What your vagina should really smell like – hormone expert explains how to know when it’s healthy

Most women even shower, shave, and primp a bit before visiting the gynecologist. I often notice wafts of perfume emanating from the nether regions. I appreciate the respect and notice the effort, but really, it’s not necessary. We gynecologists are not as sensitive as you might imagine.

What Should You Smell Like?

So how is the vagina supposed to smell? It depends. When you’re straight out of the shower, your coochie may have no smell at all. When you’ve just finished running a marathon, it may have a strong musky odor from all the sweat glands. When you’re menstruating or giving birth, the flinty-iron smell of blood prevails. When yeast overgrows in the vagina, you may smell like freshly baked-bread or a good malt beer. Right after you’ve had intercourse, you may smell faintly bleach-like, as semen has a classic odor of its own. And when certain normal bacteria overgrow, they release amines that smell — yup, you guessed it — like fish. Every vagina has its own special smell — a combination of the normal bacteria that live in your vagina, what you eat, how you dress, your level of hygiene, your bowel habits, how much you sweat, and what your glands secrete. Remember that the glands near the vagina also secrete pheromones, meant to attract a sexual partner. So you don’t want to deodorize your va-jay-jay so much that it smells like rain. Doing so thwarts the primal function of what your smell is supposed to accomplish. Plus, it interferes with the vagina’s natural pH balance and can lead to a whole host of gynecological conditions. So own your odor, girlfriends. Sure, if you’re worried, see a gynecologist to make sure your vagina is healthy and normal. But as long as everything’s kosher down there, accept that your coochie smells exactly how it’s supposed to smell.

Want to Know More About Your V-Pourri?

Here are some questions I answer in What’s Up Down There:

  • My crotch gets extra funky sometimes. Not to quote a douche commercial, but why do I have that not-so-fresh feeling down there?
  • Aside from douching, are there natural things you can do to make your vagina smell more fresh?
  • What should I do if my partner doesn’t like to go down on me?

You’ll find the empowering and reassuring answers to these questions and more in What’s Up Down There: Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend. Three cheers for vaginas, Dr. Lissa

Related Reading:

  • We Need to Talk About Vagina Weight Lifting
  • An OB-GYN Weighs in on Vagina Steaming
  • 5 Fun Vagina Facts We Bet You Didn’t Know

Dr. Lissa Rankin is an OB/GYN physician, an author, a nationally-represented professional artist, and the founder of Owning Pink, an online community committed to building authentic community and empowering women to get — and keep — their “mojo.” Owning Pink is all about owning all the facets of what makes you whole — your health, your sexuality, your spirituality, your creativity, your career, your relationships, the planet, and YOU. Dr. Rankin is currently redefining women’s health at the Owning Pink Center, her practice in Mill Valley, California.

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