1. What is a normal vagina odour?

Normal odour is generally subtle and not noticed.

Vaginal odour is created by individuals’ unique vaginal flora in particular healthy bacteria called Lactobacilli.

There are many sweat glands in genital area which will add “sweating” odour which we experience during exercise and in hot weather.

Body odour as well as “vaginal” odour is also influenced by hormonal changes, state of health, medications, clothes we wear, and even what we eat as it will all influence our bacterial balance.

Normal smell is generally sour as Lactobacilli produce lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide and other other substances that make the vaginal environment unlivable for harmful bacteria. The normal pH in the vagina is on acidic side between 3.8-4.5 for non-menopausal women and 4.5-6 in menopausal women.

2. When will your vagina smell different? Just before your period? Peri-menopause, menopause.

During Menstrual period women may experience metallic vaginal odour related to blood from menstruation and in particular iron in the blood.

In menopausa due to depleted oestrogen levels vaginal pH becomes more alkaline which will lead to a different smell and also increase risk of infections in the vagina and bladder. Hence, vaginal topical oestrogen treatment is important in menopausal women.

3. When should you worry about your vagina smelling different?

If your vaginal smell changes, first of all think of any changes that might have occurred in your life-style leading to this change, such as a new wash, a new sexual partner, a special diet, more stress etc. If. You cannot attribute this change in odour to any of lifestyle factors you can modify or if you are worried about an infection, you should see your doctor for an assessment.

Fishy smell indicates a condition called Bacterial Vaginosis which is disbalance in vaginal bacteria and decrease in Lactobacilli and overgrowth of bacteria called Gardnerella. This condition is treated with either topical (vaginal)  or systemic (oral tablets) antibacterial preparations.

Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease that can cause fishy vaginal odour and is usually associated with burning, itchiness and increased vaginal discharge.

You should see a doctor if a change in vaginal odour is associated with burning, itchiness, irregular bleeding (outside your period or after sexual intercourse), fever, pain, genital rash, redness.

I would like to emphasize that only water and NO soaps, NO intimate washes, NO essential oils should be used for washing of intimate area as all of these substances will interfere with your normal vaginal bacterial flora that creates a healthy environment not conducive to harmful bacteria.