We’re used to hearing about the usual suspects like infections and STIs, but there are actually several other surprising things that can affect how your vagina smells.
While you're probably pretty used to having a specific scent downstairs, it is possible that certain things can change the smell of your vagina. While this may be a sign of a health concern, there are several weird (and totally OK) things that can alter your pH and change things up in the odor department.
But before we get to any of that, let's talk about scents that may be a sign something's wrong. As Vagisil's Intimate Health Gynecologist Dr. Althea O'Shaughnessy says, "... a strong odor ... might be abnormal and could indicate a problem that you should talk to your gynecologist about." This is especially true if the smell is particularly "fishy" or if you notice any discharge. Your gyno can help clear up a yeast infection, UTI, or other underlying problem that may be making you feel less than fresh. And they can offer some healthy tips so you'll be able to keep things in tip top shape.
Once those types of problems are cleared up, you and your vagina should be pretty much good to go. As for other changes in your scent, it may be strange, but it's rarely anything to worry about. Read on for some likely culprits.
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While you should feel free to use whichever tampon or pad you like, sometimes using them can change the pH of your vulva — and that can affect the scent you're used to. If pH imbalance is something you're worried about, switching to a menstrual cup may help. "The cups don't interfere with the vaginal balance," says Julie Weigaard Kjaer, co-founder of the Ruby Cup. Just something to consider, should you be interested.
If you're all about donuts (and really, who isn't?) it may eventually change your scent. As Weigaard Kjaer tells me, a particularly sugary diet can lead to a different vaginal odor. Fruits and veggies, on the other hand, may lead to a more subtle scent.
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Some medications can mess with your scent, Weigaard Kjaer tells me. So if you notice an odor change, this may be why. If you're worried about it, talk with your doctor. He or she can look into switching things up for an Rx that has less side effects.
On a day-to-day basis, you might clean around you vulva with expert care. Or, you might just give yourself a once over with the shower nozzle. Depending on how thoroughly you clean, you might notice a change in scent. This is especially true if you happened to use a strong soup, which can throw off your pH. As Weigaard Kjaer says, "If you must use soap, find a mild, natural, or neutral soap without perfumes or chemical additives."
Alcohol is one of those things (like asparagus, garlic, or spicy foods ) that can change the way your body smells, Weigaard Kjaer tells me. If you notice that your pee (or your general vaginal area) smells a bit different after a night of heavy drinking, it may be due to all those vodka cranberries.
Sex can change the scent of your bits due to (you guessed it) that pesky pH. As Lauren Jefferson, co-founder of the homeopathic treatment VagMagic tells me, sexual activity — and the presence of semen — can change how you smell. If it's not something you find agreeable, a quick shower post-sex can get things back to normal.
Are you all about satin or lacy underwear? If so, I totally get it. They may be cute, but non-breathable undies can affect how you smell. This is all thanks to a build up of sweat, Dr. Neha Singh Rathod tells me, since satin underwear isn't exactly breathable. Sticking to cotton underwear is the healthiest option, since they allow your parts to get some air.
According to health writer Amy Marturana on SELF, it's normal to experience scent changes throughout your cycle. This is thanks, in part, to changes in your hormones. It can also be due to solidified blood towards the end of your period, which often has a tendency to hang out inside your vagina.
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If your diet is full of fermented foods — like yogurt, kefir, and kombucha — you might notice a change in your vaginal smell. That's because they're full of friendly bacteria (probiotics) registered dietician Isabel Maples, MEd, RDN tells me. It seems so simple, but that yogurt really can make a difference.
That's because your entire vulva area is a delicate environment, and one that can be thrown of its game fairly easily. As long as you don't have a health problem — like an infection — it's totally not worth worrying about.
This article has been edited from its original version.
Images: Pexels (10)
Watch: How to Make Your Vagina Smell Good