health

Vaginal Odor: The ‘Downstairs’ Smells You Should Never, Ever Ignore

by Laura Caseley
Laura is a writer, illustrator, and artist living in New York City.

Talking about your bits can be a little uncomfortable. After all, our private parts are, well, private.

Discussing their habits and features can feel as awkward as taking off our undies and literally showing them to the world. Best to keep things under wraps, right?

Well, mostly. The truth is that many women don’t even know much about their own anatomy because of the years of shame and embarrassment society’s heaped on them regarding their bodies.

Many of us are taught from a young age to be ashamed of anything and everything about our bodies and to consider them, in some way, as “wrong.”

And the same idea extends to our private parts, leading many to feel anxious or insecure about the look of their lady parts. Sometimes, this attitude can even lead to some potentially risky behavior.

But here’s the deal: your vagina is a part of your body you should know and care about, and never feel shame over. After all, it does some pretty amazing things!

One of the issues that concern many women is the smell of things downstairs. Some even try to cover it up with perfumes and scented products, which can ultimately just make things worse — not to mention become very uncomfortable.

But then, what is everything down there supposed to smell like, anyway?

If you’re concerned that the smell of your vagina is somehow wrong, read on to see what it’s “supposed” to smell like, and how to keep things happy and healthy all the time.

Thumbnail Photo: Flickr

Why Do Vaginas Have A Smell?

Why Do Vaginas Have A Smell?
Tayra Lucero for LittleThings

Vaginas are home to billions of bacteria that keep things in balance, but everyone’s specific bacteria makeup will vary.

Each vagina has a distinct scent, so that means your vulva, vagina, labia, and other parts of your reproductive system are supposed to smell like, well, you.

What Is A Normal Smell?

What Is A Normal Smell?
Tayra Lucero for LittleThings

No two vaginas will smell the same, but for the most part, they’ll all have a slightly sour smell.

That’s because your vagina is slightly acidic — and it’s supposed to be. This acidity keeps infections and other nasties at bay.

You also might detect a sort of musty smell that is due to sweat, but also totally normal.

What Is An "Abnormal" Smell?

What Is An "Abnormal" Smell?
Tayra Lucero for LittleThings

Believe us, you’ll know when something isn’t normal. The two odors you should look out for are the odor of fish and the odor of something rotten.

A fishy smell is often the sign of a bacterial infection, like bacterial vaginosis, and a rotten or garbage-like smell can be a sign that there’s something in there that shouldn’t be, like a tampon or piece of a tampon.

If you smell something like this, or any other strong, overpowering smell, go see a doctor and get things checked out.

What Can Affect Your Smell?

What Can Affect Your Smell?
Tayra Lucero for LittleThings

The foods you eat can affect the smell of your vagina.

Spicy foods and garlic can make things more pungent down there. Just like your breath can be affected by what you eat, so can things in other places.

What you eat can also affect the smell of your urine (hello, asparagus), which will also affect the smell of your vulva.

How Can I Keep My Vagina Happy And Healthy?
Happy Vagina Tip #1: Keep Yourself Clean

<u>How Can I Keep My Vagina Happy And Healthy?</u><br>Happy Vagina Tip #1: Keep Yourself Clean
Tayra Lucero for LittleThings

Cleanliness is the best thing you can do for keeping your vulva and vagina healthy.

Since your vagina is an acidic little ecosystem, avoid using a lot of soap in this area, as it can throw off your pH balance.

Your best bet is to simply wash with some warm water in the shower. Get into all the nooks and crannies to flush out any sweat and other nasties that can cause odors and irritation.

Pat dry and you’re good to go!

Happy Vagina Tip #2: Be Wary Of Scented Products

Happy Vagina Tip #2: Be Wary Of Scented Products
Tayra Lucero for LittleThings

Some women try to cover up their natural smell with scented products like soaps and washes, or even perfume.

Be wary of these products, though. The ingredients can irritate the sensitive skin of your vulva, as well as the mucous membranes inside.

Water and unscented soap (if you use soap at all) will be enough to keep your bits fresh.

Keep strongly scented soaps away from the area, and never apply perfume to your vagina. It’s fine for other areas of your body, but not there!

Happy Vagina Tip #3: Keep Yourself Hydrated

Happy Vagina Tip #3: Keep Yourself Hydrated
Tayra Lucero for LittleThings

Enough water keeps your whole body running smoothly, vagina included.

Your vagina is naturally damp, and water keeps the area moist and lubricated. Dryness can cause irritation and discomfort, and can also make sex painful.

So stay hydrated to not only keep yourself smelling fresh, but comfortable too.

Happy Vagina Tip #4: Yogurt Is Your Friend

Happy Vagina Tip #4: Yogurt Is Your Friend
Tayra Lucero for LittleThings

Yogurt, as well as kefir, are a vagina’s best friends. They’re full of probiotics that not only keep your digestive tract healthy, but your vagina too.

These bacteria act like gatekeepers to your body and keep the pH in balance. Additionally, they help prevent urinary tract infections, yeast infections, and vaginosis.

The calcium in yogurt is also a great bonus, and can even ease PMS symptoms.

Happy Vagina Tip #5: Eat Lots Of Fresh Fruit

Happy Vagina Tip #5: Eat Lots Of Fresh Fruit
Tayra Lucero for LittleThings

Women who eat lots of fresh fruit are less likely to develop uterine fibroids, and their healthy doses of vitamins will also boost your overall health.

Some people also claim that certain fruits will alter the smell of their vagina, but since everyone’s body is different, results will vary.

Popular fruits for a fresh and happy vagina, though, include apples, pineapple, mango, blueberries, watermelon, strawberries, citrus fruits, and cranberries.

Happy Vagina Tip #6: See A Doctor If You Think Something Is Wrong

Happy Vagina Tip #6: See A Doctor If You Think Something Is Wrong
Tayra Lucero for LittleThings

One of the worst things you can do for your vagina is to keep any issues to yourself.

But many women do, out of shame and embarrassment. But if you don’t speak up about a problem like a strange odor, itching, stinging, or pain, then the problem is only going to get worse.

If you think something is wrong, talk to a gynecologist and be as direct and detailed as possible — they’re vagina professionals, so they’ll be able to diagnose and help the issue.

SHARE these vagina tips with all the ladies you know to make sure their bits stay happy and healthy!