Changes in vaginal scent

Originally Published: April 5, 1996 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: July 11, 2008
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Dear Alice,

Over the past several months, I've noticed a distinct change in my vaginal odor or "scent." It has taken on a more sweet, pungent aroma, which is very different from the musky odor to which I was accustomed. This has me somewhat concerned because I no longer smell like myself! I liken this dilemma to that of an identity crisis!

Is this a natural change in my body — something that will continue to evolve and change as I grow older (I am twenty-five), or could there be a health- or medical-related explanation? A possible dietary deficiency? An illness? Could a change in sexual partners play a part?

—Wants to Know!

Dear Wants to Know!,

First, it is excellent that you are paying attention to your body and have an awareness of your scent, your own unique signature. It is really important for women to recognize their own personal aroma so that they know what is normal for them and can recognize any change(s) in their bodies (similar to doing breast self-exams).

Natural changes in the body, particular unfamiliar fragrances, can some times throw us for a loop. Here are some ideas to consider when contemplating your singular smell. Think back on your recent life. When your scent changed, was there anything else in your life that changed at the same time? Many of the factors you mentioned could explain your change in odor. Diet changes, hormones (such as when women are pregnant), and vaginal infections could all affect vaginal scent. A change in partners could as well, since semen (if the partner is male) mingling with your own fluids during intercourse alters what smells like you. During your menstrual cycle you may also notice fluctuations in certain smells. Of course, if you catch a whiff of something unpleasant, or even a foul, odor, that may be indicative of an infection, such as yeast or trichomonas. These can be treated by either over-the-counter or prescription medications.

It may be nothing, but you may want to get checked out for peace of mind. If you are at Columbia, call x4-2284 or log on to Open Communicator to make an appointment with Primary Care Medical Services. Outside of Columbia, you can visit your regular health care provider or a gynecologist. It is perfectly normal to experience natural changes in your body as you grow older, however if you are concerned, visiting your health care provider may be a good idea.

Take care,

Alice