Aunt Vadge: weird smell after sex with a condom

Dear Aunt Vadge,

My boyfriend and I had sex for the first time last week. We were both virgins and he used a condom. We were very careful to make sure it didn’t tear or come off or anything like that. I also peed afterwards like I had always been told.

The next day I noticed a weird smell from my vagina. I don’t know how to explain it. It wasn’t really fishy, but it didn’t smell good or normal. Then I started my period. I thought maybe the smell was just from my period, though I had never noticed it before. The smell went away after a day or two though. I assumed I was right about the smell being caused by my period.

A couple days after my period ended we had sex again. We also used a condom this time as well and were careful. Afterwards the smell was back. I honestly meant to mention it to him, but just forgot. I then forgot about the smell as well so I’m not sure if it went away before we had sex again three days later. Then I noticed the smell again.

I’ve considered going to the doctor, I’m just trying to find time during the day. I read somewhere that it could just be the condom. Could that be it? I don’t want to suggest he buy different ones if it doesn’t make any sense anyway.

Age: 23
Country/Area: USA

Dear Confused,

It seems like it could definitely be a result of the condom, and I would advise you to try a different brand. Smells are almost always due to bacteria, just like when food or milk or something goes off. Bacteria cause smells. If the condom is causing a reaction in your vagina, bacteria might be getting temporarily out of whack, causing smells.

There are two things you can do.

The first is to try another brand of condom, perhaps try a latex-free variety.

Once you have tried another brand, you can also boost your vagina’s microbial ecosystem by taking a round of probiotics designed for women. These should be found in the refrigerator, and be of a high quality. If you can’t afford probiotics (they can get pricey), I would advise eating a broad range of live fermented foods. They must be alive though – anything that has been pasteurised is no good, because the good bacteria are dead. Only use plain varieties – extra added sugar and other flavours are not usually good for bacteria. Making them at home is a good idea.

You can find a range of fermented food ideas here.  Ferments are easy and cheap to make at home, so there is really no need to spend a lot of money unless making your own is not a viable option. You can introduce some foods into the vagina directly, including live yoghurt and milk kefir, which contain lactobacilli, a group of probiotic bacteria found naturally in the vagina. This can boost your natural defences, so when you use condoms, the problem may not reappear. You need strong colonies to avoid weird smells and bacterial imbalances now and into the future, so keep this in mind. Weird smells = bad bacteria.

Happy experimenting!

Warmest regards,
Aunt Vadge