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‘Why does my vagina smell?’ GP identifies 7 common reasons


‘Why does my vagina smell?’ is something NHS GP Dr Preethi Daniel gets asked all the time – here she outlines seven common reasons behind an odour down-there

Of the most embarrassing things that can happen to women, a strange odour coming from your vagina trumps farting in front of your crush by miles. There are many reasons why this could happen, so it is best to identify what may be causing the smell and sort it out.

The pH balance of your vagina is important. The vagina is normally acidic, which helps protect our intimate areas from growing bacteria. If the acidity of our pH balance decreases this can affect the health of our vagina. These are some of the reasons:

Bacterial Vaginosis

This is a common infection, and can easily be treated once identified. The cause is still yet to be decided, but can be brought on by sexual intercourse or douching. Anything that alters your pH basically. This may be accompanied by a thin white or gray discharge with often a fishy odour and a burning sensation whilst urinating. The infection can be triggered by sex but it is strictly not a sexually transmitted infection and is treated with specific antibiotics.

Other infections

Chlamydia and gonorrhea sometimes don’t give you any symptoms. But an increased discharge or a strange odour might be one of the symptoms. It is best to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) if at any doubt. There are some other infections such a trichomoniasis which can cause a fishy smelling odour. This is nothing to be concerned with, and once diagnosed can be treated with antibiotics.

Taking antibiotics

Taking certain antibiotics can interrupt the balance of bacteria and this can have a knock-on effect leading to changes in odour and discharge from your vagina.

Food glorious food

We have all heard the expression you are what you eat. Well, it is true that certain foods can have a smelly effect on our most intimate areas. Foods that can have a rather smelly effect are coffee, alcohol, onions, green vegetables (yay, finally an excuse to push that broccoli off your plate) seafood, red meat and dairy products.


The vagina is a magic self-cleaning machine, so it’s best to leave it to nature and not to interfere. Remedies such as douching and feminine hygiene products are not as intimate-friendly as they advertise, and could alter the pH. Especially perfumed soaps, bubble baths and shower gels should be avoided. Do not use strong detergents to wash your intimates either.

Unprotected sex

By not using a condom, along with the leftover semen comes an unpleasant smell. This could either be a problem of your own, or maybe it is a problem with your sexual partner. If the smell remains after a few days, it is advised that you visit a Doctor.

Menstrual cycle

 It is normal to experience a metallic smell during your periods. If this persists or you notice an increased or foul-smelling discharge after your periods are finished, it is worth consulting with your doctor.

Treatment of a smelly vagina

If your doctor diagnoses you with Bacterial Vaginosis this can be cleared with antibiotics or a vaginal gel, so please do not worry everything can be sorted easily. Other infections are also easily treated once the cause is identified.

For some tips moving forward on how to prevent a smelly vagina:

  • Wash regularly especially after exercise or sex
  • Make sure you wear clean, fresh, not too tight underwear
  • Keep yourself hydrated and drink plenty of water
  • Probiotic drinks can also help maintain a healthy PH balance which can help keep a smelly vagina at bay
  • Avoid all the heavily marketed products we are inundated with to keep our bits smelling flowery!

If you are concerned and want to sort out your feminine issue, please visit your GP as soon as possible and they will be able to provide you with the advice to sort the unpleasant whiff from your nether region.


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Dr Preethi Daniel is an NHS GP in Hertfordshire and Clinical Director at London Doctors Clinic. She graduated from Kings College London in 2010 and has since gained extensive experience in various hospital specialties during her postgraduate medical and surgical training before becoming a GP. During her junior doctor years, she successfully published a paper on a rare condition affecting the intestines causing excessive vomiting, in GUT magazine. She has well-rounded clinical knowledge in Women’s Health, Child Health, Emergency Medicine and Mental Health. She has experience working with Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group to optimise patient care pathways in the NHS. She currently teaches Community Geriatrics to UCL medical ents and mentors young people on career and interview skills for Universities. Dr Daniel also works as an NHS GP in a busy Hertfordshire practice of over 10,000 patients.





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