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Vaginal Smells: 7 Vaginal Odors And What They Mean

Posted By HealthcareOnTime Team Posted on 2023-04-25 vaginal discharge smell

Having a smelly vagina is not something to be ashamed of. Each part of your body has a natural scent, which differs from person to person. A vaginal smell is natural and is often affected by food choices, clothing, lifestyle habits, and the body’s biochemistry. 

A healthy vaginal odor can smell like different things. However, if you suddenly start sensing a strong vaginal discharge smell down there, you need to check with a doctor immediately. It can be a sign of a growing infection in your vagina or point toward any underlying medical condition. 

Today, we will help you discover the 7 different types of vaginal odor and when you should be concerned. Read on to find out what your vagina smells like. 

Why Should You Know About Vaginal Odor

Vaginal odor is a topic that most women are ashamed to discuss openly. Several advertisements for commercial products have forced women to believe that vaginal smell should be prevented. But medically, even healthy vaginas have a slight odor that varies based on pH levels, menstruation cycles, and lifestyle. Sex, food choices, and clothing preferences all affect the pH of your vagina. It is important to know about your vaginal fluid smell in order to ascertain the health of your vagina and take preventive measures against any possible infections. 

Types of Vaginal Odors in Women and Why

There are several types of vaginal odors that women may experience, and the causes of these odors can vary. Here are some common types of vaginal odors:

Fishy Odor

A fishy vaginal odor is associated with Bacterial Vaginosis (BV). It occurs when the healthy lactobacilli bacteria in your vagina overgrow due to an imbalance. The symptoms of BV include itching and a burning sensation in the vagina while urinating. To treat this, doctors will prescribe a strong antibiotic for a few days. Trichomoniasis is another condition that emits a fishy smell discharge. This is a sexually transmitted infection, and its symptoms include itching, burning, redness and soreness, and pain while urinating. The watery discharge with odor can be white, yellowish, or greenish. 

 Rotten Odor

 A rotten smell, similar to that coming from dead meat, could be a sign of a forgotten tampon in your vagina. This happens more often than one can think and is not something to be embarrassed about. A stale tampon could lead to a life-threatening case of Toxic - Shock Syndrome. If you sense a foul-smelling discharge, it is advisable that you get the tampon removed by your gynecologist as soon as possible. 

Tangy and Sour

A citrusy smell is a sign of a healthy vagina that contains the correct balance of lactic acids, hydrogen peroxide, and other elements. These elements are produced by the healthy bacteria in the region and help keep yeast infections away. It also indicates a healthy pH level, weighing more toward the acidic side. This white discharge smell is nothing to be worried about. 

Metallic Copper or Iron like Odor

A copper-like smell, similar to the ones coming from pennies, is a sign of blood in your vaginal canal. The blood can be menstrual residue or a result of bleeding during sex. The metallic odor is due to the presence of iron in the blood. This is nothing to worry about unless your metallic odor does not recede even after your period is over. Check with a doctor if you notice itching and burning. 

Bittersweet like Gingerbread 

 A sweet and tangy smell indicates a change in your pH levels. It is not something to be worried about, but you need to look out for any foul smelling white discharge. 

Bleachy like Ammonia

One of the primary reasons for the ammonia-like vaginal smell causes include urine residue in and around your vulva. It can also indicate that your body needs hydration. Hence, you should drink plenty of fluids and include green vegetables in your diet. 

Body Odor or Skunky Smell

The apocrine sweat glands present in your armpits are also present in your groin region. These sweat glands are triggered by emotional responses. Hence, the sweat from these regions smells similar. 

Read More: Body Odor : 7 Medical Conditions That Cause Bromhidrosis

How to Treat Vaginal Odors Effectively

A foul smelling vaginal discharge should be a cause of concern and should be consulted with a medical professional immediately. However, you too can identify certain changes in your vaginal smell and counter them effectively to prevent further infections: 

  1. Always wear clean, cotton underwear. Cotton underwears avoid trapping moisture, which later becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. 
  2. Do not wash your delicates with soap or any scented products. These disrupt your vagina’s pH balance and reduce the amount of healthy bacteria present. 
  3. Always wipe from front to back to prevent fecal matter from entering your vagina, leading to an infection. 
  4. Always use a condom during penetrative sex. 
  5. During menstruation, change your sanitary napkin or tampon every few hours. If you are using a silicone cup, ensure that it is clean. 
  6. If you notice a strong, bad vaginal odor, stop consuming any spicy or fatty food. Also, avoid alcoholic beverages. If the odor recedes, you are good, but if it persists, seek help from a doctor immediately. 
  7. Include probiotics in your diet, like yogurt. These help with the growth of healthy bacteria.

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FAQs Around Vaginal Odor

Smelly vaginal discharge is primarily a sign of an infection in the vagina. In minor cases, it can also be due to poor hygiene, but in severe cases, it can be due to serious medical conditions.

Women experience different vaginal smells throughout their life. The menstrual cycle and pH levels determine the type of smell emitted. However, it cannot be said that a change in the vaginal smell can be a sign of infidelity.

To get rid of the vaginal smell, firstly, get examined for any sort of vaginal infection. If you test positive, then check with a doctor for prescribed antibiotics. If you test negative and it is a normal vaginal odor, then adopting healthy hygiene is enough to neutralize the smell. You can also avoid eating spicy and fatty foods.

Women generally emit a strong fishy odor after consuming fish or fish pills. However, a fishy discharge smell is also a sign of a bacterial infection. To rule it out, check with your doctor and get some tests done. If it is not due to an infection, just wait for the smell to pass.

Diabetic women are at a higher risk of developing a yeast infection in the mouth and the vagina. The high levels of glucose in the blood lead to heightened breeding of Candida fungus. Additionally, diabetes-related UTIs also lead to a vaginal smell.

Feminine hygiene should be one of the primary concerns for women. A lot of diseases can be prevented simply by adopting healthy practices such as wearing clean underwear, having protected sex, and changing your tampon every four hours. Ignorance in any of these habits can lead to serious cases of UTIs, STDs, and vaginal complications.

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