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Musky, Fishy Or Metallic: 8 Types Of Vaginal Odours That Every Woman Should Know About

First things first, it is perfectly natural for your vagina to have some kind of smell. And let me tell you this, a healthy vagina does not smell like a field of freshly blossomed lilies. We are constantly bombarded with advertisements and products who swear on making our lady parts smell divine like a bunch of flowers.

Health experts swear by the fact that these perfumed vagina cleaning products can be harmful to the natural balance of vaginal flora, causing bacterial vaginosis (infection) instead. Your vagina is home to thousands of bacteria and the slight musty or metallic smell in your vagina is nothing to be ashamed of, nor be worried about.


Why Does Your Vagina Smell?

It is natural for your vagina to have a distinct smell. The smell of your vagina can resemble your health and the smell keeps changing depending on your lifestyle, diet, menstrual cycle etc. The healthy pH of your vagina is 4.5 [1]. Also, the yeast and bacteria present in and around the private parts can cause the smell, as well as changes in the odour [2].

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When the microbes in your vagina are in a healthy balance, you may not get the strong smell. However, unusual smells are a result of something that is off-balance [3]. In addition to these, some of the other factors that can cause a distinct odour in your vagina are penile-vaginal sex and menopause. As semen have a relatively high pH, it can cause a different kind of smell after you've had penile-vaginal sex [4].


1. Fishy

If your vagina gives off a strong, fishy odour, then chances are you are suffering from an infection. If the odour increases right after intercourse along with a rise in the discharge, then this could be a sign of bacterial vaginosis. Sometimes, it could also be due to excessive bacterial growth [5]. The fishy smell is due to trimethylamine, which is the chemical compound responsible for both the distinct aroma of rotting fish and some abnormal vaginal odours [6].


2. Musky

When your vagina is healthy, the scent can vary based on your activity level and usually it gives off a musty or musky odour [7]. If you notice a strong scent after doing some intense activity, it is perfectly normal, as it is due to the moisture released by the sweat glands. If there is an intolerable change, then this could be a sign of an infection. Intense physical activity like workouts can cause musty smell down there. Trimming the hair down under can help manage the odour [8].


3. Coppery Or Metallic

Sometimes the vagina can give off a metallic odour, resembling that of a coin. It is usually no cause for concern and is mostly noticed when you get periods. This is because the blood mixes with the natural state of the healthy vagina [9]. Light bleeding after sex can also cause this smell [10]. In rare cases, it can indicate severe health problems.

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4. Bleachy Or Ammonia

An odour similar to bleach or ammonia could be due to a buildup of urine in your underwear or around your vulva [11]. Bacterial vaginosis, a common infection can also cause a bleachy smell.


5. Yeasty

It is normal for bacteria to be present in the vagina. But yeast infection occurs when there is an overgrowth due to lubrication, spermicides, antibiotic use or even pregnancy [12]. This fermented or even tangy odour is due to the acidity, which is due to the pH levels in a vagina. The Lactobacilli bacteria keep the vagina acidic and prevent the overgrowth of the bad kinds of bacteria [13].

Yoghurt and even sour beers contain Lactobacilli, the same type of good bacteria in healthy vaginas.

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6. Sweet

A sweetish odour is no cause for concern and necessarily does not mean the sweet smell of a flower or a freshly baked cookie, but more of a natural or earthy odour. The ever-changing bacterial ecosystem of your vagina (and the pH levels) is the cause for this smell [14].


7. Skunky

This type of vaginal odour is more similar to that of your body odour. It can even seem similar to that of marijuana or a smoked herb. A skunky odour in your vagina is caused due to emotional stress [15]. The apocrine sweat glands, which respond according to your emotions, sweat out your groin area when you are in emotional stress.


8. Rotten

Mild odour in your vagina is normal however, a strong, putrid smell in no way indicates anything good. A rotten odour, something that is like that of a dead organism can indicate health problems. In most cases, it is not due to your vagina but something in your vagina [16]. And one of the most common causes for a rotten odour in your vagina is a forgotten tampon.


On A Final Note…

If the odour accompanies pain, itching, thick discharge or a burning sensation, consult a doctor. Subtle shifts in your vaginal odour are normal - remember that the way your vagina smells has everything to do with its pH level, so keep an eye on your hygiene and practise clean habits.

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