This is embarrassing, but I’ve noticed that I sometimes smell down there. I don’t always have any weird discharge along with it, although sometimes I do. I just sometimes smell and I don’t know why. It makes me really self-conscious. Is this normal or am I weird? Is something wrong?
Relax, girl: you’re definitely not weird. Everyone smells down there. No one talks about it, but everyone experiences it. And while I can understand how it can make you self-conscious, it’s really probably not as bad as you think it is.
However, it is important to get a better understanding of what could be going on down there. Your vag area is super sensitive. Although vaginal odor is normal, you should still rule out anything that could be fishy down there (see what I did there?). To explain what I mean, I enlisted the help of Dr. Flo from HelloFlo (a monthly period care package you need to check out), who is pretty much an expert on all things vagina.
According to Dr. Flo, most vaginal odor comes from discharge. She says, “Women have a normal white vaginal discharge along with healthy bacteria that protect the vagina from infection. A healthy discharge will look clear to milky in color, and will have a ‘vagina-like’ smell. The vagina is not meant to smell like a rose garden, but it has a familiar scent that many do enjoy. Depending on the time of the month, vaginal discharge can change in consistency and smell.”
Dr. Flo continues: “The key is to know what your ‘normal’ smells like. All of us with a vagina usually know that awkward feeling if a new and strange smell comes our way.” So, pay attention to your scents. If you smell something you’ve never smelled before, that could mean something is going on.
It’s important to realize how sensitive the vagina is – any small change in your daily environment could cause it to act up. According to Dr. Flo, these are some “factors that affect the normal pH balance of the vagina:”
• Antibiotic use
• New sexual partners
• Sexually intercourse frequency
• Sex toys
• Hormonally imbalances such as pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause
As Dr. Flo says, “These factors can not only cause a weird odor, but can also create other uncomfortable symptoms,” which may include:
• Vulvar itching, burning, redness, and swelling.
• Vaginal discharge that can be white, yellow, or grey and can be thin, thick or lumpy.
• Vaginal odor may or may not be present.
Something to keep in mind: “A strong, foul, fishy vaginal odor with a thin, grayish-white discharge is classic for a bacterial infection, but it can also occur with other organisms.” What is Dr. Flo talking about? Basically, those symptoms don’t always mean you have something as simple as a bacterial infection. They could also mean you have candidiasis, bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, etc.
If you’re experiencing those symptoms as well as a different scent, then Dr. Flo says, “it is important that you see your healthcare provider to have a series of vaginal cultures taken to find out what organism is involved. Many of you will go to the drugstore and buy over-the-counter medication for a yeast infection if there is any kind of vaginal discharge or itching. Unfortunately, this can make the symptoms worse and delay a proper diagnosis and treatment.”
So, here’s the deal: smelling down there could mean nothing, or it could mean something more serious. If you notice a scent you’ve never smelled before along with other symptoms, going to the doctor is worth it. If you notice a smell but no other symptoms, you’re probably fine.