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What Is Healthy, Normal Vaginal Odor?

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Kathy Kenny Ylaya Ngo · Updated Jan 10, 2023

    What Is Healthy, Normal Vaginal Odor?

    Every vagina has its own unique scent. Women often feel self-conscious about the scent but the vagina having a certain fleshy odor is normal. What is the normal smell of a vagina? The smell is likely a combination of normal vaginal bacteria, nutrition, and personal hygiene

    What Is the Normal Smell of a Vagina?

    Well, it varies from person to person. Because the vagina is sensitive, it adapts to changes in a woman’s daily environment. For example, during menstruation, its type of smell and discharge is affected.  

    So what is the normal smell of a vagina? According to a study, the smell of a vagina is composed of 2,100 separate odiferous effluents or scent molecules. Interestingly, the vagina is also home to billions of bacteria which largely contributes to its smell.

    Dr. Maria Mendes Soares of the Mayo Clinic refers to this bacteria as vaginal flora. It keeps the vagina’s pH at 4.5 or slightly acidic, which explains the sour smell.

    Moreover, the vagina contains a collection of sweat glands, hence what others describe as a musty smell. 

    What Causes Change in Vaginal Odor? 

    There are a number of reasons why a vagina smells differently throughout the week or month. Here is the list of the factors that affect its odor:

    • Diet. The vagina may smell like what you eat.
    • Menstruation. Women also notice a change in scent during their period
    • Sexual activity. A vagina may smell differently after sexual intercourse. Semen naturally has a pH level of eight, affecting your own pH balance.
    • Antibiotic use
    • Personal hygiene
    • Pregnancy
    • Menopause
    • Other hormonal imbalances which can also alter your scent
    • Infection. Vaginal infections, including yeast infections and sexually transmitted infection will affect your smell below.

    Types of Vaginal Odor

    Tangy or fermented

    Acidity is one main reasons your vagina gives off a tangy or sour aroma. Others compare the smell to those of fermented food like yogurt and beer.

    The reason for this is because these foods contain the same bacteria that is found in most vaginas: Lactobacilli. It helps maintain the vagina’s normal pH level, which is slightly acidic. 


    This metallic, coppery odor is usually associated with your period. Blood contains iron, which explains the smell. Blood and tissues shed from your uterine lining during menstruation and are secreted through the vaginal canal. 

    Bleeding can also occur after sexual intercourse. This is due to possible tears and scrapes around the cervix. 


    The vagina is home to millions of bacteria. Sometimes, an overgrowth of yeast can produce a sweetish tinge similar to that of cookies and honey.


    The smell is reminiscent of bleach or ammonia. A buildup of urine around your vulva can emit a chemical scent. This is because urine contains urea, a byproduct of ammonia.

    When a vagina smells like this, it could also be a sign of dehydration. 

    A pungent smell can also be an indicator of bacterial vaginosis, a common infection among women. Its symptoms include irritation, pain and discomfort, and abnormal vaginal discharge.

    Body Odor-Like Aroma

    Like any part of the body, the vagina also has sweat glands. We normally have two types: the eccrine and apocrine glands.

    Eccrine glands are responsible for producing sweat to cool down the body.

    Apocrine glands, on the other hand, responds to emotional stimuli.

    When stressed, apocrine glands produce a milky fluid which is usually odorless. When this is mixed with the bacteria around the vulva, it produces a pungent smell.


    Some women complain about a strong, fishy vaginal odor. There are two possible reasons for this odor:

    • Bacterial vaginosis: An overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria is the primary cause of this infection. 
    • Trichomoniasis: This is a common sexually transmitted infection that can easily be treated with antibiotics. Nevertheless, it gives off a really pungent fishy smell. 

    When Should I See a Doctor?

    What is the normal smell of a vagina? Though it may differ from fleshy to musk for each woman, the main thing is that it should be slight and subtle.

    In general, it is easy to spot abnormal vaginal odors. Because they are hard to ignore. 

    Abnormal vaginal odors smell of decay and occur regularly. A trip to the doctor is necessary when the odor is accompanied by the following:

  • Itching
  • Burning sensation when urinating
  • Thick, clumpy discharge
  • Vaginal bleeding unrelated to period
  • Pain during sex
  • The Normal Smell of a Vagina Can Change

    While you may have a regular vagina smell, subtle shifts are normal. What is the normal smell of a vagina? Be familiar with your body’s normal pH level. Your vagina’s odor is highly dependent on it.

    Changes can come during your period, after having sex, and even going through menopause.

    Vaginas are self-cleaning. It produces discharge that fights off bacteria and germs.

    Adopt good hygiene measures, proper diet, and care for your genitals to reduce a strong smell. 

    Learn more about Women’s Health Issues here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Jezreel Esguerra, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Kathy Kenny Ylaya Ngo · Updated Jan 10, 2023

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