woman smelling flower

The Most Common Vaginal Odors
(And Why They Happen)

Your vagina is home to sweat glands and billions of bacteria – and that’s normal! The vagina is not supposed to smell fresh or flowery, but can have a lot of different scents that vary based on your menstrual cycle, hormones, personal vaginal flora, and more. Read below for a few common vaginal odors and why they happen so that you can stay more informed. 

1. Tangy Or Fermented Smell 

A slightly tangy or sour aroma, similar to the smell of some fermented foods, is normal. This is due to the presence of the “lactobacilli” bacteria that dominates most healthy vaginas. This bacteria helps keep the vagina acidic, protecting against the growth of bad bacteria. 

2. Coppery “Penny” Smell 

This is usually due to the presence of blood from menstruation, or small cuts or scrapes during sex due to vaginal dryness. It’s nothing to worry about, unless you continue to experience bleeding that’s unrelated to your period or a lot of itching/discharge. 

3. A Sweet Smell 

Some of the bacteria in the vagina can cause a slightly sweet smell. However, if it smells very sweet and you notice a discharge that looks like cottage cheese, this could indicate a yeast infection, particularly if it’s accompanied by feelings of burning, dryness, and itchiness. 

4. Body Odor Or Sweaty Armpit Smells

Women have a high concentration of sweat glands around the outside of the vagina on the labia majora. These “apocrine glands” are similar to those found in the armpits, and can produce a fluid that reacts to the presence of vaginal bacteria to create a pungent, “body odor” aroma.  This is nothing to be concerned about.

5. Pungent “Fishy” Smell

You have likely heard an abnormal vaginal odor described as “fishy” before. The chemical trimethylamine is what’s responsible for the smell of rotting fish, and can be the cause of some vaginal odors, too.

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common cause of the growth of anaerobic bacteria that can cause a rotting fish smell. Or, trichomoniasis, the most common curable STI, could be the cause of this smell. Either way, a very stinky rotting fish smell is not normal – see your gyno right away!

Still Concerned? Come To Women’s Medical Associates Of Nashville!

At Women’s Medical Associates of Nashville, our team is always here to give you peace of mind. Some vaginal odors are normal, but if you are experiencing other symptoms or have an abnormal odor for an extended period of time, you should come and see one of our doctors right away. It never hurts to be cautious about your reproductive health – give us a call at (615) 329-6745 or contact us online to get started.