An Odour is caused by one or more volatilized chemical compounds that are generally found in low concentrations that humans and animals can perceive by their sense of smell. An odour is also known as a “smell” or a “scent”, which can either be pleasant or unpleasant. 

Having body odour or mouth odour can be very embarrassing so one can imagine what a woman goes through when she thinks she has a vaginal odour.

Let me state this fact – every woman’s vagina is supposed to have a natural distinctive smell, it is unrealistic to think or try to make your vagina smell like a bed of roses all the time or like a sweet-smelling perfume from Paris. A vagina is supposed to smell like, guess what? A VAGINA!!!

So, what is the natural smell of a vagina? I will answer this question by answering a new question which is, why do vaginas have scents?

Vaginas have scents because of their PH  which tells you how acidic or basic something is and runs on a 0 to 14 scale with point 7 being the neutral point. A PH less than 7 indicates acidity and one more than 7 is alkaline.

The PH of the vagina normally ranges from 3.4 – 4.5. This is because of the normal flora living there called the lactobacilli. Therefore, the vagina is acidic and can have different scents at different times.

Vaginal odour and their causes

Tangy/acidic smell

This is a sharp lemon-like smell which is the vagina’s natural smell. Some pharmaceutical companies have been able to brainwash a lot of women that this smell is not acceptable so it’s one of the commonest complaints we hear in the consulting rooms. Dear ladies, this smell is actually very good for our vaginas because of its acidity, it encourages the growth of the good bacteria and suppresses the growth of the bad bacteria which altogether makes our vaginas healthy. 

Bleach/ammonium smell

Just like the name, this smell is similar to bleach and women usually have this when they don’t wipe well after urinating. We hear of ladies going to the bathrooms with antiseptic solutions to wash the vaginas when they can easily practice good personal hygiene. It is usually not a cause for alarm because this smell disappears after taking a bath but if you are constantly having urine leak into your panties even after you have wiped well, then it might be a sign of a urinary tract infection and this can be easily treated by seeing your doctor. 

Earthy smell

This smell is usually after you’ve sweated a lot, for example after exercising or walking in the sun for long hours. Also wearing tight clothing below your waist can make you sweat a lot in your perineal area. The sweat will mix with the bacteria (dirt)  from your groin area giving off that smell. This smell also disappears after taking a bath.

Metallic smell

This is the smell you perceive when you remove your menstrual pad/ tampons/cups. Every woman who menstruates has this smell for some days every month. This is because menstrual blood contains iron which is a metal, so when this blood reacts with the air outside the body, it oxidizes giving that unique metallic smell. The solution to getting rid of this smell is taking a bath at least twice a day when you are menstruating. Thankfully, doctors hardly get such complaints in the consulting room because most women know that blood has a particular smell and are able to relate it quickly to their period.

Metallic vaginal odour is caused by periods

Yeast smell

This smell can be described also as the bread smell. It usually indicates that there is a vaginal infection due to overgrowth of the yeast that naturally lives in the vagina. Yeast infections which are very common are easily recognized by women but are however often misdiagnosed. Yeast infections usually have other symptoms such as vaginal discharge, itching of the vulva and pain on urinating and an earthy or tangy smell. This infection can be treated with an over the counter antifungal medication.

Fishy smell

This smell is synonymous to the infection called bacterial vaginosis. This is not a sexually transmitted infection but, it is very common because most women are obsessed with trying to make their vaginas smell flowery; hence, they tend to insert a lot of things into them, which changes the PH and cause this infection. It is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as vaginal discharge and lower abdominal pain. This infection is treatable, do not worsen the situation by inserting more foreign objects into the vagina or taking herbal medications. A visit to a nearby clinic will solve this issue. 

There are other sexually transmitted diseases such as trichomoniasis which gives a very offensive vaginal odour. Most women, instead of reporting to the hospital for treatment, self-medicate and only visit the hospital when the situation has worsened.

Rotten smell 

This smell results from inserting foreign objects such as garlic, ginger, cloves into the vagina and forgetting to remove them later. Most women often seek help only when it is almost too late because they feel embarrassed. This practice has long term effects, and women should know that the vagina has ways of taking care of itself, all you need is water.

Rotten vaginal odour and its causes