Far too many women are under the impression that their vaginas should be odor-free. In reality, a healthy vagina will always possess a distinct scent. This naturally occurring smell is determined by various factors, including stress, hormones, and even genetics. It’s essential to become familiar with your normal scent so that you can identify when something is amiss. If you are experiencing an abnormal or strong vaginal odor, it could be a sign of something more serious. To help you better understand this all-too-common problem, we’ve outlined eight common explanations behind an abnormal vaginal odor.

What Causes Abnormal Vaginal Odor?

From infections to dietary changes and beyond, find out what might be causing that unwanted vaginal odor.

What causes vaginal odor

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Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common health complaint experienced by women. It is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina. It can cause symptoms such as abnormal vaginal discharge with a strong fishy smell, itching, a burning sensation when urinating, and pain during sex.

Treatment for BV varies depending on the severity and type but can include antibiotics or other topical treatments administered by a doctor or gynecologist. If you believe you are experiencing symptoms associated with BV, it’s important to reach out to a healthcare provider in order to take measures towards treating this condition properly and safely.

Related Post: Overview Of Bacterial Vaginosis


Trichomoniasis is a common and easily spread sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. It can cause symptoms such as itching and irritation in the genital area, pain during sex or urination, frothy yellow-green discharge with a pungent fishy odor, and inflammation of the labia majora or labia minora.

The symptoms of trichomoniasis can be embarrassing to discuss with your doctor, but it is necessary for diagnosing and treating this infection. Early diagnosis often results in more effective treatment. Therefore, it is essential to talk to your doctor so they can provide the best treatment plan suited to you.

Related Post: 12 FAQs About STDs

Retained Tampon/Foreign Object

It is essential to be aware of any abnormal vaginal odors that may indicate a retained tampon or foreign object. The most common symptom is a rotten odor like a decaying organism. Other symptoms such as abdominal pain, itching, inflammation, and discharge may also accompany this. If you experience any of these symptoms, you must contact a medical professional right away. Professional treatment can help prevent complications and treat any associated infections.

Related Post: 8 Common Menstrual Hygiene Mistakes Women Make


Douching, the act of cleaning the vagina with various liquids and mixtures, is a practice many women must avoid. Despite its reputation for leaving one’s vagina feeling “fresh,” douching can cause more harm than good. Not only does it remove the natural, healthy bacteria in the vagina, but it increases the risk of developing an abnormal vaginal odor and other complications like yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. Even though you may feel compelled to use douche products to “freshen up,” you are doing more harm than good. The best way to ensure that your vaginal health remains balanced is to let your body clean itself naturally.

Scented Feminine Hygiene Products

The fragrances in certain feminine hygiene products (tampons, pads, soaps, wipes, sprays) can disrupt a delicate pH balance and lead to an imbalance of bacteria in the vaginal area that creates an adverse, often strong unpleasant odor. Furthermore, scented products may cause irritation and further health complications. For this reason, it is important for women to choose unscented products. Unscented products can help to promote balance within the vaginal area and ensure that any foul smells are kept at bay.

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Poor Hygiene

Poor hygiene is one of the most common causes of abnormal vaginal odors, yet it can often be the most overlooked. Poor personal hygiene habits such as not changing sanitary products often enough or regularly, not properly cleaning the area around your vagina, or wearing restrictive clothing that prevents air from getting to it can all contribute to a buildup of bacteria and lead to an unpleasant odor. Women must understand how their body works and the importance of maintaining good hygiene habits to avoid uncomfortable odors.

Related Post: 8 Basic Rules for Maintaining Good Feminine Hygiene


Diet plays a vital role in a woman’s intimate health as it can contribute to the aroma of her vaginal area. Certain foods, such as garlic, onions, and chilies, can cause more pungent smells that temporarily linger until the dietary choices are adjusted. Excessive red meat, dairy, and alcohol consumption might also affect your vaginal scent.

Ultimately it is important to maintain a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and lean proteins to ensure that one’s body is receiving all of the essential vitamins and minerals necessary for optimal vaginal health.

Related Post: The Best and Worst Foods for Vaginal Health


Excessive sweating can lead to a multitude of issues, especially in areas that typically experience an increased level of moisture, such as the groin area. This can cause abnormal vaginal odor due to the sweat mixing with microscopic organisms that already naturally exist around the vagina. If excessive sweating does occur, it is important to take measures to ensure proper hygiene by washing off sweat with warm water and changing any tight clothing. Additionally, taking certain measures to control and prevent excessive sweating, such as avoiding hot environments and stress, can go a long way in keeping your vaginal area healthy and free from any unwanted odors.

Final Thoughts

Abnormal vaginal odors are not uncommon but should not be ignored either! If you experience any unusual smells or other symptoms listed above, you must seek medical advice immediately so that any underlying condition causing those symptoms can be adequately diagnosed & treated before it gets worse! Remember that taking good care of yourself includes paying close attention to changes happening within your body, so don’t hesitate to seek medical advice if something doesn’t feel right—your health should always come first!


  1. 7 Different Vaginal Smells and Why They Happen (healthline.com)
  2. What if I forget to remove my tampon? – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
  3. These Foods Will Make Your Vagina Smell Bad | Healthfully
  4. Vaginal odor Causes – Mayo Clinic
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About the Author

Hermione M.

My name is Hermione. I am the founder of WomenH and I write about women's health, wellness, mental health, and personal growth. I created this platform to inspire women to take care of themselves mentally, physically, and emotionally to become their best selves. Thank you for stopping by.

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