Ella Ameye @abelcareEU
December 09, 2019

My vagina stinks... Now what? Possible causes of a strong vaginal smell.

Rose scent?

Many women are very aware of the smell of their vagina. A vagina - like a mouth, skin or other body parts - has a unique scent. If you're worried that your vagina doesn't smell of flowers, you're not alone. According to research published in the New York Times, people with vaginas are most often concerned that their vaginas smell of fish, followed by vinegar, onion, ammonia, garlic, cheese, body odor, urine, bread, bleach, faeces, sweat, metal, feet, waste and rotten meat. Often you are most aware of your own smell and usually others can't even smell it. Most women would describe their vaginal smell as musky. It's normal for your vagina to have a smell, but a strong vaginal smell other than your normal smell may indicate that something is going on.

There are a number of factors that can affect your odor: infections or STDs, sports or sweating, hormone levels during the menstrual cycle and changes in the pH of your vagina. Your body is smart. So don't ignore it when your vagina tries to tell you something. A very unpleasant smelly smell can indicate an infection that needs to be treated immediately, especially if it is accompanied by an unusual discharge. So it is wise to consult a doctor.

Below is a list of five common scents and their possible cause:

Your vagina smells like fish 

A fish smell can indicate bacterial vaginosis. Several bacteria grow in your vagina. They are completely normal and keep the vagina healthy. Bacterial vaginosis is caused by an imbalance of different types of bacteria. It is helped by washing the vagina with soap, vaginal showers or sprays, holding down a tampon too long, antibiotics or an IUD. Sometimes bacterial vaginosis has no symptoms at all. Other times it can lead to symptoms such as a thick or foaming discharge that is usually white or grey or yellowish, a strong smelly fish smell (especially after sex or washing with soap) and itching. 

Your vagina smells like bread or beer

A yeast-like odor can indicate a fungal infection. Healthy women also have fungi in their vaginas, but a candida infection indicates overgrowth. It is usually accompanied by a thick, sometimes lumpy or crumbly discharge. You may notice that there is a white layer in and around your vagina.

Your vagina smells acid or musty

This could possibly indicate Trichomonas. Trichomonas (or trichomoniasis) is an STI that is easy to treat. The STI is caused by an infection with a parasite after sexual contact. In addition to smelly secretions that often have a green-yellow colour, the STIs can also be accompanied by foaming secretions, irritation of the skin around the vagina, inflamed labia, abdominal pain or pain during the fitting process.

Your vagina smells like garlic or onion

This often has a natural cause. If you've eaten a lot of onion or garlic, an onion or garlic odour can be released into your urine and your vaginal discharge can temporarily change its odour. 24 to 48 hours after eating the urine and vaginal discharge usually get the normal smell back. It's true that the arse, the urine and the ureter are very close together, so you may think it's the vagina that smells, but it can actually be the urine or faeces. Taking a shower can help.

Your vagina smells like rotten meat

This might indicate a forgotten tampon. The smell can be very dirty. It is a good idea to visit a care provider to make sure that the tampon is found and removed.