There are a lot of misconceptions around how a vagina should smell or taste like. Thousands of women across the globe have googled or asked the question, “How should my vagina smell?”
A lot of women (and men) seem to believe that vaginas should smell heavenly or should have no smell at all. Well, this isn’t particularly right because a healthy vagina is populated with helpful bacteria that make your vagina slightly acidic and potentially giving it a smell.
Therefore, your vagina’s natural scent may be tangy or fermented, but this can vary depending on your diet if you wear natural fabrics or synthetics, your level of hygiene, your bathroom habits and so much more.
As long as you’re healthy, your vagina smells and tastes perfectly fine. It’s not supposed to smell like roses or taste like candy.
The only time for concern is when it smells “fishy” or otherwise unpleasant because that can hint at a bigger problem pointing to infections.
Different Smells and What they Potentially Mean
Tangy or Fermented.
It’s very common for vaginas to produce a tangy or sour aroma. Some compare it to the smell of fermented foods such as unflavored yogurt.
In fact, yogurt, and some sour beers contain the same type of good bacteria that dominate most healthy vaginas; Lactobacilli.
The lactobacilli bacteria keep the PH of your vagina acidic, between 3.8 and 4.5, which protects against the overgrowth of harmful bacteria.
Many women report smelling a coppery, metallic vaginal odor like how a coin usually smells.
This is usually nothing to worry about. This smell usually comes around your menstruation period, a few days before, during and a few days afterward.
Blood contains iron, which has a metallic smell.
Sweet Like Molasses
Occasionally, your vagina may produce a sweet-smelling tinge and that’s completely fine. However, when we say sweet, we don’t mean vanilla ice cream sweet, we mean robust and earthy, like freshly rained-on soil.
Again, the healthy bacteria found in your vagina are the cause of this smell. Your vaginal pH is an ever-changing bacterial ecosystem and sometimes this means you might smell a little sweet.
Rotten like a decaying or dead organism
A rotten odor that makes your nose wince and your face contort is definitely not the norm. If the smell is rotten, like a dead organism, it may not be your vagina, but something in your vagina.
The most common reason for this smell is usually due to a forgotten tampon. It’s actually very common for women to forget a tampon inside their vaginas and it is no reason to be ashamed of.
A fishy odor from your vagina should be a cause for worry because this smell has been linked to conditions such as bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis.
Bacterial Vaginosis occurs when there is an overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria in the vagina. The odor is usually accompanied with a milky-white, or gray vaginal discharge that’s either light or heavy.
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection that occurs when you have unprotected sex with someone carrying a protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. The odor is normally accompanied by itching and painful urination.
Do Not Douche
Vaginal douching is washing the vagina with water or a mixture of fluids to eliminate odors and clean the vagina.
When most women realize they have an odor coming from their vaginas, their first instinct is usually to thoroughly clean the vagina with soaps or antiseptics.
However, gynecologists do not recommend douching because it can actually worsen your condition by killing the healthy bacteria in your vagina and potentially burn the healthy skin around your vagina.
When to see a doctor
In general, abnormal odors should be easy to spot. They are the ones that make your face scrunch up. Rotten smells, fishy smells among others, are all red flags that you shouldn’t ignore.
It is often best to visit your gynecologist in case you see or smell anything out of the ordinary.