Vaginal Odours

Why Does My Vagina Smell?

Vaginal odours are different for every person and these odours can change for a variety of reasons which might include having sex or your period. If your vagina smells different than it usually does, it may be a sign of an infection or problem. Speak to your doctor if your vaginal odour changes, especially if you have other symptoms such as unusual discharge or itching.

Why Does My Vagina Smell?

Every vagina has a different smell and there is no right way for a vagina to smell. How your vagina smells may change depending on if you have had sex recently, are at different points in your menstrual cycle, or if there has been a change in your vaginal PH (the natural chemical balance of your vagina).

Your vagina may smell differently after sweating, such as after exercise, and this is caused by sweat around your vaginal opening which is called the vulva. This can be fixed by having a shower and washing your vulva with water and unperfumed soaps.

What vaginal odours are normal and healthy?

There is no correct way for a vagina to smell, meaning your normal and healthy vaginal odour could be different to someone else’s. The smell of your vagina may also change from time to time.

It is normal for your vagina to smell:

  • yeasty
  • sweet
  • metallic, especially during or just after your period


What smells should I be concerned about?

There are a few vaginal odours that could be a sign of an infection or problem. There may be cause for concern if your vagina smells:

  • fishy
  • foul

If you notice a change in smell that is not normal for you and does not go away, you should speak to your doctor to make sure you have not got an infection or another underlying vaginal problem.

Why Does My Vagina Have a Fishy Smell?

The main cause of a vagina having a fishy smell is usually bacterial vaginosis (BV) or trichomoniasis. These conditions are often associated with a change in vaginal discharge and can cause other symptoms. If you think you have an infection, you must speak to your doctor to get treatment. You will need antibiotics to get rid of a trichomonas infection however BV does not always need treatment.

What can cause a fishy smell?

There are 2 main causes of a fishy vaginal smell, which are BV and trichomoniasis. BV is a bacterial infection caused by a change in the chemical balance of your vagina. The main symptom of BV is a fishy smell, which gets worse after sex. Your discharge may also change colour and consistency, such as becoming watery and greyish. BV can be treated with antibiotics, which can be taken as tablets or prescribed as a vaginal gel or cream.

Trichomoniasis is an STI which is caused by a parasite. In women, trichomoniasis can cause fishy or offensive vaginal discharge, pain or discomfort whilst peeing, and swelling, itching, or soreness around your vagina.

You should get tested if you think you have trichomoniasis. If you need treatment, you may be prescribed the antibiotic metronidazole, which is usually taken twice daily by mouth, for 5 to 7 days.

Why Does My Vagina Smell Like Bleach?

Urinary incontinence or a urinary tract infection (UTI) may make your vagina smell like bleach. A bleach-like vaginal odour might smell like ammonia or cleaning products. If your vagina smells like bleach, it’s not normally your vagina you are smelling, but the smell of your pee caused by an infection. If you think you have a UTI, you must be seen by your doctor as you may need antibiotics.

What can cause a vagina to smell like bleach?

There are 2 main reasons why your vagina smells like bleach, which are urinary incontinence or a UTI. Urinary incontinence is a condition where you pee unintentionally, or cannot hold your pee. This is a common problem that can make your vagina smell like bleach, especially if you have pee in your underwear, or on your vagina.

UTIs are an infection that can cause pain when peeing, cloudy pee, and the urge to pee more often. The main cause of a UTI is bacteria from your poo getting into your urinary tract. This bacteria can cause your pee to smell like bleach, which can make your vagina smell like bleach. You may be able to treat the symptoms of a UTI with painkillers and drinking fluids, but you must contact a doctor as you may also need antibiotics.

What Can Cause a Metallic Smell?

A metallic smell (smelling like copper, metal, or pennies) can be caused by bleeding from your period, which is normal. If you notice vaginal bleeding during or after sex or between periods or bleeding that is not normal for you, or you are pregnant, speak to your doctor.

What can cause a metallic vaginal odour?

A metallic vaginal odour is usually caused by blood. This is because blood contains iron, which can smell metallic. During your period, if you smell a metallic smell, this is often normal and nothing to worry about. A metallic smell can also occur between periods due to vaginal bleeding caused by sex or occasional spotting. You should contact your doctor if you have bleeding between periods or during or after sex to check for any serious causes.

If you have unexplained vaginal bleeding, it may be a sign of an infection or problem. Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are both STI’s and can cause bleeding between periods in women. They can also cause an unusual discharge and pain when peeing.

If you think you have an STI you must get tested at a sexual health clinic or order an at-home STI test kit from Superdrug Online Doctor to make sure, as you will need treatment.

Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are both treated with antibiotics. If you have an STI and have bleeding during or after sex or between periods, pelvic pain and/ or a fever these are symptoms of a condition called pelvic inflammatory disease and you should contact your GP or sexual health clinic urgently for antibiotics treatment.

You may also have vaginal bleeding whilst you are pregnant. Bleeding whilst you are pregnant does not always mean there is a problem, but you should speak to your doctor or midwife urgently if you have any vaginal bleeding during pregnancy to check for any underlying causes for this.

What Can Cause a Yeasty Vaginal Odour?

Your vagina naturally contains a yeast called candida, which is usually harmless. This means your normal vaginal smell may be yeasty and is nothing to be worried about. Your vagina can also smell like yeast if you have a yeast infection called thrush.

Thrush is caused when the balance of bacteria in your vagina changes, causing an overgrowth of yeast. This is why your vagina may smell like yeast. Thrush is not an STI, but sex may trigger it. Thrush can also cause white vaginal discharge that looks like cottage cheese, soreness and stinging when you pee, and itching or irritation around your vagina.

Thrush can go away on its own but often to treat thrush you will need antifungal medication. This can kill the cause of thrush and restore the natural balance of your vagina. Thrush treatment includes a pessary, which is a tablet that is inserted into your vagina, an external cream, or an oral tablet.

Why Does My Vagina Smell Sour?

While there is no medical evidence to explain why a vagina might smell sour, it’s often thought that a sour smelling vagina is caused by the levels of acid (PH) in your vagina. Your vagina is naturally acidic to kill harmful bacteria or yeast. A sour smelling vagina is usually completely healthy and nothing to worry about.

What can cause a sour vaginal odour?

A vagina should have an acidic PH, with normal levels between 3.8 to 4.5, if you are not menopausal. For menopausal women, this number is between 4.5 and 6. The good bacteria in your vagina keeps it acidic, to protect it from harmful bacteria that cause infections.

As your vagina is naturally acidic, you may be able to smell a sour, tangy, or fermented odour. If you want to maintain the natural acidity of your vagina, you should avoid things like douching and unprotected sex. Semen is naturally alkaline, which means it can change the natural PH of your vagina.

Why Does My Vagina Smell Sweet?

Your vagina may have a sweet smell if you have a yeast infection, such as thrush. However, some of the natural bacteria in your vagina can cause a sweet smell, so this smell can be entirely normal for you.

What can cause a sweet vaginal odour?

While there is no medical evidence to confirm this, a sweet smelling vagina is thought o be caused by natural bacteria in your vagina, which can be nothing to worry about. You may also notice this smell if your vaginal PH has changed. This can happen if you have sex, or douche. If your vagina smells very sweet, this could be a sign of thrush.

If you have thrush, you may get other symptoms, such as itching around your vagina and white, thick discharge. Thrush occurs when the natural balance of your vagina changes, causing an overgrowth of bacteria. This can cause changes to the smell of your vagina. Thrush can smell like yeast, or it may smell sweet.

If you have thrush, you will need antifungal medication to restore the natural balance of bacteria in your vagina. You can get this as a tablet which you place in your vagina (pessary), an oral tablet, or an external vaginal cream which can help soothe your symptoms. Thrush usually goes away within 1 to 2 weeks of treatment.

Why Does My Vagina Smell Foul?

A foul smell coming from your vagina could be caused by a forgotten tampon. If you have left a tampon in for longer than 8 hours, or you have forgotten to remove it, your vagina can produce a foul smell, like gone off meat. Remove the tampon as soon as you remember, or visit your nearest healthcare facility to have it removed.

What can cause a foul or rancid vaginal odour?

A foul or rancid vaginal odour can be caused by a tampon that has been left in for too long. This smell is caused by bacteria that will continue to grow around the tampon. The longer you leave a tampon in, the stronger the smell. A forgotten tampon needs to be removed as soon as possible.

If you think you have forgotten a tampon, try to remove it with your fingers. A tampon cannot get lost inside your vagina, even if you cannot reach it. If you cannot get the tampon out yourself, visit a sexual health clinic or your GP and they can remove it for you. If they are not open, call 111 for advice.

Other symptoms that you have forgotten a tampon include vaginal discharge, pain in your pelvis, and a high temperature (fever). It is important to get the tampon removed quickly if you notice these symptoms. A forgotten tampon can cause toxic shock syndrome (TSS), but this is rare.

A foul vaginal odour can sometimes be caused by more serious conditions like vaginal cancers and so it’s important that you contact your GP quickly if you notice your vagina smells foul.

How Can I Reduce Vaginal Odour?

Vaginal odour is normal and every vagina will have a unique smell. There are some things you can do to reduce vaginal odour and keep the PH of your vagina at a normal level. If you have a change in your vaginal odour, speak to your doctor to make sure there is no underlying cause, such as an infection.

Tips on how to reduce vaginal odour

If you want to reduce vaginal odour you should:

  • wash your vagina with mild, unperfumed soap and water
  • avoid using scented or perfumed products on your vagina
  • wash your vagina gently, every day
  • avoid douching, as this can change the natural balance of your vagina
  • avoid using vaginal deodorants
  • practice safe sex by using a condom, or another form of contraception
  • change your underwear as often as needed to keep your vagina dry
  • always remember to remove tampons, if you use them

Vaginal odour is completely normal and is usually not a sign to worry, unless the smell is not normal for you or you have other symptoms.