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Different Vaginal Smells and Why They Happen


The vagina produces a distinctive odor that varies according to what's inside. A healthy vagina is usually clean, like a baby's bottom, and has a sweet scent. But sometimes there are reasons why the vagina might smell different. For example, if you're menstruating, the blood can cause a certain amount of stench. Vaginal infections, such as bacterial vaginosis, can also make the area smell foul. And because the vagina is exposed to air, it can pick up odors from outside sources.

In addition to the normal vaginal odor, many women experience a tangy or sour one. This "vaginal discharge," as it's often called, can vary in color and consistency. Sometimes it's clear, other times it's milky white, yellowish, greenish, brownish, or bloody. There are several causes of vaginal discharge, including hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause, yeast infections, and sexually transmitted diseases.

Here are 5 common vaginal odors and what causes each one.

vaginal smells

Tangy Vaginal Odor 

The vagina produces a natural odor called vaginal secretions. These odors come from lactic acid produced by lactobacillus bacteria found naturally in the vagina. This odor is usually described as tangy, fermented, or vinegary.

A vaginal discharge that smells like vinegar isn't necessarily a sign of infection. But it could indicate you're missing out on some good bacteria. which can potentially lead to an increase in the number of bad bacteria.

Fishy Vaginal Odor

The smell of rotting fish is a vaginal odor caused by a vaginal infection resulting from changes in the vaginal flora. The change in vaginal pH produces an uncontrolled growth of bacteria that causes bacterial vaginosis.

Bacterial vaginosis produces foul-smelling vaginal odors, with a thick yellowish or orange discharge. Other symptoms include itching, irritation, and burning when urinating.

This smell can also be caused by trichomoniasis or Trichomonas vaginalis infection, the most common curable sexually transmitted infection. In this case, the fishy smell is more pronounced than in bacterial vaginosis and the discharge is usually greenish-grey and foamy.

Coppery Vaginal Odor

The metallic smell is characteristic of the menstrual period and the subsequent few days. It is due to changes in the vaginal pH and the blood product, resulting from an increase in iron content. 

This coppery odor can also be caused by light bleeding after sex, vaginal dryness, or vigorous sex with minor abrasions.

Sweet Vaginal Odor

A sweet smell in the vagina may indicate an overgrowth of yeast, which is a fungus. It may be similar to the sweet smell of honey, bread, or biscuits.

Yeast overgrowth leads to vaginal infections, especially the overgrowth of Candida albicans, a fancy word for vaginal yeast infection. These infections also manifest themselves as itching and irritation of the vulva and vagina, and a thick, sticky discharge similar to cheese or curd.

Sweaty Vaginal Odor  

When it's hot, you're bound to sweat, so you may have a little more odor on your skin and in your private parts. If you wear tight clothing or polyester panties in hot weather, it's easy for the sweat to get into the folds of your vulva or groin and cause bad odors to develop. To avoid this, use cotton underwear, skirts and dresses instead, and make sure you wash and dry all the folds in your intimate area.

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