The truth is, the vagina is home to billions of bacteria and the precise makeup of these bacteria changes on a daily sometimes hourly basis. Change is normal. These variations in smell likely a result of the menstrual cycle, hygiene habits or something else.
Plus, considering the groin contains a collection of sweat glands, is it really a wonder that the vagina isn’t odorless?
In this article:
All You Need to Know About Different Types of Vaginal Smell
Types of Vaginal Smell and their Causes
Tangy or Fermented
It is very common for vaginas to produce this tangy or sour aroma. Some compare it to the smell of fermented bodies also. In fact, sourdough bread and even some sour beer contain the same type of good bacteria that dominate most healthy vaginas:
The cause for tangy odor is the pH of a healthy vagina is slightly acidic between 3.8 and 4.5. The lactobacilli bacteria keep the vagina acidic and protect against an overgrowth of the bad kinds of bacteria.
Coppery like a Penny
Many people report smelling a coppery, metallic vaginal odor which is usually nothing to worry about. It rarely signifies a more serious problem.
Cause for coppery odor is blood contains iron which has a metallic smell. The most common reason for blood is menstruation. During this period, blood and tissue shed from the uterine lining and travel through the vaginal canal. Also, light bleeding after sex can be common which gives this odor. This is usually due to vaginal dryness or vigorous sex that can lead to small cuts or scrapes. To prevent this, try using lube.
A coppery smell can also be due to less common but serious causes of vaginal bleeding. The metallic scent shouldn’t linger too long after the period is over. If the vagina has had contact with semen, this may change the pH level and cause a metallic smell.
Sweet like Molasses
Sweet doesn’t mean freshly baked cookies sweet but mean robust and earthy. But don’t worry, a sweetish tinge is no cause for concern.
Cause for a sweet odor is bacteria again. The vaginal pH is an ever-changing bacterial ecosystem.
Chemical like a Newly Cleaned Bathroom
An odor similar to bleach or ammonia could be due to different things.
Cause for a chemical odor is urine contains a by-product of ammonia called urea. A build-up of urine in the underwear or around the vulva could put off a chemical smell. Make sure, urine smelling strongly of ammonia is a sign of dehydration. Also, bacteria vaginosis causes this type of smell.
Decomposing fish smell much like abnormal vaginal odor. Trimethylamine is a chemical compound responsible for both the distinct aroma of rotting fish and some abnormal vaginal odors.
Cause for dead fish odor is bacterial vaginosis when there’s an overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria in the vagina and these anaerobic organisms are odorous. Also, trichomoniasis is known for its pungent fishy odor.
Rotten like a Decaying Organism
If the smell is putrid like a dead organism it may not be the vagina but something in the vagina.
Cause for a rotten odor a forgotten tampon.
When to See a Doctor?
If the cause is serious and some other symptoms appear alongside the smell like –
- Itching or burning
- Pain during sex
- Thick, cottage cheese discharge
- Vaginal bleeding unrelated to the period
Home Remedies for Vaginal Smell
The following techniques may help naturally to eliminate unusual vaginal odors –
Practice Good Hygiene
Clean the outside of the vagina regularly with a washcloth and mild soap. Loofahs may cause small tears and expose the area to possible infection and cleansing will wash away dead skin, sweat, and dirt. Don’t use perfumed soaps or body washes. The scents and chemicals may upset the vagina’s natural pH. Bar soaps may be more gentle than body wash.
Use only Exterior Deodorizing Products
If using any sprays or perfumes, only use them on the outside of the vagina. Don’t insert them as they can upset natural chemistry and lead to bigger problems.
Change the Underwear
If normally wearing satin, silk or polyester panties, make the switch to 100% percent cotton. Cotton is breathable and does an excellent job wicking away sweat and fluids from the body. Excess moisture can upset the natural bacteria levels.
Consider a pH Product
Over-the-counter (OTC) products may be helpful for restoring the vagina’s natural pH. If you try one and the odor remains or grows worse, make an appointment with the doctor.
Try Essential Oils
This treatment has very little medical research to support it, but anecdotal evidence suggests tea tree oil, a type of essential oil, helps eliminate vaginal odor. This essential oil has natural antimicrobial and antifungal properties which may help reduce and eliminate bacteria.
Soak in Vinegar
Frequent hot baths and hot showers can upset the natural pH but one type of bath may be useful. Pour a cup or two of apple cider vinegar into a warm bath and soak for minutes. Vinegar may naturally reduce bacteria.
It can help eliminate underlying causes that are contributing to the odor.
If the odor is accompanied by unusual symptoms, skip the home treatment and consult the doctor. Also, if the odor persists, consult the doctor.