Why does my vaginal discharge smell?
At some point in our lives, we’ll all experience something: smelly vaginal discharge. There’s plenty of reasons why you might get this from time to time and in this blog, we’ll explore them. So if you’ve ever wondered to yourself “why does my vaginal discharge smell?” you’re in the right place!
What is vaginal discharge?
Vaginal discharge is a normal bodily function in which fluid, mucus, and cells are produced and expelled from the vagina. This discharge helps to keep the vagina clean, lubricated & healthy.
When it comes to amount, colour and consistency, vaginal discharge can vary depending on many factors such as age, menstrual cycle, sexual activity & pregnancy. Healthy vaginal discharge is usually clear or milky white in colour, either with or without a slight odour
Getting to know your body and what’s “normal” for you is very important and allows you to know when to seek medical attention. If you ever notice a difference in colour, texture, smell or amount of vaginal discharge it may indicate an infection.
Why does my vaginal discharge smell?
There’s a few reasons why you might experience a smelly vagina, from potential infections & lifestyle to hygiene issues, here’s what can cause vaginal discharge to smell…
This just your natural smell
The vagina is an amazing & self-cleaning organ and its natural scent is nothing to be ashamed of. Whilst they’re not designed to smell of anything (especially not a fruity cocktail, spring bouquet or fresh meadow) and faint scent is absolutely healthy.
Discharge often has an earthy/musky smell that shouldn’t be unpleasant. In fact, on some days you may not even notice it, while on other days around your period you may notice a metallic smell as a small amount of blood may have combined with it.
Remember: you don’t need to use any products with perfumes or fragrances. These extra ingredients play havoc with your vagina’s delicate pH level and cause infections like thrush to thrive.
You’re on your period
Chances are, you’re feeling a little more self-conscious than usual during your period so you may notice a stronger smell. Whilst your period may have a slight metallic smell, generally speaking period odours aren’t noticeable to anyone else.
Practising good hygiene & changing your period care regularly if you’re experiencing a heavy flow should be enough to ensure you’re smell-free. If your period is strong enough to be noticed through your pants or period care, chances are you’ve experienced a leak or overfilled. If this isn’t the case and the smell is still noticeable, again you may be dealing with an infection (especially if you have other symptoms like vaginal discharge or pelvic pain) and you should make an appointment with your doctor to get things checked out.
You may have an infection or an underlying condition
If you notice an unpleasant odour, this is usually a sign of an infection. Here’s what the smell of your vaginal discharge could mean…
If your vaginal discharge smells fishy: bacterial vaginosis
Similarly, the STI trichomoniasis can also cause a fishy odour. Both can be treated with a course of antibiotics.
If your vaginal discharge smells yeasty: thrush
Whilst smelly discharge isn’t usually a symptom of thrush, if you do notice a particularly yeasty scent alongside cottage cheese-like consistency in your discharge, then thrush is the most likely cause. A course of antifungal medicine will clear this up.
If your vaginal discharge smells like ammonia: UTI
If you notice an ammonia smell, urine may be involved and may be a sign of a urinary tract infection. If left untreated, you may experience a fever and other uncomfortable symptoms. A short course of antibiotics will be prescribed by a doctor to get this cleared up.
If your vaginal discharge smells sickly or metallic: gynaecological cancer
In rare cases, smelling sickly or metallic vaginal discharge can indicate cervical or uterine cancer. If you also experience unusual bleeding seek medical advice.
If your vaginal discharge smells particularly unpleasant and you’re experiencing high fever, rash or diarrhoea and sickness: toxic shock syndrome
TSS is a serious condition and if you suspect you’re experiencing this you require immediate medical attention.
How to avoid smelly vaginal discharge
As we mentioned before, vaginas smell and that’s okay. What’s not okay is when you’re also experiencing other symptoms of infections and things aren’t feeling quite right down there. So, our top tips for avoiding smelly vaginal discharge don’t include using any perfumes or deodorants as they can disrupt the delicate pH balance and cause further infection.
- Always practise good hygiene
- Never use perfumed soaps, deodorants or sprays
- Regularly change your period care (and stick to organic cotton!)
- Wear organic cotton underwear
- Try to not wear tight fitting clothes made from synthetic fabrics
What about a smell but no discharge?
If you’re not suffering with clumpy or coloured discharge, this may just be the smell of your vagina.
PSA: your vagina has its own unique smell and it’s OK!
If you’re suffering with excessive, coloured or textured discharge, rashes/itches or soreness, then you’re probably dealing with an infection or irritation. Your vagina is probably trying to tell you that something isn’t right. Our advice is to always get checked out by a medical professional.
Got another question about smelly vaginal discharge? Get in touch! You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org