With all the scented feminine hygiene products out there, we’ve been conditioned to believe that our vaginas smell. However, our vaginas are supposed to have a slight odor. The natural ‘smell’ mostly comes from the makeup of bacteria that inhabits the tissue, and this is perfectly normal.
In fact, upsetting this balance actually does more harm than good in the long run. The natural bacteria would compete with and prevent foreign bacteria from entering and causing infections. This is why things like ‘douching’ and harsh detergents are discouraged from medical professionals. It kills the natural bacteria that forms a protective barrier (while also upsetting the vagina’s natural pH).
This being said, there are certain things that cause the vagina to deviate from its natural odor. Here we discuss different kinds of odor and what causes them:
This is probably the most common type of the unusual vaginal smells. The reason for the ‘fishy’ smell is actually related to fish. Both rotting fish and abnormal odors release the chemical trimethylamine.
The most commonly cited reason for the fishy smell is bacterial vaginosis, which is a condition caused by an overgrowth of bad bacteria. This is why douching can actually backfire and cause your nether regions to smell even worse. Removing the good, protective bacteria with washing paves the way for ‘bad’ bacteria to come in.
The fishy smell could also be down to a STD called trichomoniasis. With antibiotics, it should disappear.
This sounds a bit odd, but sometimes vaginal odor can be metallic in nature (think smell of pennies). This is because blood contains iron (it’s what makes your red blood cells red), which gives off a metallic odor. This kind of odor is common during menstruation or due to tearing of tissue during sex. The latter is mostly due to friction during intercourse.
In your period, the uterus sheds blood and tissue which travels through your vagina, causing it to take on this smell. This is obviously common and shouldn’t last too long after your period. If you do experience unusual bleeding along with this smell, there may be a more serious underlying issue, and you should consult a doctor.
In certain instances, you may have encountered a chemical, detergent-like odor from the vagina. The culprit of this is a compound called urea found in urine, which is related to ammonia. Urine left in your underwear can cause this. Long periods of dehydration can give off a stronger ammonia smell in the urine.
This is mostly due to blood that’s been lingering for too long after menstruation. So, things like wearing tampons or pads for too long during menstruation can contribute to this odor.
If you’ve encountered a ‘beer’ smell, that’s because the culprit for the smell and beer production is yeast. A yeast overgrowth can cause a ‘beery’ or ‘sugary’ smell. You can tell it’s a yeast infection because you’ll get a lot of itching or burning sensations to go with it.
Again, this is where douching can backfire. Because douching gets rid of the ‘good’ bacteria, it leaves room for yeast to grow and cause infections. Fortunately, there are OTC medications to treat yeast infections. You can also try using some essential oils (externally of course) that have anti-fungal properties, like lavender and lemongrass.
- Antifungal Effect of Lavender Essential Oil (Lavandula angustifolia) and Clotrimazole on Candida albicans: An In Vitro Study – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4621348/