10 Types Vaginal Odor and Tips for Preventing It | Women’s Health

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Many women expect their vagina to smell like flowers but that’s rarely the case. Your vagina scent is unique to you – it’s completely natural for your vagina to have some kind of distinctive smell. Different factors come to play when it comes to your unique scent – this includes:

  • Your level of hygiene
  • Personal diet
  • Type of fabric worn
  • Gland secretions
  • Personal blend of internal bacteria
  • Menstrual calendar

While it is okay for you to feel self-conscious about the scent of your vagina – chances are it’s all round fine. However, if its smelling rotten or fishy then you should consult a gyno as soon as possible.

Types of Vaginal Odor

When describing their normal vaginal odor, some women use words like ‘earth or soil-like’, ‘fruity’ and even ‘sour’. Since, a vaginal scent is unique to a woman the key to knowing a change in our everyday scent is the awkward feeling of a new and strong smell.

Read on as we cover vaginal odour in more detail


A fishy vagina smells like a decomposing fish due to chemical compound – Trimethylamine.  Fishy vaginal odor may be as a result of sweating, an infection or even genetics. This abnormal vaginal odor, if as a result of an infection can either be Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) or Trichomoniasis.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service, bacterial vaginosis symptoms include a burning sensation when urinating, itching around the vagina and a whitish to gray discharge. Some females with bacterial vaginosis only experience fishy odor as the only symptom and is a common vaginal infection among females aged 15 – 40 years.

The distinctive difference between BV and trichomoniasis is green or yellowish discharge.

Prescription antibiotics help I treating the infection – see your gyno if needed. Healthy vaginal habits also help reducing the risk of infection such as

  • Avoiding douches
  • Practicing safe sex
  • Limiting sexual partners and avoiding scented female hygiene products

They affect the bacterial balance of the vagina

Rotten Meat

A forgotten tampon is responsible for distinct aroma of rotten meat. According to Alyssa Dweek MD am ob-gyn in Westvhester County, New York to Cosmo “a combination of old blood, bacteria and vaginal secretions stuck in the tampon creates the unmistakable odor”.

To improve the odor, the tampons should e removed. If you’re unable to remove it yourself, visit a care provider/gynecologist – don’t be embarrassed.

Bread or Beer Like

A yeast-like odor similar to the smell of bread or beer indicates a fungal infection. A vaginal yeast infection is caused by the fungus candida. Although, every woman has a balanced amount of mixed yeast, including candida and bacteria certain lubrications – spermicides, antibiotics use, uncontrolled diabetes, pregnancy increases the amount of candida accompanied by white layer in and around your vagina. Other revealing signs include:

  • A cottage cheese like discharge with no odor
  • Vaginal rash
  • Itchiness around the vagina and vulva with pain and soreness
  • Burning sensation while taking a pee or during sexual intercourse

Most yeast infections can be cured with OTC anti-fungal medications – if unsure, you can visit a gynecologist.

Foul or Offensive Odor

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, heavy discharge with a foul/offensive odor along with a fever higher than 191F, bleeding in between periods, pain during sex, pain in your lower belly and pelvis are probably signs you have Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.

This condition affects about 5 percent of women in the United States. PID can be caused by different types of bacteria including the same bacteria that causes sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as gonorrhea and chlamydia.

PID can be extremely dangerous and life threatening if left untreated. Call your doctor ASAP if PID is suspected.


When your vagina smells like bleach or ammonia, it could be as a result of extra sweat, urine or an infection. Our body via the liver breaks down proteins to ammonia as a by-product. This by-product is contained in urine as a result of an accumulation of urine in your underwear or around the vulva releasing a chemical like odor.

Dehydration is also linked to odor’s similar to bleach or ammonia. Drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day helps prevent dehydration.

Bacterial vaginosis is also a common reason for a chemical odor. Most women with bacterial vaginosis report observing a fish-like smell from their vagina while others describe the smell as “bleachy” or ammonia like.

According to Jennifer Wider MD, a renowned women’s health expert to Cosmopolitan, “Experiencing a chlorine or bleach-like scent after sex is nothing to worry about. It’s most likely due to the particular lubricant or condoms your using”. If this is similar to your case opt for an unscented lube or a different brand of condom.


A metallic vaginal odor is nothing to worry about, it only indicates your monthly period. It is most common right before, during and after you’ve had your period/menstrual flow. Wider to Cosmopolitan says: When the blood (aka our uterine lining) exits your body, it can give off this smell, but it’s not unhealthy”.

Light bleeding after penetrative vaginal sex also gives off this metallic odor – especially when the sex is vigorous or the vagina is to dry. Using a lube helps prevent vagina dryness.

Another scenario that can lead to your vagina smelling somewhat metallic is the deposition of semen in your vagina after sex. Semen can also change the pH in your vagina – due to its alkalinity, a metal-esque scent can be given off.

If, however, the smell persists long after your menstrual flow or occurs with itching and discharge, check in with your doctor.


Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, grapefruits etc. pineapples have benne clamored to sweeten the smell and fluids of vaginal fluids. Although, no scientific study has been done to prove how diet affects sensational experience of oral sex – many still hold unto the idea.

Alyssa Dweek, MD, [ a New York based ob-gyn and co-author of the Complete A to Z for Your V] tells Health her patients do notice a change after eating pineapples “in a good way”.

Try it out today and tell us your experience.

Garlic or Onion

A garlic or onion smell can be described as pungent. Eating foods with high amount of onion and garlic can likewise make your vagina smell same. An onion or garlic scent is excreted by urine, sweat glands, vaginal odor for 24 to 48 hours. Since the urethra is close to the vagina the smell of urine may contribute to vaginal odor. FYI, there’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

Musky Scent

A strong vagina scent aside the usual is an indication of sweating around your vagina. Just like armpits the vulva also has sweat glands that produce moisture during hot weather conditions after intense workout session etc. Washing your vulva with mild, unscented soap washes away the excess sweat.


A cheese-like odor is most likely due to trichomiasis or bacterial vaginosis. In other words, go see your gyno to get to the bottom of the smell.

Tips for Preventing Vaginal Odor

Treatment for vaginal odor is solely dependent on the cause Medications such as antibiotics are prescribed by your doctor for infections such as bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis.

Adopting good hygiene measure such as

  • Wiping the vagina from front to back to prevent spreading bacteria from anus to vagina
  • Washing your vaginal area with warm water and non-irritating fragrance-free soap
  • Wearing cotton underwear and loose clothing – to prevent moisture accumulation
  • Urinating immediately after sex
  • Losing weight if necessary
  • Changing clothes immediately after workout
  • Avoiding foods that alter vaginal odor
  • Avoiding feminine hygiene products, sprays and creams
  • Eating yoghurt and other probiotic foods
  • Washing underwear with unscented soap
  • Washing vulva with water in the case of unpleasant odor

Can help reduce vaginal odor.

See a doctor if vaginal odor occurs with :

  • Pain during sex
  • Any type of pain
  • Itching and burning sensation
  • Vaginal bleeding unlinked to menstrual flow
  • Thick, clumpy, cheesy discharge
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