Before we begin, let’s get this out of the way: Your vagina is supposed to have a smell, despite what rude sexual partners or all those companies that make weird crotch perfumes may have told you in the past. In fact, healthy vaginas emit a Sephora’s worth of different scents throughout the month, with stronger and more subtle variations of your unique smell appearing during different parts of your menstrual cycle. Some women naturally emit stronger vaginal odors, while others don’t. And sweating heavily or having unprotected heterosexual sex (scientific terminology: “Gettin’ sperm all up in there”) can also temporarily change the smell of your fun parts. But make no mistake: Your lady flower always has a scent.
While a scent is a sign that your junk is healthy and has its pH properly balanced, a change in smell can sometimes be a sign that something is amiss in Vagina City. Sometimes, an unusual odor coming from your nethers can signal a health problem, like a lost tampon or bacterial vaginosis infection. Other times, it may simply mean that you’ve just finished up your period.
So how do you tell the difference between a normal change in vaginal scent, and one that means you might have a health concern in Ye Olde Tunnel of Love? The only way to get a handle on the way your vagina smells when it’s healthy (and thus, how it smells when it is unwell) is to get very familiar with its scents, so that you have a baseline for what’s normal for you and what isn’t. Spending some time getting a whiff of your crotch at different times of the month is a worthwhile investment in your overall well-being. (Yes, that is a sentence that I have been waiting my whole life to type.)
But even if you haven’t put in the woman-hours cataloging your own vaginal smells, there are still times when you can tell that your vagina smells a bit off. Usually, a scent that signals something is wrong is accompanied by other symptoms — itching, swelling, discharge, or pain while urinating — but sometimes, the smell may be your only (or primary) sign that something is wrong down under. When do you need to see a doctor, and when do you just need to switch to all-cotton underpants? Read on and take a whiff, friends. Continue…