There is nothing embarrassing about vaginal odor; it is a natural and normal occurrence. Unusual vaginal odor can, however, sometimes indicate an underlying problem. Therefore, it is important to thoroughly investigate the cause of sudden changes in vaginal odor by consulting a doctor.
Normal Vaginal Odor
All women have vaginal odor that may or may not be noticeable. If it is not noticeable, you may be confused about what is normal. The scent of a healthy vagina is typically musky or fleshy and changes to a metallic smell during menstruation. This is because of the presence of iron-containing blood. Since the vaginal pH changes when it comes in contact with semen, the vaginal scent also changes after sexual intercourse. Another normal reason for change in vaginal scent is heavy sweating.
Abnormal Vaginal Odor
Many different abnormal vaginal odors exist each associated with a specific condition. Some of the common examples include:
- Yeast infection
It causes a sweet odor similar to bread, flour, or beer. A sour smell also occurs sometimes.
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection. It usually results in a strong “fishy” odor and a yellow-green discharge.
- Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
BV is a frequently occurring infection in women between 15 and 44 years of age. It also causes a “fishy” odor; it tends to worsen after sexual intercourse.
- Cervical or Vaginal Cancer
This is a rare condition that results in a foul and strong odor.
How Can I Reduce Vaginal Odor?
The vagina is self-cleaning. Avoiding tempering with it will typically protect you from changes in vaginal pH and disturbances in the vaginal microbiome. Moreover, inculcating healthy habits into your self-care routine can also reduce vaginal odor. Some of these habits are:
- Switching to mild products
Reduce your usage of vaginal douches, powders, deodorants, and perfumes. Cleaning your perineal area only needs some water, a mild soap, and a washcloth. Avoid using soap inside the labia to prevent irritation and change in vaginal pH.
- Wear cotton underwear
Breathable fabrics such as cotton prevent sweat and fluid-buildup in the vaginal area. Avoid using fabrics like silk, polyester, and satin to prevent trapped moisture and infections.
- Using vaginal probiotics
Pro-Fem is a vaginal probiotic for BV that is great for maintaining the vaginal pH. It contains RC-14 and GR-1 strains of lactobacilli which support the health of the urinary and reproductive tract. Daily oral intake reduces the likelihood of developing some of the commonest causes of vaginal odor including bacterial vaginosis and yeast infection.
- Trying boric acid suppositories
Boric acid is often used in the treatment of yeast infections. The suppository is directly inserted into the vagina. Approved formulas containing boron, oxygen, and hydrogen are safe for use in recurrent or resistant vaginal yeast infections. It is important to talk to a doctor before using suppositories such as Fem-Rx.
- Using a vinegar bath
Hot baths and hot showers tend to change the vaginal pH. To reset it to normal, you can use a vinegar bath. All you need to do is add 1 or 2 cups of apple cider vinegar in a warm bath and soak for approximately 20 minutes.
- Consulting a doctor for prescription medications
If your vaginal odor is persistent despite trying different remedies, you may need a prescription medication. Consult your doctor for options.
Many different signs and symptoms, such as abnormal odor, itching/irritation, and unusual discharge indicate an underlying vaginal disorder. If you notice a difference in the way your vagina smells, consult a healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment.
1. Should You Be Worried About Your Vaginal pH?: Banner Health, 2022.
2. Bacterial Vaginosis – CDC Fact Sheet: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022.
3. Vaginal Odor: Cleveland Clinic, 2018.
4. Vaginal Odor: What’s Normal and What’s Not: University of Nebraska-Lincoln Health Center, 2022.