7 Unexpected Reasons Why Your Vagina Might Smell Bad

by Julia Guerra

Sorry ladies, but I'm sure you know body odor isn't exclusive to just your pits. As fascinating as the different parts of the vagina are, the different smells they omit from time to time can be, well, concerning. The disturbing, but very real truth is that every woman will eventually ask themselves “why does my vagina smell?” at least once in the span of their lifetime, and it's nothing to be ashamed of or shy about. But it is something you should definitely look into.

For the record, though, everyone's genitals smell. Your vagina is confined to a cotton (or whatever fabric of underwear you wear), dark hammock in which it coexists in close proximity with your butthole, all day every day. Between peeing, pooping, and your period blood mixing with your body's natural scent, strong smells happen, and no one is immune. But it's important to know the difference between your usual scent and the not-so-usual odors.

As if PMS didn't give us women enough to deal with, the female reproductive organs can sometimes throw us for a curve. If you've ever noticed your vaginal odor smelling a little funky, the good news is that there's always an explanation; the bad news is, it could be that your vagina is violently waving a red flag. Either way, you need to be paying attention. Here are a few factors that could play a part in those not-so-pleasant odors.

1. What You Eat

Experts aren't lying when they say diet is everything. It affects how you feel physically, mentally, and, apparently, how your vagina smells.

And, honestly, what you eat is the least of your worries. I can't speak for everyone, but personally, I'd much rather have to adjust my meal plan than deal with an infection. According to LiveStrong, food isn't a direct cause of vaginal stink, but eating heavily scented or spicy foods -- like dairy and meat products --  can "contribute to changes in the vaginal environment and affect the scent of your vaginal secretions."

2. Feminine Hygiene Products

Dr. Diane Horvath-Cosper, a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, tells Elite Daily,

The best way to keep the vagina healthy is to avoid any products with perfumes or dyes – including so-called “feminine hygiene” sprays and douches. These products can damage the bacterial balance and can actually cause infection (which can result in an abnormal odor).

Because a woman's vagina is such a fragile part of the body, you really have to be careful when choosing either hygiene products or lubrications. Review product labels, and stay away from ingredients that you either don't recognize or know can cause irritation.

3. Antibiotics

If you notice a prominent, sort of yeasty smelling odor coming from your vagina when you start taking a new antibiotic, chances are you may need to switch pills.

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, this kind of infection can develop when there is excessive yeast production in the vagina, and while some lubrications and spermicides are to blame, antibiotics can play a role as well, so don't be shy to speak to your doctor about potential side effects.

Dr. Alyssa Dweck, OB-GYN and author of The Complete A to Z for Your V, tells Elite Daily that if you have the familiar symptoms of a yeast infection, it's a good idea to pick up anti-fungal products such as Monistat as soon as possible.

4. Tampons

The golden rule of tampons is to change them regularly: Every four hours is suggested, and eight hours is the absolute max. But let's be real, women these days are busy AF between work, school, and socializing, so it's not unheard of to forget to pop into the bathroom and make a quick swap.

Dr. Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, an internal medicine doctor based in New York City, told SheKnows,

I am sure you have heard stories about women who have forgotten that they have left a tampon in for prolonged periods of time. A retained tampon in the vagina for extended time periods can be quite dangerous. Not only may it cause increased vaginal odor, but in some instances may lead to toxic shock syndrome.

Yikes. Set an alarm if you have to, ladies, because this is no joke.

5. Condoms

Just when you think you're being a total champ practicing safe sex, contraception hits you with a smelly vagina. Ugh.

Jennifer Wider, M.D. told Cosmopolitan that intercourse essentials like condoms and lubricants can make your vagina smell a tad bleachy, but it's not a huge deal. Unless you experience some kind of irritation or burning, you probably just need to opt for protection that's unscented.

6. Workout Attire

It's one thing to wear head-to-toe athleisure all day every day even if you don't really work out like, at all, but it's another thing entirely to sport wet clothing hours after an intense HIIT session left you dripping.

Dr. Dweck suggests that, to ensure vagina oder doesn't go AWOL, it's imperative that you change out of wet workout clothes or bathing suits as soon as possible.

7.  You'r Dehydrated

Nothing good can come from a dry vagina, and when you're feeling incredibly parched, you can bet your nether regions are too.

Sherry A. Ross, M.D. told Glamour the vagina is normally acidic, but a disruption in a woman's pH balance can lead to infection and foul odor, so it's important to stay hydrated.

All in all, remember to always check with your doctor if you're unsure about what's going on down there. Better safe than sorry, right?