Does your vagina smell like garlic or onions? This is why
If there’s something women don’t talk about enough, it’s vagina odour.
To many, this is an awkward and intimate topic, especially if they are experiencing an unusual and unpleasant scent from their nether regions.
Changes in vaginal scent are actually very common and absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, but It’s important that you take it seriously, as these can signify a bigger health issue, such as an infection.
With that in mind, let’s discuss a lesser-talked-about scent; one that we have dubbed the onions-and-garlic aroma (or, OGA).
We find out what this is, how it occurs and whether you’ll have to spend the rest of your days smelling like day-old garlic bread (you don’t).
Why does your vagina smell like onions and garlic?
A natural reaction to OGA might be to think: ‘Is this because I eat too much onions and garlic?’ but that is not necessarily the case.
Eating certain foods can alter body scent (and vegetables are such a food) but what you’re smelling isn’t actually the vegetable in itself, and you’d have to eat a lot of onions and garlic to come close.
There are other, more likely factors to consider, Dr Larisa Corda, an obstetrician, gynaecologist and fertility expert tells us.
‘Every vagina has it’s own smell that varies woman to woman,’ Dr Corda.
‘This is due to the particular collection of bacteria, called the microflora, that exists there.
‘Quite often, the smell can resemble fermented food as the bacteria can be similar to that found in sourdough bread and yoghurt.
‘Other things such as vaginal bleeding, urine, sweat and even stress can also affect the scent down there too.’
Dr Corda explains that some minor changes in smell could just be due to your menstrual cycle and a change in hormone levels.
It’s when the smell turns ‘rotten and fishy’ that you should ask a medical professional for help, as this is usually a sign that something more sinister is at play.
That being said, even if the scent hasn’t ‘gone bad’ and you are concerned about your vaginal health or simply want to check that what you’re smelling is ‘normal’, it’s always best to chat to your doctor (that’s what they’re there for).
Another area to keep an eye on (beyond an onion-based smell) is a change in colour or consistency to go along with it.
A change in scent could also be a sign that you have a yeast infection or an STI, such as trichomoniasis, according to the NHS.
If you have trichomoniasis, the smell is usually paired with yellow or green discharge, soreness and itchiness near the entrance of the vagina and pain when passing urine or during sex.
However, bear in mind that half of those who develop trichomoniasis have no symptoms at all.
How can you stop your vagina from smelling like onions?
OGA can also sometimes be the result of recent lifestyle changes.
‘Think back to where you are in your menstrual cycle, your diet, whether you’ve had a change in partner or even a change in shower gel,’ says Dr Shree Datta, who works as a consultant obstetrician-gyneacologist and expert at Intimina.
‘What you can do depends on the cause for the change in smell – if it’s down to an infection, then antibiotic treatment should help.
‘Think about what triggered the change and whether you can prevent this from happening again.
‘A hectic lifestyle or smoking can also affect the pH balance of your vagina at different points in your period cycle so don’t underestimate its impact.’
The best way to reduce the risk of developing OGA is to take good care of your vagina, so here are some general rules to help you out.
Firstly, your vagina is self-cleaning, so there is no need to douche it or use other ‘cleansing’ products to avoid infections (these could actually cause infections).
What’s more, don’t reuse underwear without washing it first, avoid tight jeans or underwear or swap to more breathable materials, and always dry your vagina properly after a shower before putting your clothes back on.
If you tend to sweat a lot, it is also worth carrying an extra pair of knickers to swap into, and avoid reusing sweaty gym gear.
Tampons left in too long can also cause odours (as well as other, more serious conditions such as toxic shock syndrome) so change tampons regularly during your period.