There is a lot going on in the vulva, and it can shift and change the way your vagina smells. Most of the time this is nothing to worry about but sometimes it can signal a more serious issue.
A coppery or metallic odor is normal during your periods because of the iron in blood. It should lift as your period ends.
Depending on what’s going on in your vulva, the smell of your discharge or the area surrounding it could have an iron or metallic scent. It can also have a skunk-like odor due to sweat that accumulates in the area, which happens when you’re working up a sweat (think during your workout or if you’re stressed). Wearing cotton underwear and not using scented body washes around the vulva helps cut down on this sweat that leads to odor. Avoiding fatty foods and drinking plenty of water can help, too.
The odor of your vagina is a result of your healthy bacterial flora, and it can change due to different things happening in or on the vulva. For instance, “a bloody vagina or sex may produce a coppery or iron-like smell due to the iron in the blood,” Dr. Idries Abdur-Rahman tells Romper. This is particularly true when you’re on your period.
The odor can also be caused by semen, which can alter the pH balance of your vulva and cause it to smell differently than usual. Typically, this is nothing to worry about because the change in odor should be temporary.
A little coppery, metallic smell is normal when you’re getting period. Blood contains iron, so when the lining of your uterus is shed during menstruation as period blood, it can leave behind that slightly coppery, metallic scent. This smell should lift once your period is over.
If you’re experiencing a coppery, metallic odor that smells more like pennies, it may be a sign of a lost tampon. Or, it could be an infection like bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis. You should always see your doctor if you have an unusual vaginal odor that is accompanied by other symptoms, like itching or discharge.
Vaginas are home to billions of bacteria, and the odor can change on a daily basis. This is because the bacteria can change your pH balance, causing different odors.
You’ll also sometimes notice a musky odor in your crotch if you’ve been sweating a lot. This is because the groin has its own collection of sweat glands, just like the armpits. Washing your vulva with a mild, unscented soap can help. Also, try to avoid wearing tight pants or scented products in your crotch area.
As the body’s “self-cleaning organ,” a vagina produces a cleansing discharge that typically has a mild odor. When that smell changes, it may indicate something isn’t quite right. “It can be a sign of blood, infection or even semen,” OB-GYN Idries Abdur-Rahman tells Romper. Generally, blood—whether it’s from a miscarriage or the shedding of a menstrual lining during your period—has an iron-like scent. And semen is basic on the acid-base balance, so it can also change the way your vulva smells.
A sour or musty odor is usually a sign of normal vaginal bacteria, and is comparable to the scent of fermented foods like yoghurt and sourdough bread. This is because those types of foods contain lactobacillus, which is a normal type of bacteria found in your vulva.
However, a strong fishy smell isn’t normal and could be a sign of bacterial vaginosis, which is when the healthy bacteria in your vulva overgrow causing an infection. This can often be paired with itching, gray or white discharge and pain when you urinate.
A coppery or metallic smell isn’t unusual either, as it’s a sign of your period blood. The smell may be stronger before or during your period and should disappear as soon as the bleeding is over. However, if it’s present at other times of the month or accompanied by itching and discharge, then you should see your gynecologist as the smell may be indicative of an underlying issue.
During sexual arousal, the body releases sweat and pheromones that can produce a variety of smells. Some bodily fluids have a particular smell, including semen and blood. Occasionally, some people report smelling like copper or a metal-like odor after sex. This smell is probably temporary, but if it persists, you should talk to your doctor.
A metallic smell usually means that you’re getting your period. Blood contains iron, and that’s what causes the smell. This smell will likely fade as soon as your period ends.
If you’re smelling a little like a skunk, it’s probably because your vagina is full of bacteria that are producing pheromones. This is normal and nothing to worry about, but if the smell doesn’t go away, you may have a yeast infection or another issue that needs to be addressed by your doctor.
If you’re smelling something a little more rotten, it could mean that you left a food out too long or didn’t wipe after you went to the bathroom. If the odor is particularly strong, you should try drinking a lot of water to flush out your system and keep it clean. Also, avoid using scented soaps on your crotch area, as this can throw off the pH balance and promote an overgrowth of yeast. Instead, stick to a mild unscented soap or use a warm water rinse.