Every healthy woman has her own noticeable vaginal odor, even if she practices proper hygiene. It is similar to light fermented milk or musk.
However, the odor is not always the same. Its nature and intensity depends on one’s age, physiological markers, physical activity, menstrual cycle phase, and other factors. For example, the vaginal odor can become more unpleasant after unprotected heterosexual intercourse. This is because the pH balance of the vagina is 4.0–4.5 and that of sperm is 7.2–8.0. When they come in contact, the vaginal flora is destroyed. The same happens with menstrual blood (which is slightly alkaline). This explains that metallic smell during menstruation.
You don’t have to get rid of the natural vaginal odor, but if there is increased vaginal discharge and the odor becomes stronger, unpleasant or fishy-smelling, and is accompanied by itching and burning, you should see your doctor to rule out any health problems.
Medieval courtesans used vaginal discharge as perfume. They applied it on the skin to seduce men. It’s highly unlikely that anyone does that nowadays, but the fact that the natural smell of the vagina arouses men is still relevant.
According to a survey conducted by American researchers, about 75% of men noted that the smell of the vagina was one of the most important components to awaken their desire. It was also discovered that men reacted more actively to the vaginal smell of women who were close to ovulation. This is because in the middle of the cycle, the female body produces the greatest number of pheromones that increase sexual attraction.
“Fishy” vaginal odor, especially after sex? Burning sensation during urination and itching around the vagina? Whitish discharge? You may have something called bacterial vaginosis, which can also occur without obvious symptoms.
Vaginosis is caused by an imbalance of “good” and “bad” bacteria that are normally present in the vagina. Douching or a new sexual partner increase the risk of developing the disease.
Vaginosis does not belong to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but it increases the probability of getting them.
You cannot catch the infection in a public toilet, when sharing bedding or in the pool. Sometimes, vaginosis passes after a few days without any treatment. If the symptoms do not disappear, it is better to consult your doctor and undergo medical treatment.
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Indeed, the consumption of certain products changes the acidity level of the microflora responsible for the smell of your vagina. Spices, smoked foods, onion, garlic, broccoli, asparagus, and coffee are all on the list of foods that make your vag smell and taste bad sometimes. The excessive consumption of meat, dairy products, and alcohol can make the vaginal smell strong and acrid. On the other hand, citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits), make the smell and taste of vaginal fluids sweeter.
According to research, women who adhere to a vegetarian diet have a milder and more pleasant vaginal odor. To reduce the impact of a certain product, drink enough water.
It is enough to observe a few simple rules for good genital smell:
- Wash your genitals regularly (1–2 times a day).
- Wear clean, comfortable underwear (preferably made out of cotton).
- Do not rinse/douche the area inside your vagina unless necessary. (As a rule, this procedure is prescribed by a doctor.)
- Take care of your nutrition. (Many foods affect vaginal odor.)
- Monitor the nature of your discharge and undergo regular checkups by a gynecologist. (An unpleasant odor might be caused by an illness.)
Don’t forget that the natural smell of the vagina is a part of the female physiology, and there’s no need to try to get rid of it completely.