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The Good, The Bad, and The Smelly: What’s Normal, What’s Not, and More about Vaginal Odors

After a long day of being tightly sealed under hip hugging denim, sensing some under-the-zipper steam while waiting for even steamier lattes, and sitting hours upon hours at your desk pretending to work while actually reading blog posts (oh, hello there), it’s not surprising that our vaginas can take on certain aromas.

 

Like the candle aisle at Target, each of us has our own unique smell (but hopefully it doesn’t make you dizzy). This is perfectly normal. You know your smell, so you can easily distinguish if anything is getting wacky.

Here is a list of things to look out for, or rather, smell out for. She’s always going to be musky, but there are some cues you can take from a changing smell, and sometimes, stuff you should do about it.

Garlicky // Oniony

Culprit: Good ol’ body odor
Management: Take a good ol’ shower

Typically when things start to smell like a spice cupboard, it’s time to take a shower. When you eat certain foods, their scents are reflected in your urine and vaginal discharge—case in point: asparagus. Because your vaginal opening, urethra, and poopshoot are all located in the same general vicinity, it’s important to keep everything nice and hygienic so you can distinguish where smells are actually coming from.

Fishy // Week-Old Sushi

Culprit: Bacterial Vaginosis
Management: Antibiotics // Probiotics

In short, there’s bacteria in your vagina. Some are good bacteria that keep you nice and healthy, like those probiotics you bought once at Whole Foods that are now gathering dust at the back of your fridge. And the others, to put it bluntly, are fck boys. They hang around purely for their own selfish needs and don’t care about your betterment.

When these two parties get unbalanced, your vagina responds with a smelly vaginal discharge (more on dischargehere) that’s especially apparent after sex. That forgotten container of probiotics can actually help keep this balance in check, as can a prescribed antibiotic. To avoid repeat occurrences, add some more yogurt to your diet—especially brands with probiotic lactobacillus acidophilus which has been linked to healthier vaginal cultures.

Yeasty // Beer-y

Culprit: Yeast Infection
Management: Antifungal Treatment

Contrary to popular belief, yeast infections cannot be contracted by walking into a bakery. (Okay, maybe that was just me.) These little devils are caused by my least favorite of the ‘duhs,’ the Candida. Basically, we all have yeast in our bodies, but sometimes it overgrows. When this happens in your vagina, a cottage-cheese-like discharge also tends to appear.

Walking to the store to get antifungal drugs will be painful and awkward, but it’s totally necessary. Nip. This. In. The. Bud. If it’s your first experience with the yeast beast, or if infections seem to be reoccurring, it’s a good idea to see your doctor.

Sour // Tangy

Culprit: Trichomoniasis
Management: Antibiotics

Caused by a one-celled critter that, oh joy, is sexually transmitted, trichomoniasis (or “trich”) can affect your urinary tract, vagina, and digestive system.Good news though: it’s considered the most common and curable STI in America. The best clues—next to its off-putting fishy smell—include frothy greyish/greenish discharge, spotting, general itchiness and discomfort, and a burning sensation when you pee. Only30% of infected women experience symptoms though, so keep your nose alert and your STI testing up to date.

Decay // Rotten Meat

Culprit: Lost tampon
Management: Medical attention

Go to the doctor. Go to the doctor now. If it’s foul, it’s no good. Tampons get forgotten, it happens. Healthcare professionals know how to deal with this. Don’t feel embarrassed—crank up the Taylor Swift, put your hair in a ponytail, and deal with it like the badass you are.

With all this in mind, it’s always important to keep your vagina happy and healthy. Use condoms, don’t douche, rinse all soap away when showering, pee soon after sex, wear breathable underwear, eat a well balanced diet, vote for Hillary, etc. But most of all, let your vagina work for you. Your body is amazing, and it can fix a lot of stuff on its own. When it can’t, it finds a way to let you know.

Photos: Kristina Paukshtite, stock.tookapic.com, Jairo Alzate, www.lifeofpix.com, Lauren Mancke, Markus Spiske

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