Vaginas are naturally smelly. Female genitalia contain all sorts of fluids and bacteria, and it’s completely normal for vaginas to have a distinctive odor. However, some scents emanating from the vagina may be a cause for concern. Though it can be difficult to pin down exactly what a normal vaginal odor smells like, below we’ll list several different kinds of common vaginal smells and provide possible explanations for them:
Sweet or Sour Vaginal Odor
A sour, tangy, or fermented type of odor is most probably a result of a change in bacterial levels within the vagina. This happens fairly regularly. The same applies for sweet, musty odors coming from the vagina. If you don’t experience any other symptoms (like discharge, pain during urination, genital bumps), then it’s unlikely you’re facing a serious problem.
Metallic Vaginal Odor
Should you notice a copper, metallic, or chemical sort of smell coming from your vagina, it could denote blood (which contains iron). Obviously, this could be a sign of menstruation, however, certain STDs may also contribute to bloody discharge and/or bleeding in between periods.
Fishy Vaginal Smell
A fishy vaginal smell is most often one of two things: bacterial vaginosis (BV), which is a reasonably common PH imbalance in the vagina, or trichomoniasis (trich) which is an STD. Trich is usually more pungent than BV, and it may also cause greenish discharge. The good news about trich is that it’s both treatable and curable.
Vaginas that Smell Like Feces
A rectovaginal fistula is an abnormal connection between the vagina and the rectum that allows stool to enter the vaginal cavity. Surgery is sometimes required to treat this condition. In addition, though, wiping from back to front can also spread fecal matter to the vagina.
Rotten Vaginal Smells
Rotten, gnarly smells from the vagina may result from high stress or physical activity. There are several very sensitive sweat glands around the groin that can produce quite an unpleasant odor –– particularly if you haven’t washed recently. Really unpleasant smells from the vagina, though, may simply result from a forgotten tampon from a few days or weeks ago. It happens more often than you think!
Vaginal Odors & STDs
Trichomoniasis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea are the three STDs that most often contribute to discharge as a symptom. However, this discharge may or may not have an unpleasant odor. Should gonorrhea or chlamydia cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), which they can if left untreated, women will often experience a heavy discharge with a pungent odor. To close, vaginal odor may, in rare instances, be a sign of certain types of cancer. In brief, if you experience an unpleasant and abnormal vaginal odor, take some time to get tested –– especially if you’ve experienced other common STD symptoms. It’s better to get tested, get treated, and be safe, than live with a potentially harmful STD.