Not exactly a bouquet of roses down below? Here's why.

By Isadora Baum
April 25, 2018

Musky, earthy, sweet, salty. Every woman has her own unique vaginal scent, a reflection of her body chemistry, sweat level, the foods she regularly eats, and other factors. Even if you aren't totally comfortable with it, you probably have a pretty good idea of what your normal odor smells like.

So when you get a whiff of something different down there—the scent is stronger, more bitter, or just, well, funkier—you're probably going to be alarmed. Luckily, lots of different things can alter your aroma, and not all of them require a visit to your gyno. These 5 are the common culprits behind sudden odor changes.

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You have your period

“Having a smell with your period is totally normal," says Jennifer Landa, MD, an ob-gyn at BodyLogicMD in Orlando, Florida. Considering what's coming out of you during tampon week, it's no surprise. "Besides blood, there is also tissue from the uterus, and maybe even bacteria from the uterus that is expelled when you have your period.”

The scent can be more intense on the lighter days of your flow, when blood leaves your uterus more slowly and has had time to mix with odor-causing bacteria. So what exactly does period vagina smell like? Again, it's different for everyone, but Dr. Landa suggests it may be more metallic or very slightly fishy, thanks to the bacteria.

You just had sex 

Post-sex stench goes beyond the potent blend of sweat and vaginal secretions your body produces during a bedroom session. Semen has its own distinct odor, which also depends on a guy's body chemistry and other factors. When semen mixes with the normal bacteria in the vagina, "it can cause a sort of tangy smell that is totally normal," says Dr. Landa. 

One type of smell that often detected after sex isn't normal: a strong, fishy odor. This is a telltale sign of bacterial vaginosis, a type of vaginal infection. If the odor persists, and is accompanied by a thin white discharge, pain, and/or itching, check in with your ob-gyn. (Not all women have these symptoms, however.) Bacterial vaginosis is usually treated with antibiotics.

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You're eating different foods

Just as some foods can alter the smell of your breath, they can also change the scent of your lady parts. Onions are a common culprit, along with garlic, asparagus, curry, and red meat, says Dr. Landa. Chemicals in these foods affect your vaginal secretions as well as the smell of your sweat and urine, so the new funk can be pretty noticeable. It'll go away once your body fully metabolizes what you ate, she says.

While there's no solid science here, anecdotal evidence supports the idea that eating pineapple can make the vagina smell in a good way, perhaps by making it a little sweeter. 

You picked up an STD

Sexually transmitted infections caused by bacteria, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, can trigger a foul, unpleasant odor, which Dr. Landa describes as like "pus from a wound," though not all women will experience this. Other signs of these STDs include pain during urination or a green to yellow discharge. But again, these sneaky infections often have no signs. If you suspect one, however, call your gyno, who can test you and treat it with antibiotics.

Another STD that triggers a foul or fishy odor is trichomoniasis, which is caused by a parasite. Trich doesn't get a lot of attention, but it's actually the most common curable STD. Other symptoms of trich include itching and pain while peeing. Antibiotics can get rid of it and get your vagina smelling back to normal.

RELATED: The Truth About What Happens to Your Vagina if You Haven't Had Sex in a While

You have a yeast infection

The usual tip-off to a yeast infection is itching and irritation at the opening of your vagina, and/or a thick, cheese curd kind of discharge. But sometimes it's a bread-like odor that clues you in, says Dr. Landa. See your ob-gyn for a diagnosis and prescription meds to cure it, or hightail it to the drugstore for over-the-counter yeast-infection treatment.