Well, first of all, forget all those deodorant ads. Women are not supposed to be odourless.
Smell is normal
Every vagina has a faint musky or slightly sour smell, perhaps slightly stronger, perhaps less, and it will vary a little during different parts of your menstrual cycle.
So get familiar with the smell of yours, so that you have a good idea of what’s normal for you. After a long day, you’ll also smell sweat. You might notice a slight odour from unnoticed urine leakage. Or a metallic scent right after your period or unprotected sex.
Watch your hygiene
Your vaginal odour will be affected by dehydration, strongly flavoured foods, menopause, and medications such as antibiotics, antihistamines, herbal remedies and essential oils, birth control pills, and vaginal creams. You might notice an ammonia-like smell early in pregnancy.
So if you’re concerned about your odour, but have no other symptoms, try drinking more water and avoiding smelly foods. Think also about how you wash – you might simply be using too much soap. Don’t laugh – soap disrupts the normal bacteria of the vagina, which allows other yeasts and bacteria to grow. Don’t be tempted to douche (put liquids into the vagina): no essential oils, no soap, no Listerine. Your vagina is self-cleaning.
What can cause smell?
You might also be sweating a lot, or wearing tight pants. Avoid using panty liners too often, change out of your skinny jeans, go commando for a while and maybe trim your pubic hair. Think about your weight, because sweat in skin folds can cause odour. Just showering and changing clothes should do the trick for urine smells.
A change in the smell that signals something’s wrong generally comes with other symptoms, like itching, swelling, discharge, or pain while urinating. So an intense fishy smell, especially with a white or grey discharge, can be a sign of a bacterial infection. A yeasty or bread scent, together with a thick white discharge and itchiness can suggest a yeast infection. One of the symptoms of cervical cancer is a foul-smelling blood stained discharge.
If your vagina suddenly takes on an intense rotten smell, it could be a sign of a forgotten tampon, which happens way more often than you’d think. If you can’t remove it yourself, quickly see your gynaecologist or nearest sexual health clinic to have it removed. They’ve definitely dealt with a forgotten tampon before, so don’t be shy about making an appointment.
Do you have questions about your vaginal health? Head to our discussion board, where our moderators can help you out.