Welcome to Ask Ang, your anonymous campus sexual health resource, brought to you by H*yas for Choice. We are made up of a team of undergraduate students who work to answer your sex questions! We post questions and answers weekly on Sundays.
Anyone can submit a question, and the anonymous form can be found here: www.tinyurl.com/askang.
Is it normal for your vagina to smell? What can I do to minimize the odor?
Each vagina has a smell, which is caused by a combination of normal, healthy bacteria in your vagina, your hygiene habits, your diet, etc. In general, changing clothes immediately after exercising, wearing cotton underwear, and cleansing your vulva area (not inside your vagina!!) with warm water and optionally a gentle feminine cleanser will keep your vagina happy and smelling mild.
Usually, you can tell if there’s something “off” with how your vagina smells--if there’s any kind of rotten or fishy smell, that might be a sign of an infection. One of the common causes of this kind of smell is bacterial vaginosis (BV), which is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina. BV is easily treated by antibiotics, however, so no need to worry--just make an appointment with a doctor ASAP.
Other possible causes of unusual vaginal smell are particular foods in your diet (such as garlic and asparagus), certain medications or supplements, hormonal changes, and, on the more serious side of things, a forgotten tampon.
If you’re worried about the way your vagina smells, try talking to your doctor. They can tell you if something is really up, or reassure you that you are perfectly normal and healthy.