Having a specific scent "down there" is actually very common, but most of us don't go around discussing the topic. Because of this, many women wonder if certain scents are indicative of health issues. This isn't always the case, and there isn't usually cause to worry, or feel ashamed of your body's natural processes, but there are some signs that indicate you may not have a healthy feminine odor. Knowing the difference between a healthy vagina and the symptoms of a health issue is important, as you'll want to see a doctor if anything seems to be amiss with your reproductive health.
"Everyone has a distinct vaginal odor that is unique to them," Lakeisha Richardson, MD, OB/GYN tells Bustle. "Vaginal odor can change depending on diet and the type of personal hygiene products that you use. Some vaginal odor will tend to be more musky after exercising or working out."
And that is completely common, and also healthy. However, certain type of odors can indicate an infection, and you'll want to make sure you see your gynecologist if your vaginal smell is accompanied by any unusual symptoms. If you're not sure if your scent down is there is a cause for concern, watch out for these seven signs that experts say may mean it's time to consult your OB/GYN.
1The Odor Smells Strongly "Fishy"
"The number one cause of vaginal odor is Bacterial Vaginosis (BV), which is an overgrowth of the bacteria that normally exists in the vagina and it causes a distinct fishy odor," Vagisil's expert gynecologist Dr. Althea O'Shaughnessy tells Bustle. This is usually accompanied by thin, grey discharge. As previously mentioned, a general feminine odor is common for a healthy vagina, but take note if it is accompanied by these other symptoms.
2The Odor Smells "Rotten"
A "rotten" smell that seems to deviate from your normal scent is also something to pay attention to. "The most common reason you may notice a rotten scent unlike you’ve ever encountered before is due to a tampon accidentally left in the vagina," Jessica Guerrero, M.D., an OB/GYN with the Institute for Women’s Health, tells Bustle. "Among other problems, this could lead to Toxic Shock Syndrome, so be sure to get checked out for both safe removal of the tampon and any follow-up treatment necessary."
3The Odor Spells Like Ammonia
A number of conditions could be responsible for a strong ammonia odor, from dehydration to menopause. "Urea, which leaves your body through urination, is the byproduct of your body breaking down proteins into ammonia," says Guerrero. "Traces of urine in a woman’s underwear may contribute to this smell."
4Your Discharge Is A Different Color
5Your Discharge Is Chunky
Yeast infections can also cause a smell, but this will usually be accompanied by a discharge with an unusual texture. "With a yeast infection, there will be a pasty odor with a chunky white or yellow discharge," says Delucia. If this odor change is accompanied by this symptom, consult your OB/GYN about ways to treat a possible yeast infection.
6The Odor Change Is Accompanied By Itching
Along with discharge, yeast infections and BV tend to be accompanied by itching. "If you notice this sharp scent and are experiencing vaginal itching or discomfort, your gynecologist can prescribe an over-the-counter treatment," says Guerrero.
7The Odor Change Is Accompanied By Pain Or Swelling
"In general, when odor is accompanied by other symptoms, such as itching, abdominal swelling, and/or pain, it warrants evaluation by your health care provider," Dr. Vasiliki Moragianni, reproductive endocrinologist with CCRM Northern Virginia, tells Bustle.
Your vaginal scent can fluctuate as a result of hormones and lifestyle habits, but if you're ever in doubt, and you notice some of these accompanying symptoms, see your OB/GYN to keep your vagina healthy.