Vaginal odor might be an uncomfortable topic to discuss. Still, it is important to know what vaginal odors are healthy and not healthy. As women go through their monthly cycles, their vaginal discharge changes, as it is influenced by several factors, such as hormonal changes, diet, sexual activity, and hygiene practices. Our aromas (smells) change based on many factors, including diet, medications, health, etc. Understanding vaginal odors that are normal and abnormal can help you be aware of health risks early for optimal health.

Why do Vaginal Smells Happen?

All vaginas have a smell, even after showering or bathing. The vaginal environment is a dark, moist place with glands that secretes. It is an organ that uses vaginal discharge to self-cleanse and has odor-producing bacterial flora. Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle change the vaginal scent, usually a tangy odor or slightly sweet aroma.

Typically, the vaginal smell is not strong enough to notice but may be more noticeable during periods or after sex. If the scent is powerful and foul, with accompanying symptoms - there may be cause for concern.

Normal Vaginal Odors

Vaginal smells can change based on shifts in the pH balance throughout the menstrual cycle. These are normal vaginal odors that are not cause for concern:

  • Tangy, fermented, or sour odors - indicate that the pH level in the vagina is more acidic than usual. The smell is often similar to bread, a yeasty smell. In this balance, more good bacteria lactobacilli flow into the vaginal flora.
  • Bittersweet or sweet odors - may be compared to molasses or tangy gingerbread. This indicates that the pH levels have changed because the normal bacteria is in flux.
  • Metallic odors - may be similar to the smell of copper pennies or iron. This smell is most likely happening when people are menstruating because of the iron in the menstrual blood. Or it can happen during light bleeding after sex.
  • Ammonia/bleach odors - indicate urine residue on the vulva or underwear. It may also be a sign of dehydration or bacterial infection.

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Unhealthy Vaginal Odors

If you have any of these odors that have not improved in a few days, see your gynecologist.

  • Fishy odors are typically associated with bacterial vaginosis (BV). This common bacterial infection occurs when there is an imbalance of the lactobacilli bacteria. Symptoms of BV include watery, thin discharge, fishy odor, painful urination, itching, and burning. 

Fishy odors may also occur because of a sexually transmitted infection called trichomoniasis. Some symptoms of trichomoniasis include redness, itching, burning, painful urination, and vaginal discharge changes (green, white, or yellow discharge).

  • Yeast - can be a sign of a yeast infection. It may cause itching and discomfort.
  • Rotten meat odors can indicate that something has been left inside the vagina, like a forgotten tampon. People with this smell may experience vaginal swelling, itching, painful urination, fever, abdominal or pelvic pain, and redness. Vaginal discharge may appear brown, gray, green, pink, or yellow. 

When to See Your OB/GYN

You need to see a doctor immediately if your vaginal odor has a 

  • Fishy odor
  • Bleach/ammonia odor 

And if you are also experiencing symptoms such as:

  • Rashes
  • Redness and swelling
  • Foul or strong odor resembling fish or ammonia
  • Itching, burning, or irritation in the vaginal area
  • Unusual discharge consistency or color
  • Itching or burning
  • Pain during urination or sexual intercourse
  • Bleeding (that is not period blood)

If you have these symptoms along with foul odors, it may indicate a vaginal infection that needs to be taken care of with antibiotics or other medications.

Kushae Recommendation

Hygiene: As we sweat, the pH of our skin rises, causing bacteria on our skin to multiply. And odors start to increase. The vaginal environment is especially prone to sweat, and bacteria can grow out of control quickly. When your lady parts smell not-so-fresh, that's not on you. That's on your pH balance. Use our gentle 2-N-1 foaming vaginal wash to cleanse and moisturize your vulva and get rid of foul odors for good. 

Our Gentle 2-N-1 Foaming Wash is created by OB/GYN and leverages naturally mineral-rich Montmorillonite clay (from western France) to create perfect pH balance, reduce vaginal odors, dissolve bacteria, and immobilize yeast where you need it most. 

October 11, 2023

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.