At some point in a woman’s life, she may feel self-conscious about how she smells “down there.” Especially, when you are young and discovering what is normal for you. The truth is having a mild vaginal odor is completely normal. However, if you notice a stronger vaginal odor accompanied by a discharge this could be a sign of a health issue like vaginitis.
Normal Vaginal Odor
Sometimes when you notice a different vaginal odor it may only be an indicator of a shift in your pH levels. Which would be nothing to be concerned about.
- If you notice an odor that smells a bit sour it may be a sign that the pH level in your vaginal flora is slightly more acidic than normal. Generally, that smell is associated with the good bacteria in your vagina, called lactobacilli.
- Your vaginal discharge may smell slightly metallic when you are menstruating. That is due to period blood containing iron.
- If your vagina has an ammonia-like scent, this may be a sign that there’s urine on your vulva or you may be dehydrated.
- Having a skunk-like scent may be an indication that you are stressed and your sweat glands have been working overtime.
Odors like these are only temporary and often resolve themselves or can be eliminated by bathing. Some odors can be related to hormonal changes or diet. Foods with a strong odor like garlic or fish can create changes in your vaginal odor.
If you notice an unpleasant odor that lingers for days and is accompanied by itching, burning, and discharge you will want to contact your healthcare provider.
What causes abnormal vaginal odors?
Generally, the cause is an imbalance in your vaginal bacterial levels that lead to the condition called vaginitis. With vaginitis, you more than likely will notice an abnormal discharge as well.
- Bacterial vaginosis (BV)
Other causes for vaginal odor, however rare.
- Rectovaginal fistula
- Vaginal cancer
- Cervical cancer
Healthy Habits To Prevent Vaginal Odor
- Use mild, unscented soap and warm water to clean your vulva.
- Do not wear sweaty or damp clothing for long periods of time.
- Do not douche. Douching can create an imbalance in your pH levels, making you vulnerable to infections.
- Wear lightweight, breathable clothes.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Use condoms during sex to reduce the risk of STIs and other infections such as BV.
- If you use a lubricant, select unscented and unflavored ones to prevent irritation.
Keep in mind that the vagina can be considered for the most part a self-cleaning organ. It is normal to have a mild scent, it can be viewed as a sign that your vaginal flora is functioning properly, keeping you infection-free. However, if you do find that you have an odor that is unusual for you along with a discharge, itching, and inflammation – it is time to see your doctor.