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What These 6 Vaginal Smells Actually Mean

Is this normal?


While the world may convince you that your vagina should always smell like roses, that couldn’t actually be further from the truth.

Vaginas are supposed to smell, this is due to the good bacteria in there keeping it healthy. The issue is when the smell changes from your natural aroma, it could smell fishy, or yeasty, or something that just smells bad. These are signs that a trip to the doctors may be in order. 

Here are six common vaginal doors and what they mean: 

Garlic, onions, or any other type of food.

Your breath is not the only thing affected by garlicky meal or a strong coffee- fragrant foods can change your vaginal odor to. This doesn’t mean you need to avoid your favorite foods you just need to wash them down with plenty of fluids. 

“If you’re really active, and you’re drinking a lot of water and flushing everything out, I would anticipate that the smell would go away much more quickly,” says Christine O’Connor, MD, director of Well Women and Adolescent care at the Institute for Gynecologic Care at Mercy Medical Care in Baltimore. 

However, rumor has it that pineapple will make your vagina smell sweet. 

Musky and Sweaty

After an intense workout, vaginas like armpits can get a bit funky. However, it’s nothing that a quick rinse in the shower can’t fix. 


The vagina does contain a small amount of yeast if it starts smelling like a bakery down there, it could be a sign of a yeast infection. A yeast infection is often accompanied by a white, clumpy discharge. The infection can be caused by hormones, antibiotics, certain cleansers, or anything that throws off your natural pH.

There is no need to panic as yeast infections are easily treatable, so if you have any symptoms just call your doctor to get checked out. 


If it smells like metal down there, it probably just means that you’re on your period. Blood contains iron, so a metallic smell can be expected. The odor should go once your flow has finished, but you can wash out your vagina with water if it lingers. 

Something Rotten

If your flow light it’s easy to forget that a tampon is in there. In the worst case scenario, this can lead to Toxic Shock Syndrome. If you have any other symptoms of TSS like dizziness, nausea or diarrhea- remove the tampon and get to the doctors quickly. 

More likely though, a wayward tampon will just lead to a build-up of bacteria which will produce a foul, rotten odor. If you have finished your period in the last week this is the most likely culprit. You can check for the tampon yourself by swiping the vagina with a clean finger. If you’re not sure to see a doctor for a quick check.


Worst case, a funky fishy odor could be a sign of bacterial vaginosis, a fairly common infection caused by an upset pH balance in your vagina. The odor is not normally a major symptom of BV, so ask yourself if you have noticed anything else unusual- normal symptoms include a change in discharge color, itching, and irritation in the vaginal area. 

It can also be a sign of pelvic inflammatory disease which is accompanied by pain in the pelvic area.

Most vaginal odors aren’t anything to worry about, so as long as a shower clears it up, you are good to go. To help control odors you should try wearing breathable underwear which allows the air to flow to that area. You should also remember not to use super strong soaps or douching because it will throw off the natural pH down there and can lead to worse odors. If the odor persists then it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor to make sure it’s not an infection. 


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