Why does my vagina smell like garlic? 7 common vagina odours and what they could mean.

Smelly vaginas. We've all experienced them at some stage. C'mon, Helen. Don't give us the old, "I Don't Get That." Cause you do. We all do. We've all been there (on the toilet), dropped our undies, copped a whiff and wondered if that ~smell~ is... normal. 

If you're anything like us, you then throw yourself into an anxiety-induced Google diagnosis sesh until 3am in the morning. ¯\_ (ツ)_/¯ 

What a time.

Image: Giphy


Just for the record, though - having a scent is actually pretty normal - and chances are it's completely fine. Cause different smells will actually appear during different parts of your menstrual cycle, so there's a wide range of 'normal' odours. 

So, most of the time it's no big deal.

Watch: Want more vagina content? Of course you do! Here's what your vagina should smell like. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

In saying that, if you're experiencing a change of smell that won't go away - something rotten, seriously fishy or just plain freaking weird - this could be a sign that something's not quite right and you may need to see a doctor.

So, how do you tell the difference between an OK vaginal scent, and one that isn't? We've got you.

Listen: The Spill hosts Kee Reece and Laura Brodnik talk about the 'sophisticated warmth' of Gwyneth Paltrow's vagina candle.

Here are five common vagina smells and what they could mean.

My vagina smells rotten.

Could it mean something's not right? Potentially.

Alrighty. A super pungent smell that kinda smells like rotting food could be a sign of infection from a number of sources, said general obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Nicole Stamatopoulos. 

However, more often than not it means you've forgotten about a tampon. A combo of old blood, bacteria and discharge stuck in a tampon tends to not smell great... 

Image: Giphy

No, don't be embarrassed! It's way, way, waaay more common than you might think.

Just on getting it out: If you can't manage to pull it out yourself (maybe the string has gone in and it's too hard to reach), take a trip to a gyno and they'll be able to help you out - the smell should also improve right away. 

And don't be shy about booking an appointment for this, seriously. Your ob/gyn has 100 percent touched an actual CORPSE in medical school - so fetching out a tampon is nothing.


If you're not dealing with a forgotten tampon, Dr Stamatopoulos said this smell might be a sign of an STI, a bacterial infection an imbalance from the acid/base balance in the vagina or in very rare cases, necrotic or dead tissue from cervical or vaginal cancer.

If any of this sounds familiar, it's best to check in with a gyno.

My vagina smells fishy.

Could it mean something's not right? Yes.

If you notice a less-than-pleasant fishy odour coming from your V, you could have bacterial vaginosis, says Dr Stamatopoulos. This comes from the imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your vagina and might mean you're also experiencing itching and burning when you pee. Sound familiar?

While this is less common, Dr Stamatopoulos said a fishy smell could mean you have a sexually transmitted infection called trichomoniasis. "Both are usually accompanied by a discharge. Bacterial vaginosis with a thin milky one and trichomoniasis with a green one. Both an odour and a discharge may mean an infection."

Well, s**t. What do I do then? 

"When we think something is wrong, we often look for other things that are going on in the genital area," said Dr Stamatopoulos. So, leave it to the pros. They'll be able to tell you exactly what's up.


My vagina smells like bread.

Could it mean something's not right? Yes.

If your vagina smells like you've been slaving away in a bakehouse for 10 hours straight, it could be a sign of a yeast infection. "A yeasty smell may indicate thrush. It usually has itch and discomfort as well as a thick white discharge." Cool!

Thrush happens when the normal amount of yeast in your vagina overgrows  - whether it's due to sweaty underwear, wet bathing suits or even pregnancy. 

"It may also be associated with a recent course of antibiotics, uncontrolled diabetes or being on the pill for many years," said Dr Stamatopoulos. "You don't have to have all of these symptoms for thrush."

But it's no biggie. Just check in with your doc and they'll be able to tell you what kind of medications will work.

My vagina smells musky.

Could it mean something's not right? Nah. You're good.

As we said before, your vagina will usually have some sorta scent to it - it's covered in bacteria and there are a lot of sweat glands in that area. So, a faint, musky smell is nothing to worry about. It's just your normal, healthy vagina odour.

"A musky smell is likely to be normal. The vagina has an odour. If we focus on what is going on down in that area, we are likely to notice it. It's nothing to worry about."

My vagina smells metallic.

Could it mean something's not right? Probably not.

This kinda scent is most common before, during and after your period and is usually nothing to worry about. "A metallic smell with menstruation is normal. Blood contains iron in it, which is a metal. This is why you get this type of smell," said Dr Stamatopoulos.


However, if this metallic smells hangs around long after your period, gets worse or you're starting to experience pain or itching at the same time, we reckon you should speak to your doctor.

My vagina smells like garlic.

Could it mean something's not right? Nah. You're good.

If you've eaten ALL of the garlic bread and suddenly your vagina smells pungent AF, it's no biggie - the food's scent is just getting excreted by the sweat glands around your vulva.

Image: Giphy


"Garlic is not something that gynaecologists would associate with causing an odour in the vaginal area. This area does however, sweat. We know that strong food can be secreted in sweat and this may be why there is that association," said Dr Stamatopoulos.

How weird is that?!

My vagina smells sweet.

Could it mean something's not right? Nah. You're good.

Similar to the above, if you catch your vagina smelling all fruity and sweet, it could be to do with old mate sweat glands again. Especially if you've being going hard on the oranges and pineapples. 

"Something in those is secreted and therefore mixes with vaginal discharge," explained Dr Stamatopoulos.

Just on sweaty vaginas: "You also want to make sure you have good hygiene. Use soap free washes or just warm water, only wash the area once or twice a day and change pads and tampons regularly."

If you want a more thorough guide on how to prevent a sweaty odour, here's the lowdown on how to clean your vagina.

Feature image: Getty

Do you have any other vagina-related questions you need answered? Pop them in the comment section below and we'll get them answered.