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Vaginal odor: 9 different types you must know about

Do you smell something fishy? Read this!

Having a specific vaginal odor is quite common. But most of us run away from discussing it. And because of this many women assume that their odor is indicative of a serious medical condition.

However, this isn't always the case. There isn't always a cause of worry and you should not feel ashamed of your vaginal odor --- unless there are certain red flags which we will tell you about shortly.

According to the American College of Obstreticians and Gyneacologists (ACOG), "A certain amount of vaginal odor is normal. If the odor is strong and noticeable, an infection or other problem may be the cause."

So for instance, a strong 'fishy' smell might be abnormal and may indicate a medical condition. Or, if a peculiar vaginal odor is accompanied by itching, irritation or discharge you may need to visit the doctor.

But what are these specific vaginal odors you need to be worried about? Let's take an in-depth look at this subject.

Vaginal odor: Everything you need to know about it

Did you just sniff something not so pleasant wafting out from your lady parts? It could just be that you haven't had time for a shower yet after a workout. But, the smell may also be related to a medical condition.

In general, you need to be aware of nine specific types of vaginal odors that can be a cause of worry.

vaginal odour While having a vaginal odor is normal, you must know which specific ones are not. | Image courtesy: stock image

1. Musky

When you have a healthy vagina, your vaginal odor may vary based on your physical activities. For instance, if you hit the gym or go out for a run, you will notice a strong, musky smell. This is due to the moisture that the sweat glands release around the area.

While this is normal, any smell that makes you want to shower your vagina with perfume is a cause for concern. As per SCOG, "If you feel that you need to cover up the odor, you may have a medical condition that needs treatment. Sprays, deodorants, and douches are not recommended and may make things worse."

Possible cause. Increased amount of sweat.

Treatment. Take a shower after your sweaty gym sessions and slip into comfortable and clean clothing, including cotton underpants.

2. Fishy

If your vagina gives off a very strong and fishy odor, chances are that you have an infection down there. There are a few situations you should bear in mind.

For instance, right after sex if you notice that your vagina gives off a fishy smell and there is an increase in discharge, you could be suffering from bacterial vaginosis.

This is a mild infection of the vagina where there is an imbalance between the good and bad bacteria. However, it can be cured with antibiotics and precautions such as avoiding multiple sexual partners and smoking.

Another instance could be if you notice a green vaginal discharge you could be suffering from trichomoniasis. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "It is caused by infection with a protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. Although symptoms of the disease vary, most people who have the parasite cannot tell they are infected."

If you notice any itching, burning or soreness of the genital or a burning sensation while urinating, it could be due to trichomoniasis.

However, it can be treated and for that you will need to visit your doctor.

Possible cause. Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) or Trichomoniasis.

Treatment. Visit a doctor for prescriptions to antibiotics. Only they can cure both bacterial vaginosis as well as trichomoniasis.

3. Bleach or chlorine

The use of condoms or lubricants can lead to this smell, which most women associate with that of chlorine or bleach. Luckily, it is nothing to worry about. You just need to clean out your drawers and buy some fresh condoms and lubricants.

Remember: even though it may smell like there is a swimming pool in your vagina, resorting to douching of any kind is not a solution. Do not force-clean your vagina to get rid of the smell.

It is not indicative of any medical condition and incidentally, this smell is not even produced by your vagina.

Possible cause. Transfer of smell from use of condoms or semen after sexual intercourse.

Treatment. Wash your vagina with some warm water and a natural soap. However, if the smell doesn't go away, you should consult a doctor to understand why it still remains.

vaginal odour When your vaginal odor smells yeasty, chances are you have a yeast infection that will need medications to cure. | Image courtesy: stock image

4. Yeasty

Does your vagina smell like you have bread dough rising in there?

You may know that there is some amount of yeast already present in our vaginas. But when the numbers increase due to artificial lubrication, spermicides or the use of antibiotics or even pregnancy, it can lead to a yeast infection.

ACOG explains, "A yeast infection is caused by an overgrowth of yeast in the vagina. This can result from lubricants, spermicides, taking antibiotics (which destroy the “good” bacteria in the vagina), or pregnancy. The most common symptoms are itching and burning of the vulva."

As mentioned in our previous article, a yeast infection can be characterized by thick discharge that is white like cottage-cheese; and may lead to itchiness, burning or vaginal irritation.

The best solution to this problem is an anti-yeast medication prescribed by a doctor. "Yeast infections can be treated either by placing anti-yeast medication into the vagina or by taking a pill," advises ACOG.

Possible cause: Yeast infection.

Treatment. Visit the doctor if along with the smell the discharge is also abnormal. You may have to take an anti-yeast medication that can be taken orally or inserted into the vagina.

5. Metallic

If your vagina smells metallic, almost like you are smelling a tin, then chances are it's because you are about to get your period or when are on it. Usually, when the menstrual blood mixes with the natural smell of a healthy vagina, it causes this metallic smell.

It could also be because of semen. When semen enters your vagina it can result in this smell, unless of course, you wash it away.

Both of these things change the pH balance in your vagina. But after a proper clean up, your vagina will start smelling like its normal self again. Therefore, any vaginal odor that is akin to a metal is not harmful. It is absolutely normal.

Again, if you do pick up on this peculiar smell, do not try to clean your vagina by douching.

Possible cause. Your menstrual cycle, or semen after sexual intercourse.

Treatment. Wash it with some warm water and a mild fragrance-free soap.

6. Sweet

You might think this is strange. But, it's actually not.

As mentioned in our previous article, out of all the vaginal odors on this list, nobody would mind a sweet scent coming from down there. The possible cause is your diet. Yes, you read that right!

Having citrus fruits such as pineapple, oranges, and grapefruit can sweeten the smell and taste of your vaginal fluids. If you are not happy about this smell, then you might want to cut down on citrus fruits.

Possible cause. Daily diet.

Treatment. Cut down on citrus fruits.

vaginal odour The good news about your vagina smelling like garlic is that it is not indicative of a medical problem. | Image courtesy: stock image

7. Onion or garlic(y)

While on one hand, citrus fruits can help your vagina smell sweet, excess intake of vegetables such as onions, garlics, asparagus, and curry can cause it to smell almost onion or garlic-like.

Unless you are working towards warding off Dracula from going down on you, this smell can be quite unpleasant. However, the good news is that it is not indicative of a medical condition.

If you change your food patterns, the smell should go away.

Possible cause. Diet.

Treatment. Change your diet and reduce the consumption of onions and garlic, or foods that give off a peculiar smell.

8. Chemicals or ammonia

You may already know that our urine has ammonia. It becomes more prominent when you do not wash your vagina properly or do not drink enough water during the day. It increases the concentration of ammonia in the body, thereby causing that lingering smell when you pee. The other reason could be bacterial vaginosis (BV).

As stated before, BV is because of an imbalance in good and bad bacteria and apart from a fishy smell, it can also lead to the vagina smelling like ammonia. In order to get rid of this smell, drink lots of water and maintain good hygiene.

Possible cause: Poor hygiene or Bacterial Vaginosis.

Treatment. Keep your vagina clean by using warm water and a mild soap. Keep yourself well hydrated and drink a minimum of 10 glasses of  water per day.

9. Rotten meat

As mentioned in our previous article, "forgotten feminine hygiene products can lead to an awful stench from the vagina." Sometimes you may just leave a tampon inside for longer than necessary and that can caused this type of vaginal odor.

Basically, a foreign object lodged inside in the vagina can lead to an accumulation and growth of bad bacteria. If the object is not taken out in time, it can even lead to toxic shock syndrome.

In addition, as we stated before, "if you use kinky sex objects and use foreign objects to turn up the heat with your partner (or by yourself), always remember to make sure everything is accounted for and has been retrieved after your hot and steamy session."

Possible cause. Forgotten tampon or any foreign object stuck inside the vagina.

Treatment. Make sure there’s nothing lodged up inside of you. If you cannot get it out by yourself, get a doctor's help.

Sources: Bustle, Cosmopolitan, Health Central

Also read: Vaginal tightening: Simple ways to tighten your private parts

Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Singapore