Does your vagina smell? Of course. All of us have natural body odors. That’s what attracts us to each other. Problems arise when we think the smell is bad or caused by something treatable. Half the women in the US perceive that their vulvar and vaginal odors are bad enough to use vaginal sprays and nearly half use wipes, even though reputable women’s health organizations, such as the Canadian Women’s Health Network, recommend using water only as a vulval and vaginal cleansing product. Vaginas have many different smells, some more noticeable than others. Just because it doesn’t smell like flowers, doesn’t mean it isn’t healthy.
Taking a quick trip to your local drugstore, you’ll find an aisle full of products promising to cover up the natural smell of your vagina. There are plenty of ways to take care of your vaginal health, douching and perfumed products aren’t one of them.
Your vagina is home to billions of bacteria and they live in a healthy relationship with us – just as the bacteria in our intestines. And the precise makeup of this bacteria changes quite often. This change is normal. This scent is normal. And there’s plenty of natural reasons behind this scent.
The pH of a healthy vagina is slightly acidic, between 3.8 and 4.5. The Lactobacilli bacteria keeps the vagina acidic, which protects against an overgrowth of bad bacteria.
Blood Due to Your Period or Rigorous Sex
Many people report smelling a coppery, metallic vaginal odor, especially during their period. Blood contains iron, which has a metallic smell. During your period, blood and tissue are shed from your uterine lining and travel through your vaginal canal, which can lead to this metallic scent.
But sex may be another reason for this metallic smell. Light bleeding after sex can be common. This is usually due to vaginal dryness and/or vigorous sex that can cause small cuts or scrapes. To prevent this, try moisturizing.
If you’re experiencing bleeding unrelated to your period or the metallic smell continues with itching and discharge, it’s best to see a doctor.
While it doesn’t seem right to smell of urine when you’re not urinating, it can be due to a buildup of urine in your underwear or around your vulva. Urine contains a byproduct of ammonia called urea, which can put off a chemical smell. Keep in mind, urine smelling strongly of ammonia is a sign of dehydration.
You Are What You Eat
They say we are what we eat, and it is also true about what we smell. We smell like what we eat too. There is a lot of evidence about how the smells of what we eat are dispelled from our bodies. All of us who eat eggs, asparagus, or garlic can attest to that.
Forgotten Items (Tampons)
An unusual vaginal odor could occur when a tampon is left in for too long. This can happen at the end of a period when you don’t have to insert a new tampon as often and you have no further bleeding, during this time continue to be aware of how often you change your sanitary products. It’s recommended to change your tampon every 4-8 hours. Inadvertently letting a tampon go days, even weeks, inside a vagina is a lot more common than you’d think.
ammonia is caused by a toxin produced by staphylococcus bacteria. Tampons increase the risk of toxic shock syndrome because if left in the vagina for too long, they help encourage the growth of bacteria.
Smells Aren’t Always A Bad Thing
Women have had a long history of being told that their sexual organs and sexual pleasure are not to be discussed. It is no wonder that we believe our natural vaginal odor should also be hidden and covered up. But hidden and covered for what purpose? If it is to please our male partners, we shouldn’t have worried. Women have a much better sense of smell than men perhaps making us more inclined to smell ourselves.
You know yourself and your body better than anyone else, a smell is normal. If the smell becomes concerning or unusual, please see a doctor.
When you should see a doctor
Typically, abnormal odors should be easy to spot. Anything different and pungent, such as rotting, and decay are red flag odors.
If there’s a serious issue, usually other symptoms will appear alongside the smell.
See your doctor if your odor is accompanied with:
● itching or burning or pain
● pain during sex
● thick, cottage cheese, or foul-smelling discharge
● vaginal bleeding unrelated to your period