Asking For A Friend: Does my vagina smell weird?

Asking For A Friend: Does my vagina smell weird?

Asking For A Friend is the series where we answer the questions that you’ve always wanted to ask.

In 2023, it’s time to stop stigmatising the way our vaginas smell. And Kourtney Kardashian releasing gummies to support the ‘freshness and taste’ of your vagina, doesn’t exactly help.

Every vagina has its own unique odour and, no, it’s not meant to smell like aloe vera, pineapple, or lavender, despite what feminine intimate washes might have you believe. 

It’s important to remember that your vagina’s odour is likely to change throughout your cycle, and it’s rarely something to worry about.

But, if you notice a sudden change in your vaginas natural smell, particularly if it smells especially funky, it might be worth checking that everything is working normally.

‘The vagina has a delicate and healthy balance of bacteria which help to keep it free from infections such as thrush and Bacterial Vaginosis (BV),’ Dr Leila Frodsham, consultant gynaecologist and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, tells

‘A sudden change to the smell of vaginal discharge may indicate an infection.’

If your vagina suddenly has a strong, fishy smell, coupled with a change in the way your discharge looks, it could signal some kind of infection.

What causes a weird vaginal odour?

The two most likely culprits are BV, which affects around one in 10 women in the UK, and trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Bacterial vaginosis symptoms, causes and treatment

‘Bacterial Vaginonsis is a very common genital infection caused by imbalance in the organisms that live in the vagina,’  Lady Garden Foundation’s Medical Director, John Butler, tells us. 

‘It’s the most common cause of abnormal vaginal discharge in pre-menopausal women and strictly speaking it is not classified as a sexually transmitted infection, however women are at increased risk if they are sexually active.’ 

BV can also be caused by vaginal douching or the use of vaginal deodorants, the copper coil, smoking and menstruation. 

‘The classic symptoms of BV are a fishy-smelling vaginal discharge usually without soreness or itching, however half of women have no symptoms,’ he says. 

Dr Leila adds that the colour and consistency of your discharge may change, and you’re more likely to notice the smell after having sex. 

Thankfully, BV can be easily treated with antibiotics, so it’s important to contact your GP if you think you have a problem.

Cutting out scented vaginal soaps and deodorants, and stopping douching, will also help reduce recurrence. (Remember, our vaginas are very smart – they clean themselves).

Trichomoniasis symptoms, causes and treatment

As Dr Leila explains, trichomoniasis is an STI which can cause unusual discharge, that may be thick, thin or frothy and a yellow-green colour.

‘Trichomoniasis can also cause vaginal discharge to have an unpleasant fishy smell,’ she says.

‘Other symptoms can also include soreness, swelling and itching around the vagina, and pain or discomfort when urinating or having sex.’

You can find out if you have Trichomoniasis by getting a swab test by your GP or local sexual health clinic. 

Again, says Dr Leila, ‘it can be effectively treated with antibiotics, which are usually taken twice a day for five to seven days.’

Essentially, if your vagina really does smell weird, don’t worry, there’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of – it’s really common, and in most cases, your GP will be able to help you feel back to ‘normal’ in no time. 

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