Vaginal Odors: What's Considered Normal?
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 your vagina, most of these odors are perfectly normal. Read on for what they could mean.
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 odors. Check out my for simple tips to restore the balance.
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 odor can form.
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.
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 odor. Luckily, because this is so common doctors are quite skilled at removing them.
It could be bacterial vaginosis. If you notice a dead-fish smell or a bleachy odor, it could be an infection. , 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. Read my for tips to avoid BV and natural ways to prevent and treat it.
Fortunately, these odors are treatable. And with proper care of your lady bits—I'm looking at you, balanced pH levels—they're preventable too!