Vaginal smell variations are probably a result of your menstrual cycle, your hygiene habits, or just you being you. Picture: Wikimedia Commons
Vaginal smell variations are probably a result of your menstrual cycle, your hygiene habits, or just you being you. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

5 smells your vagina shouldn’t have

By Viwe Ndongeni-Ntlebi Time of article published Sep 14, 2020

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Feminine odour is something all women deal with. And while it's natural for your vagina to have some kind of smell, certain smells can signal something's wrong.

Vaginal odour is the smell that your vagina – and usually your discharge – gives off. A certain amount of vaginal odour is normal, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG).

Vaginal smell variations are likely a result of your menstrual cycle, your hygiene habits, or just you being you.

Here are a few things that might cause your vagina’s natural scent to go awry:

Your vagina smells like copper or metal

If you're smelling a coppery smell, it's could be tied to blood. Blood contains iron, which is responsible for the metallic smell. Teen Vogue says if you're on your period, that could be the cause of the copper odour. Even if it's not your period, you could be experiencing light bleeding from sex and that could be the culprit. A copper smell is no cause for alarm, unless you're also experiencing itching, burning and/or suspicious discharge.

To treat it, try using a lubricant if you're experiencing light bleeding related to intercourse; the additional moisture can help prevent small cuts or scrapes from forming in the vagina.

You accidentally left a tampon in there

It happens – and probably more often than you’d think, Lauren Streicher, a professor of clinical obstetrics and gynaecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, tells SELF. Some people may put in a just-in-case tampon toward the end of their period and forget about it, don’t remember that they have one in before putting in a new one, or forget and have sex with one in and it gets pushed sideways into the back of cervix, she says. “Every gynaecologist has had the experience of a woman coming in with an odour, discovering it was a forgotten tampon, and feeling mortified,” she says.

Yeast infection

This is a very common type of fungal infection and is caused by the overgrowth of a type of yeast known as candida. Shape says the most obvious symptom is the presence of a thick, white discharge that looks like cottage cheese. Other symptoms include redness and itching around the vaginal area, as well as a burning sensation or pain when you urinate or have sex. Even though yeast infections don’t come with a strong odour, there can sometimes also be a mild scent that resembles bread or yeast.

There are over-the-counter medications to treat this but, If it’s your first time getting a yeast infection, see your doctor first before you buy any medications, and if it doesn’t improve or keeps returning, get some advice from your doctor too.

Smelling like fermented foods

Speaking to Healthline, Dr Mary Jane Minkin, who has more than 30 years of experience working in women’s health says, it’s very common for vaginas to produce a tangy or sour aroma. Some compare it to the smell of fermented foods. In fact, yoghurt, sourdough bread, and even some sour beer contain the same type of good bacteria that dominate most healthy vaginas: Lactobacilli.

The pH of a healthy vagina is slightly acidic, between 3.8 and 4.5. “The Lactobacilli bacteria keep the vagina acidic,” says Minkin. “This protects against an overgrowth of the bad kinds of bacteria.”

If it smells curiously similar to that sour IPA you had last weekend, don’t freak out.

Smelling like fish

A fish smell can indicate bacterial vaginosis. Several bacteria grow in your vagina. They are completely normal and keep the vagina healthy. Bacterial vaginosis is caused by an imbalance of different types of bacteria. It is helped by washing the vagina with soap, vaginal showers or sprays, holding down a tampon too long, antibiotics or an IUD. Sometimes bacterial vaginosis has no symptoms. Other times it can lead to symptoms such as a thick or foaming discharge that is usually white or grey or yellowish, a strong smelly fish smell (especially after sex or washing with soap) and itching.

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