Every vagina has a unique natural odor, which is typically mild and poses no cause for concern. An unusual smell from the vagina could be a temporary odor caused by poor hygiene, food you’ve eaten, or hormone changes.
However, an unfamiliar smell from your vagina accompanied by additional symptoms like genital itching, burning, inflammation, or vaginal discharge can indicate an infection.
To learn more about the different vagina smells and what you can do about them, keep reading.
Why Does My Vagina Smell Different?
Vaginalodors largely depend on factors like your daily activities, hygiene habits, vaginal pH levels, overall health, diet choices, hydration, and where you are on your menstrual cycle. Inadequate hygiene, for instance, can result in a build-up of sweat and bacteria that causes a temporary musty odor from the vagina.
During menstruation, the vagina can emit a metallic smell due to the presence of blood. And eating strong-smelling foods like asparagus, broccoli, onions, and garlic can also result in a strong but temporary smell from the vagina.
However, if you notice an unpleasant vaginal odor that lingers for several days, or is accompanied by additional symptoms like itching or inflammation around the genitals, a burning sensation when peeing, or an unusual vaginal discharge, it is typically due to altered vaginal pH levels.
Vaginal pH Levels: What Alters Them?
The smell of your vagina is directly related to your vaginal pH levels, which are mildly acidic (3.8 – 5.0) when the vagina is healthy and the microflora (good and bad bacteria) are balanced. If something disrupts this delicate balance of bacteria and yeast, however, vaginal pH levels change and leave the vagina owner susceptible to vaginitis.
Common Reasons Your Vagina Will Smell
What Is Vaginitis?
Vaginitis is an umbrella term that describes an inflammation of the vagina that is typically accompanied by itching, vaginal discharge, and sometimes, an unusual vaginal odor. Caused by an irritant or infection that disrupts the natural vaginal environment and alters vaginal pH levels, vaginitis is common in women of all ages with 75% of females suffering from it at least once in their life.
Treating vaginitis depends on the type you have, so it’s helpful to understand the varying causes and symptoms. The three most common types of vaginitis are bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, and yeast infections.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is most common in women of reproductive age, particularly those who are sexually active with multiple partners. Symptoms include a fishy-smelling vaginal odor, genital inflammation & itching, as well as a burning sensation when peeing and pain during sex.
Although scientists have yet to pinpoint the exact cause of BV, sexual activity, genetics, hormone fluctuations, and synthetic vaginal cleaning products are believed to contribute.
Some women may genetically produce more of the bacteria that causes BV, for example, while other women are believed to be infected by bacteria that are naturally present on certain men’s penises, but not all.
The alkalinity of semen could also be responsible for altering the mildly acidic pH levels of the vagina during sex, rendering it more susceptible to infection.
Hormone changes during pregnancy and menopause are thought to render some women more prone to BV. This is usually caused by decreased levels of estrogen, which can simultaneously lower the presence of good vaginal bacteria like lactobacilli.
Using synthetic products like douches, vaginal sprays, or scented soaps to clean the vagina can also alter vaginal pH levels by killing good bacteria along with harmful bacteria.
Vaginal yeast infections are known to affect two-thirds of women at least once in their lives, with 8% of women experiencing as many as four yeast infections in a year. Triggered by an overgrowth of a fungus known as candida albicans, yeast infections usually cause symptoms like vaginal inflammation, itching, and a white lumpy vaginal discharge resembling cottage cheese.
Although yeast infections don’t always cause a smell, some women notice a yeasty beer-like smell from the vagina.
Factors that can activate the overgrowth of this type of fungus include taking antibiotics to treat another infection, a weak immune system, hormonal changes during pregnancy, taking estrogen-based oral contraceptives, or untreated diabetes.
According to the CDC, trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the parasite Trichomoniasis Vaginalis (TV). Although more than 1 million people per year are infected with trichomoniasis in the US, only 30% of those infected notice any symptoms.
This means trichomoniasis is symptomless for the majority of women until they are tested for STIs, leaving them susceptible to additional STIs, problems conceiving, and issues with premature births.
Trichomoniasis, which is also known as trich, can be transmitted from a penis to a vagina during sex, but also from a vagina to a penis, and from a vagina to a vagina. Symptoms typically include vaginal inflammation and itching, discomfort while urinating, a thin, green, yellow, or white vaginal discharge, and a fishy vaginal smell.
How to Treat Strong Vaginal Odors
Strong vaginal smells can be separated into two categories – those that have accompanying symptoms and those that don’t.
Vaginal odors that don’t have any obvious accompanying symptoms can be quickly treated. The musty smell from inadequate hygiene is easily solved by washing the vagina daily with warm water and a clean washcloth, for instance.
Any vaginal odors experienced during menstruation will pass as the cycle progresses, and vaginal smells from foods you’ve eaten will also subside once the remnants are flushed from the body during urination. See our guide on natural ways to treat vaginal odor for more remedies.
When you notice a strong vaginal odor, particularly an unpleasant or fish-like smell, and it is accompanied by symptoms such as vaginal inflammation, itching, burning, or unusual vaginal discharge, medication is more than likely required to treat a vaginal infection or vaginitis.
How to Treat Bacterial Vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis typically requires a course of antibiotics to treat the underlying bacterial infection, alas, this is not always successful, and as many as 50% of women are diagnosed with a recurring BV infection within a year of treatment.
Numerous studies have proven, however, that taking Boric Acid Suppositories in conjunction with a course of antibiotics helps to clear a BV infection. The study also concluded that using regular Boric Acid Suppositories after the antibiotic treatment has been completed prevents recurring BV infections in over 90% of women.
As well as killing the harmful bacteria that cause BV, boric acid suppositories like Boric Balance from Intimate Rose, restore healthy vaginal pH levels, treat vaginal odors, and alleviate symptoms like itching and inflammation within 24 hours.
How to Treat Yeast Infections?
Antifungal medication is the recommended medical treatment for clearing yeast infections. But while treatment is successful for most, 8% of women are diagnosed with as many as four recurring yeast infections per year. In these cases, taking Boric Acid Suppositories in conjunction with the antifungal medication has also proven highly effective to clear the current infection and prevent recurring yeast infections.
How to Treat Trichomoniasis?
To fully clear an STI like trichomoniasis, female health experts once again recommend accompanying the required antibiotics with boric acid suppositories like Boric Balance. In addition to relieving vaginal itching and inflammation within 24 hours, boric acid promotes the restoration of a healthy vaginal pH to help destroy the parasite that causes trich and prevent additional STIs.
Best Tips to Prevent Strong Vaginal Odors & Vaginitis
Preventing strong vaginal odors and vaginitis is easy when you understand the delicate balance of the vaginal microflora and what can upset your healthy vaginal pH levels. Follow these tips to keep your vagina healthy and smelling its best.
- Refrain from douching or using synthetically fragranced products to clean your vagina. The vagina knows exactly how to clean itself internally and all that is required from vagina owners is to wash the genitals daily with warm water and a clean washcloth. (Unscented soap is optional, but not necessary)
- To keep the vagina healthy after sex, it helps to urinate and flush out any harmful bacteria that may have been transmitted during intercourse. After peeing, wash the genitals with warm water & a clean washcloth, and pat dry.
- Always wipe front to back after using the toilet to ensure that no harmful bacteria are spread from the anus to the vagina.
- Take a regular probiotic to keep your vaginal pH levels balanced, particularly if you have several sexual partners. In the same way that probiotics improve gut health and digestion, they are also effective for balancing vaginal pH levels and keeping infections from bacteria and parasites at bay. Here at Intimate Rose, we’ve added cranberry and D-Mannose to our Flora Bloom Feminine Probiotics which make it even more difficult for infections to set in.
- Change out of wet swimsuits or damp gym wear as soon as you finish your workout to prevent yeast and bacteria from multiplying in a humid environment. If you’re prone to vaginitis, it’s also a good idea to avoid hot tubs and wearing jeans or pants that are too tight around the crotch.
- Replace your synthetic underwear with breathable cotton underwear. Cotton absorbs moisture and keeps the vaginal area cool, whereas synthetic materials trap heat and create a warm environment where bacteria and yeast can thrive.
It’s normal for vaginas to have a unique smell that is typically dictated by a woman’s food preferences, lifestyle choices, sexual activity, and hygiene habits. Mild vaginal odors like sweat, food smells, or postcoital aromas are easily treated by washing the genitals or eliminating certain foods, however, strong vaginal odors are often signs of vaginal infections that require medical treatment.
If you notice additional symptoms like vaginal swelling, itching, burning, or an unusual vaginal discharge along with a strong smell from your vagina, make an appointment with your doctor to treat vaginitis with antibiotics or antifungal medication.
Women who are prone to recurring yeast infections, BV, or trichomoniasis can prevent them with the addition of boric acid suppositories, probiotics, and some minor lifestyle changes.
Cleveland Clinic – Vaginal Odors - https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/17905-vaginal-odor
Johns Hopkins Medicine – Vaginisitis - https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/vaginitis
National Library of Medicine - Vaginal pH Value for Clinical Diagnosis and Treatment of Common Vaginitis - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8618584/
Centers For Disease Control & Prevention – Tricomoniasis - https://www.cdc.gov/std/trichomonas/stdfact-trichomoniasis.htm
National Library of Medicine - Clinicians’ use of Intravaginal Boric Acid Maintenance Therapy for Recurrent Vulvovaginal Candidiasis and Bacterial Vaginosis - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6878170/
Journal of The Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association - The Antimicrobial Effect of Boric Acid on Trichomonas vaginalis - https://journals.lww.com/stdjournal/Fulltext/2014/12000/The_Antimicrobial_Effect_of_Boric_Acid_on.6.aspx