothes are worn too long.

It’s common to notice a musky scent especially after an especially intense session of hot yoga or spin class. No cause for concern. It’s usually because the surrounding area is letting out sweat and the moisture can cause that familiar musky scent. Just make sure you don’t sit around in moist clothes. If you haven’t switched over to cotton underwear completely, at least wear cotton when you work out.


3. Metallic

A metallic smell is common after one’s period.

If you notice a tin-like, metallic smell, it’s probably right after your period. There’s no need to worry about this either. Normally it’s the irony smell of leftover blood that you’re noticing. It should disappear soon enough. However, if you’ve gone through menopause or you’re not due to get your period anytime soon, you should probably get it checked out by your gynecologist.


4. Rotten

Rotten smells are usually a result of a forgotten tampon.

The likely cause is a forgotten tampon. The rotten smell is just a product of bacteria breeding in a confined space. No need to be alarmed, just lie on your back and relax. Using clean fingers, fish it out. If you can’t do this yourself, there’s no harm in visiting a gynecologist who can do this for you. They can use a speculum and make sure there’s nothing left behind either. And no they won’t judge you for poor hygiene or forgetfulness. They’ve definitely seen worse. Much worse.


5. Sweet

Consuming citrusy fruit can result in a sweeter smell.

Our diets can actually change the way our nether regions smell. If you’ve been eating more citrusy fruit like oranges, pineapples, and grapefruit, your vagina can end up smelling (and tasting) sweeter.


6. Garlicky/Onion-y

Garlic and onion can make vaginal scent pungent.

On the other hand, things like garlic and onion in your diet will reflect in vaginal odor. It can even be caused by things like asparagus and broccoli. Again, this isn’t a cause for concern but if it really bothers you, all you have to do is adjust your diet a little.


7. Bleach-Like

Bleach like smells are caused by spermicides.

Some lubricants and condoms contain substances like spermicides which can cause that bleach-like smell after sex. You can choose to try different varieties of these things and see if that makes a difference. There are natural lubricants available that use substances like aloe vera gel or coconut oil as a primary ingredient. However, don’t mix oils with condoms as they can break down the latex and make them ineffective.

8. Yeasty

Yeasty smells signal a yeast infection.

Before you notice the smell, you’ll probably be more worried by the strangely cottage-cheese textured white discharge that accompanies a yeast infection.2 The smell itself is caused by an overgrowth of yeast organisms feeding off sugar in your discharge, causing that bread like smell, yeasty smell. It can be caused by several things including lubricants, condoms, and even pregnancy. A visit to the doctor can help confirm the presence of an infection and it’s easily treated with a fungicide.

Like we mentioned earlier, vaginal odor is not a bad way to keep track of your reproductive health. While most of the time, odors are just your cycle going through its natural timeline, if you notice something that’s really bothering you, don’t hesitate to book an appointment with your gynecologist.