Why Vaginal Discharge Can Have a Smell and What To Do About It

At Medicine Mama, we understand that the topic of vaginal discharge and its accompanying scents can be as mystifying as it is taboo. But here's the truth: It's a natural part of women's health, deserving of our attention and care. 

Why does vaginal discharge sometimes carry a smell, and what can we do about it? With our commitment to empowering women through education and effective, natural vulva care products, we aim to illuminate the facts, dispel myths, and offer practical advice. 

Join us in an honest discussion about vaginal health, wellness, and the importance of embracing our bodies exactly as they are.

What Is Vaginal Odor?

It’s important to mention that how your body smells is often how it should smell. The vagina is self-cleaning, but the vulva is not, so it’s important to note the difference. While the vulva can do with some washing when odors arise, the vagina rarely requires cleaning with anything harsh — the only differentiator is infection, which we will address below. 

No body should be odorless, and it’s important not to disrupt the natural balance of your vagina by trying to manage odors that are purely human. 

What Causes Changes in the Smell of Vaginal Discharge?

Understanding why the scent of vaginal discharge changes is key to maintaining not just vaginal health but our overall well-being. 

Here are some reasons for a change in vaginal odor:

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

BV is a classic case of imbalance in the vaginal flora, where harmful bacteria outnumber the beneficial ones, leading to a fishy odor. It's a common condition that can disrupt the natural pH balance of the vagina, signaling the need for a healthcare provider's input. 

Yeast Infection

A yeast infection brings about an overgrowth of Candida, turning vaginal discharge into a thicker, cottage cheese-like consistency, often accompanied by a yeast-like smell. 

This condition points to an imbalance in the vaginal ecosystem, where lactobacilli (good bacteria) are overwhelmed, affecting vaginal health and pH levels. It's a clear sign that our genital area requires attention and possibly a doctor’s intervention to restore wellness.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

STIs (formally known as STDs), particularly trichomoniasis and chlamydia, can introduce an unusual or foul-smelling odor to vaginal discharge. These vaginal infections underscore the importance of STI screening as part of routine women's healthcare. 

Consulting with a gynecologist or another healthcare provider for medical advice is crucial in managing and treating STIs to maintain a healthy vagina and overall genital wellness.

Forgotten Tampon

Forgetting a tampon is a simple yet significant oversight that can lead to abnormal vaginal odor and negative health outcomes. This happens when a tampon is left in place too long, creating a breeding ground for bacteria. It underscores the importance of menstrual hygiene and regular checks, reminding us to stay mindful of our bodies and their needs.

How Do Lifestyle Choices Affect Vaginal Odor?

Life's full of choices, from the food we eat to the clothes we wear. These decisions can mess with or maintain the vibe down below. 

Here are some lifestyle changes that can affect your personal scent.

Food and Drink

You are what you eat, and sometimes, that means your vaginal area might carry hints of your last meal. Strong spices, caffeine, and alcohol can subtly influence your body's natural scent. Drinking plenty of water not only keeps you hydrated but also helps keep odors in check by flushing toxins out of your body.

Fabric Choices

Tight clothing and non-breathable fabrics like polyester can trap moisture and heat, creating the perfect storm for bacteria, affecting your vaginal pH and odor. Switching to looser clothing allows your skin to breathe, reducing the risk of developing unwanted odors.

Personal Care Routines

The aisle of scented feminine hygiene products might seem tempting, but these products can do more harm than good. Douching or using heavily scented soaps and washes can throw off your vagina's pH balance, leading to odors you were trying to avoid in the first place. Sticking to gentle, unscented products like our VMAGIC Vulva Wash keeps things in harmony.

Active Lifestyle

Regular exercise is fantastic for your health, but working up a sweat without proper hygiene can contribute to vaginal odor. Moisture-wicking fabrics and a quick shower post-workout can keep odors at bay.

Stress Management

Stress can also affect your vaginal health. High stress levels can lead to hormonal imbalances, potentially altering your vaginal flora and scent.

What Can You Do To Maintain a Healthy Vagina Smell?

Maintaining a healthy vagina smell requires care, attention, and the right tools. 

Here's how you can ensure your vagina and vulva remain as healthy and balanced as possible:

Embrace Probiotics

Probiotics are incredibly beneficial for your gut and your vagina, helping maintain a healthy balance of microbes. Including probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut in your diet can bolster your body's levels of good bacteria, such as lactobacilli, which play a crucial role in keeping the vaginal pH at its optimal level. 

A balanced vaginal environment means unwanted odors are less likely to develop. Probiotic supplements can also do the trick for those not keen on fermented foods, supporting your genital wellness.

Stay Hydrated

As touched on earlier, regular hydration helps flush out toxins from your body, but it also keeps your mucosal linings well-moisturized — including those in your vagina. This natural lubrication helps keep things clean and reduces the chances of infection and consequent odors. Aim for the recommended eight glasses a day to keep your body and your vagina hydrated.

Opt for Cotton

Cotton underwear allows for ample air circulation, preventing the buildup of sweat and bacteria that can lead to unpleasant smells. Unlike synthetic fabrics that trap heat and moisture, cotton keeps the vaginal area dry and is less likely to irritate your skin. 

Practice Good Hygiene 

Staying clean is essential, but there's such a thing as too much of a good thing when it comes to vulva care. A gentle rinse with warm water is usually all you need to keep the external area feeling fresh. 

Overdoing it by scrubbing aggressively or using products not specifically designed for this sensitive area can backfire, stripping away the natural moisture and protection your skin needs. And remember, the vagina itself is self-cleaning, so you can allow it to keep itself clean.

Moisturize and Protect

Like the rest of your skin, the vulva can benefit from regular moisturization, especially if you're experiencing dryness due to hormonal changes, such as menopause or postpartum shifts. VMAGIC® Vulva Balm provides instant relief from dryness, irritation, and discomfort.

Crafted with organic ingredients, this hormone-free balm supports the delicate skin of the vulva, keeping it moisturized, soothed, and protected from irritation that can lead to unwanted smells. 

When Should You See a Healthcare Provider?

Sometimes, despite our best efforts to maintain balance and health, we might encounter signs suggesting it's time to check in with a healthcare provider. 

Here's when you should consider making an appointment:

Unusual Symptoms Persist

If you've noticed changes in your vaginal discharge (persistent unusual smells, color, or thick, cottage cheese-like discharge) and it doesn't improve with basic care, it’s wise to seek professional advice.

Irritation or Discomfort

Experiencing ongoing vaginal itching, burning, or discomfort around the vulva or vagina could be signs of an infection or other condition needing medical attention.

Postmenopausal Changes

Experiencing vaginal dryness, irritation, or changes in discharge after menopause could be related to declining estrogen levels. A healthcare provider like an OB-GYN can offer solutions to manage these symptoms comfortably.

No Improvement With Over-the-Counter Treatments

If you’ve tried probiotics, staying hydrated, switching to cotton underwear, and incorporating VMAGIC

® Vulva Balm for moisturization and protection but still see no improvement, a healthcare professional can provide a more tailored approach.

Embracing Your Journey to Wellness

At Medicine Mama, we're dedicated to demystifying vaginal health, breaking down taboos, and offering effective, natural solutions like our VMAGIC® products. Experiencing changes in vaginal discharge and odor is a natural aspect of women's health. It's your body's way of communicating; listening to it is the first step toward wellness.

We encourage you to embrace these moments of learning about your body with open arms and a spirit of curiosity. Whether it's adjusting your lifestyle habits or deciding when to consult a healthcare provider, every step is a move toward understanding and loving your body more.

Thank you for trusting us on your journey to empowerment and health. Here's to celebrating every part of our bodies, boldly and with pure love, today and every day.


Bacterial vaginosis - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic

Yeast infection (vaginal) - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic

What if I forget to remove my tampon during my menstrual cycle? | NHS

Psychosocial Stress, Cortisol Levels, and Maintenance of Vaginal Health | Frontiers in Endocrinology

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