Many women grow up feeling disgusted with their vaginas, with all the stigma that surrounds it – smelly, bad, dirty, etc. It is a multi million industry just trying to conceal vaginal odors.
Okay, first thing first. Vaginas DO have natural smells.
Just like penises and armpits have natural smells.
You did not think that men can have embarrassing nether region smells too?
Every woman’s vagina scent is unique and a healthy vagina usually have some smell, with the intensity varying from various body conditions and environmental factors. Intense exercise or changes in the pH environment of the vagina due to hormones or infections can bring about changes in scent tones of the vagina.
Here are 10 types of vaginal odors
Many women report an increase in the “muskiness” of their precious bits after an intense workout, or when they are feeling sexually aroused.
The musky smell can be attributed to increase production from surrounding sweat glands or pheromones. No real cause for worries because this is totally normal.
Especially so during that period of the month, where iron in the blood can off the natural smells of the vagina, making it smell more metallic/tin-ish/iron-ish.
Metallic smells within a few days pre and post period are perfectly normal too.
People who take nutritional supplements such as iron supplements can sometimes find the metallic scent of the vagina intensified.
A cause for concern for the smell would be when children and menopausal women start having metallic smells in their vaginas, or when it becomes distinct when you are not expecting your menses to come anytime soon.
This is one particular smell that can be very disturbing for many women.
A fish- like smell can be an indication of an infection, where the delicate pH balance of the vaginal environment is disrupted by overgrowth of bacteria.
One such common infection is bacterial vaginosis (BV), and that fishy smell is often elevated after sex and usually accompanied by an increase in vaginal discharge.
STDs such as trichomoniasis can also trigger fish like odors, and is usually accompanied by green vaginal discharge. A visit to the doctor’s is highly recommended.
4. Chemical/ammonia like
Some women find their underwear reeking of strong ammonia smells after a long day.
The strong ammonia like smell can due to urine leaks in the underwear or improper cleaning of the nether regions after going to the toilet or suboptimal underwear material choices that magnifies the intensity of the smells.
Many women experience stress urinary incontinence in their lifetime, and simple acts of a sneeze or a hearty laugh can cause little amounts of urine to leak. Urine is one of the main ways our body disposes of wastes and normal urine typically does not have a strong smell.
Ammonia smell in urine can indicate possible dehydration, infections, metabolic disorders or urinary stones.
Pregnant women often find their urine smelling like ammonia due to the antenatal multivitamins (iron, calcium, etc.) that they take during pregnancy. Luckily, this is not a big source of concern and the smells are likely to reduce after a short period of time.
Foods that are high in ammonia like cheese, onion or durian (for the asian palate) can also intensify the chemical smells of the vagina. This can be easily resolved with a few dietary changes.
Again, it could be due to improper cleaning of the nether regions after toilet breaks, where remnants of urine/feces smell linger.
Some women with trichomoniasis also report salty/stale like smells instead of fishy odor. Doctors often prescribe antibiotics as a possible cause of action.
If your vagina smells like rotten meat or something dying, please approach your gynaecologist immediately.
It could be due to a forgotten tampon left inside for days, or something more nefarious like fistulas or even cancer.
If it is a forgotten tampon, the physician will remove it and decide if a course of antibiotics is necessary as a follow up action.
7. Yeasty, like beer or bread
Yeast infections is also a common infection that many women would experience in their lifetime.
In a healthy vagina, small amounts of yeast exists naturally. Yeast infections occur when there is an overgrowth of yeasts in the vaginal environment.
Yeast overgrowth can happen when there are changes in the pH of the environment, enabling growth of yeast, or when there is increase in sugars in our normal diet.
Sugar is food for yeasts, and increased sugar intake is akin to setting up a buffet for yeasts to feast on.
Lifestyle changes in reducing our sugar intake often helps to manage yeast overgrowth. Doctors sometimes prescribe vaginal suppositories or antifungal creams as medical interventions for yeast infections.
8. Bleach/chlorine like
Chlorine like smells are often reported after sex.
This could be due to the type of lubricants used, or even choice of condoms. This is rather normal, and the odor usually dissipates within 24 hours.
Some people report that eating certain fruits such as oranges and grapefruit can sweeten the smell and taste of vagina fluids, so that is pretty normal too.
However, if in the absence of such foods/fruits, you can still smell a sickly sweet smell emanating from the vagina, it may indicate possible diabetes or metabolic disorders.
Some people who stick to a high protein, low carbohydrate diet for long periods of time also report sickly sweet smells due to elevated levels of ketones in their urine.
Again, while there are foods out there that can sweeten the smell of our vaginas, there are also certain foods that can increase unpleasant odors within the vagina.
Typically, strong smelling foods like garlic, broccoli, onions and asparagus can cause the vaginal fluids to smell and taste unpleasant.
Dietary adjustments often resolve the problematic concerns within a short period of time.
Now that we know that there are different types of vaginal odor possible, if any of the above smells worries you, do pick up the phone and make an appointment with your gynae.
If not, let us embrace our femininity and accept that while our vaginas may not smell like roses or flowers, a healthy vagina does emanates a scent that is uniquely us and nothing to be ashamed of!