Contrary to what advertisers for feminine hygiene and douching products may tell you, your vagina shouldn’t smell like fragrant flowers or be odorless. Vaginal odor is natural for every healthy woman and there’s a perfectly good explanation for this odor. Like the gut microbiome that we’ve all been hearing so much about, the vagina too has its own microbiome. The balance of bacteria and yeast that are part of the microbiome will give it some amount of odor. Under normal circumstances, this odor is most likely to be musty and sour smelling because of the vagina’s acidic pH levels. However, the odor will not be strong and overwhelming or foul. A sudden change in vaginal odor or a distinctive odor could be indicative of health conditions like bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, or urinary tract infections .
Here are some types of vaginal odors and what they could possibly mean.
If the odor of your vagina is extremely unpleasant and you have a pain in your lower abdomen, a fever, or discomfort while having sex, it is possible that you could be suffering from a pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This is often caused by sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia, when the sketchy bacteria move from the vagina or cervix into the uterus and other reproductive organs  .
If the disease is left untreated, it can lead to infertility and chronic pain. Complications can be easily avoided with prescription antibiotics and good vaginal hygiene. If you see any of the above-mentioned symptoms, seek medical treatment promptly
A strong, foul, fishy odor is another common sign of infection. If the odor gets stronger right after sex or is accompanied by a discharge, it could be bacterial vaginosis – a condition marked by an overgrowth of bacteria that alters the vagina’s pH balance. In cases where you notice green discharge, itching and pain while peeing, there’s a possibility of having trichomoniasis – a common STD. Luckily, both conditions can be cured with timely medical intervention.
When you see thick, cottage cheese-like discharge with a faint odor, redness or burning around the vagina, or pain after peeing, yeast infection is the most likely cause.
This is particularly common among diabetic women as yeast feed on sugar, and diabetic women tend to have more glucose in their vaginal secretions. Seek help from your doctor if you notice any of these signs accompanied by discomfort. .
This is definitely the most concerning of all vaginal odors. The cause of a rotten vaginal odor could be due to a tampon that’s left in the vagina for a prolonged period of time. The scent is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in a confined space.
If not dealt with appropriately, the bacteria can sometimes (rarely) trigger toxic shock syndrome. If you know your tampons have been in there for more than eight hours, or you cannot remember the last time you changed it, and if you have corresponding flu-like symptoms – you must see a doctor without further delay.
If your vaginal odor or urine smells bleachy or like ammonia, but there is no discomfort or discharge, you probably have nothing to worry about. The reason for the bleachy odor could be condoms or lubricants that you may have recently used. The smell, generally, fades away on its own. If it lingers for more than a day, you should consult your ob-gyn.
When we say sweet we don’t mean a sweet floral fragrance. We mean not so unpleasant, mild, earthy, and robust. A sweetish tinge is no cause for concern. In fact, it means you have a healthy vagina.
While this should cover the most common odors, there may be some that we missed. In case you notice any change in vaginal odor or an odor that hasn’t been listed here, make it a point to consult your gynecologist immediately.