Disclaimer up front: This article is definitely not telling anyone that their vagina should smell like flowers or an ocean breeze or any other perfume-based feminine hygiene product your mother may have used. The natural odor of a healthy vagina can take many different forms and can even change as we age. I encourage all people with female genitalia to embrace the smell of their healthy vaginas. This article is very specifically talking about vaginal odors that may occur when things are off balance or there is a potential health issue. Ok. Just wanted to make that clear.
No one likes to smell. But our bodies have glands, and those glands can produce some funky odors when things get out of whack. The good news? When it comes to unwanted vaginal odors, most are very common and easily remedied. Read on for what they could mean.
Vaginal odor culprit #1: It could be bacteria
If you notice a sour or tangy odor—or even a sweet smell, like gingerbread or honey—it's likely caused by Lactobacilli, the same type of good bacteria that exists in beer, yogurt, and sourdough bread. Lactobacilli keeps the vagina acidic, which can prevent bad bacteria from overproducing. When an imbalance of bacteria occurs, it can lead to these types of vaginal odors. However, balancing your vagina's pH is a fairly straightforward process.
Vaginal odor culprit #2: It could be stress
If you smell a skunky or body-odor scent, emotional stressors could be to blame. When we're nervous or stressed, we tend to sweat, and the reproductive area is no different. Apocrine glands, which respond to stress, exist in both the armpits and reproductive area and can produce a milky fluid when the body is stressed. This fluid doesn't smell on its own, but when mixed with bacteria a skunky vaginal odor can form.
Vaginal odor culprit #3: It could be from sex or your period
Blood has iron in it and can produce a metallic smell, which you might notice during your period or after sex. While the smell should go away after your period, light bleeding after sex could be caused by vaginal dryness. Lubrication is a good fix here, but if bleeding persists—especially if it comes with itching—it's time to call a doctor.
Vaginal odor culprit #4: It could be a forgotten tampon
It's pretty common for women to inadvertently leave a tampon in, which can cause a rotten, decaying smell. Tampons left in for even just a few hours too long can also produce this vaginal odor. Luckily, because this is so common doctors are quite skilled at removing them.
Vaginal odor culprit #5: It could be bacterial vaginosis
If you notice a dead-fish smell or a bleachy vaginal odor, it could be an infection. Bacterial vaginosis, or BV, is very common and treatable but also very uncomfortable and in some cases chronic. Caused by an overgrowth of naturally occurring bacteria, BV disrupts the vagina's pH balance. It's usually accompanied by discharge, itching, and burning. This overgrowth could be caused by douching (don't do it!), scented soap, or more likely poor diet. There are plenty of tips to avoid BV and natural ways to prevent and treat it and a natural product like Bona Dea Naturals Feminine Oil works to kill unwanted bacterial-based vaginal odors.
Fortunately, these unwanted vaginal odors are all treatable. And with proper care of your lady bits—I'm looking at you, balanced pH levels—they're preventable too!