There's no denying that vaginas usually have a smell. While there's absolutely nothing wrong or even bad about that (and it's certainly nothing to be ashamed about), it can occasionally feel like you're less than fresh down there. When that happens, it's totally normal to wonder what the heck is going on — and if there's anything you can do about it.
This is especially true when the odor is particularly strong, or if it's accompanied by other symptoms. "Having a smell around the vagina or not feeling fresh is not really abnormal, so as long as it's not out of control and you don't have itching or really heavy discharge," says women's health expert Dr. Amir Marashi, in an email to Bustle.
That can be a sign of infection, which — apart from causing a bad odor — is obviously not great for your health. As with any other infection, you should shove off to the doctor and get that treated ASAP. As for other vaginal odors, they aren't necessarily caused by anything as worrisome. Some can be chalked up to bad habits, or your lifestyle. If you're using a douche, for instance, stop it right now as it can mess with the pH of your lady parts. And while you're at it, read on for some other reasons why you might not be feeling so fresh.
1. You Aren't Getting In There To Clean Thoroughly
Sure, you swirl a loofah around your bits. But do you spread anything apart to truly clean? As sexual psychophysiologist Nicole Prause, Ph.D. says, "To clean in the shower, ladies should not only be sure to gently pull the labia major (larger outer lips) and minora (smaller inner lips) gently apart, but also to retract the clitoral hood to rinse around the clitoris." That's how you'll get the most clean, and remain super fresh.
2. You Have An Untreated UTI
Urinary tract infections are all sorts of common. In fact, as women'shealth expert Dr. Yvonne Bohn tells me, about 60 percent of women will contract a UTI at some point in their lives and about 40 percent will have another. They occur when bacteria find their way inside the urethra, usually during sex or while you're working out. Once treated by a doctor, the itching and burning (and any smell) should go away.
3. You Never Let Your Bits Breathe
It's super necessary to let your bits breathe — especially at night. "Leaving sweat or any kind of moisture down there will throw the pH of the vagina off and will create smells," says Dr. Marashi. From now on, try to sleep without any underwear. I promise it'll feel so freeing — and should take care of any smells.
4. You Just Ate Asparagus
Have you ever noticed that asparagus can make your pee smell bad? "Asparagus is very rich in nitrates, which produce sharp smelling ammonia," says Dr. Svetlana Kogan. This creates an acrid smell that not only affects your pee, but can also surround the vaginal wall. Just something to keep in mind.
5. Your Partner Doesn't Shower Before Sex
While it's not necessary to shower before sex 100 percent of the time, it may be a habit worth adopting if you're truly struggling with vaginal odors. This is especially true for your partner, since they might be throwing off the pH of your vagina. "Make sure they always shower and are clean before sex," Dr. Marashi says. And you should be good.
6. You're All About Those Scented Soaps
I love a scented soap just as much as the next gal. But however tempting it may be, don't use them on your lady parts. As Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a Clinical Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Yale University School of Medicine says, "It is certainly fine to wash the vulva, but please don’t use anything particularly strong or irritating (like deodorant soaps). The less interventions the better."
7. You Leave Your Tampon In A Bit Too Long
As far as your health goes, it's not a great idea to leave your tampon in for too long. Not only can it make you sick (or increase your risk of scary Toxic Shock Syndrome), but it can really mess with your freshness. As Dr. Marashi tells me, it's important to change out tampons and pads regularly, lest you throw off that pesky pH.
8. Your Diet Is High In Sugar
If your go-to snack is a donut or handful of candy, it may explain why you constantly struggle with odors. As Arion Long, founder of the feminine care delivery service Femly says "... a diet high in sweets and fats promotes a bacteria imbalance that can make your vagina the perfect environment for yeast infections, odor, and more." Not good.
9. You Have A Yeast Infection
As with UTIs, yeast infections can really mess with your ish. "Yeast inflections usually have an unfavorable odor, discharge, and [make you] feel inflamed," says Dr. Fares Diarbakerli, a NJ-based OBGYN. To prevent them, always keep the vaginal area clean, change your underwear whenever you get sweaty, and focus on eating a healthy diet.
10. You're Experiencing Hormonal Fluctuations
Whether you're ovulating or about to start your period, hormonal changes abound and with them can come all sorts of odors, according to an article from BerkeleyWellness.com. If the scent is truly bothering you, a doctor may be able to prescribe a hormone treatment to even things out. (Once you weigh the risks, of course.)
11. You Have Vaginitis
Ugh, so many infections, I know. They truly can cause all sorts of problems — including odor. Yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and trichomoniasis all fall under the umbrella of "vaginitis," which is an inflammation of the vagina that can result in discharge, itching, and pain. If you notice any of the above symptoms, go to the doctor for treatment ASAP.
And don't be afraid to seek treatment for the other issues listed above, as well. While it's normal for your vagina to have a smell, it's not normal to experience a pungent fishy scent or deal with any type of itchiness or discharge. Got it? Good.
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