Yes, it’s completely normal for your vagina to have a smell – despite what a lifetime of marketing that has told us otherwise.
Vaginal odour is the smell that your vagina and vaginal discharge give off. Contrary to popular belief, healthy vaginas are not odourless, so a certain amount of smell is normal. There is a spectrum of normal vaginal smells, and each woman’s vagina will smell differently.
It’s understandable if you’re self conscious about the way your genitals smell, but in most cases there is nothing to worry about. That being said, if the odour is unusually noticeable or foul, it’s it could indicate that you may have an infection, or some other problem.
To keep your vagina healthy, you need to supply your vaginal microbiome with good bacteria. Daye's ProViotics contain nothing but Lactobacillus plantarum GLP3 which is extracted from the snowdrop flower, and grown in organic carrot juice.
Keep on reading for a list of common vaginal smells, as well as odours you should look out for if you catch a whiff.
Why does my vagina smell?
Your vagina is home to billions of bacteria that make up your vaginal microbiome and keep your pH acidic, preventing vaginal infections. Vaginas are self-cleaning and produce discharge to keep unhealthy bacteria at bay, so it’s logical that you may have a “smell”.
It’s hard to describe what a healthy vagina may smell like (after all, they're all unique), but usually a normal vaginal odour ranges anywhere between musky or fleshy, or tangy and metallic. And no, don’t worry, other people can’t “smell” you.
It’s also normal for the smell of your discharge and vagina to subtly fluctuate from time to time. You might notice that your vaginal odour is more noticeable when you're sweaty (we have sweat glands in our groin), after having intercourse, or throughout certain phases of your menstrual cycle. But if you notice a sudden, noticeable difference in the way your vagina and discharge smell, that could be a sign of a potential infection.
Fishy smelling discharge
Fishy or foul-smelling discharge can be a sign of bacterial vaginosis (BV), the most common cause of unusual vaginal discharge.
BV is caused by an overgrowth of bad bacteria, and also causes thin, watery vaginal discharge that is white or grey in colour.
A fishy vaginal odour is sometimes a sign of trichomoniasis, a very common STI. Other causes of trichomoniasis are vaginal discharge that may be thick, thin or frothy and yellow-green in colour, soreness, swelling and itching around the vagina, and pain or discomfort when peeing or having sex.
Foul or strong smelling vaginal discharge
If your discharge smells bad, but not fishy, and is accompanied by a high fever and pelvic pain, it could be a sign of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
PID happens when bacteria from an untreated STI (like gonorrhoea and chlamydia) travel from the vagina into the upper reproductive tract, spreading the infection to the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries.
PID can increase your risk of serious and long-term reproductive health issues, so it’s important to contact your GP or A&E immediately if you experience symptoms.
Rotten vaginal smell
We know it’s not a pretty thing to picture, but if you notice a rotten or putrid smell, it could be a sign of a retained tampon. A retained tampon is a tampon that has been forgotten in the vagina for days, even weeks – and it’s a lot more common than you’d think.
Anything placed in the vagina for too long (whether it’s a tampon or menstrual cup) can become a breeding ground for bacteria, putting you at risk of infection like BV, thrush, or potentially fatal ones like TSS.
In most cases you’ll be able to tell if you have a retained tampon if you notice unusual, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, discomfort, and in some cases even vaginal bleeding. Don’t be embarrassed if this happens to you, because doctors are used to it!
How do you get rid of vaginal odour?
Most of the time vaginal odour is completely healthy, so there’s no reason to get rid of it.
Depending on the type of smell you notice, you may have to contact your GP to rule out any potential infections. Aside from an unpleasant smell, you should look out for other symptoms, like changes in the look and consistency of your vaginal discharge, and any itching or discomfort. Once the infection has been treated, the smell will go away as well.
Vaginas are not meant to smell like a perfume counter, so it’s completely ok for your vagina to smell like a vagina! Although there are a range of products – from wipes and washes, to sprays and scented tampons – promising to make your vagina smell good, there is really no need for them. Intimate washes, especially heavily fragranced ones, can disrupt your vaginal microbiome and actually cause your vagina to smell worse than it did before.
If you have a vagina, the best thing you can do is get acquainted with how your vagina smells day to day, so you can spot when your odour is off and stop a potential infection in its tracks.