Dealing with unpleasant vaginal tastes and smells

Vag Smell

Healthy, clean vaginas don’t really smell like anything much and they certainly don’t smell bad. In fact, a healthy vagina of someone you are sexually involved with (as in, like having sex with) should smell somewhere between neutral and delicious. Healthy vag is never unpleasant. Vaginas have an aroma ‘of the sea’ but never fishy, rotten or disgusting.

If you have stumbled across a smelly vagina, you need to understand what the possible problems are before you can proceed. Nobody should have to deal with a smelly vagina, least of all the owner and her lover, but she might not know about it, which is where you come in.

Yep. Awkward.

There are a plethora of things that can go wrong with vaginas to make them smell a bit off or fishy. They are all bacterial in nature, which is both easy and hard to fix.

What might be wrong

  1. Gonorrhoea (STI, malodourous)
  2. Trichomoniasis (STI, malodorous)
  3. Enterococcus faecalis (odour may be rotten meat or faeces)
  4. Mycoplasma or ureaplasma species
  5. Bacterial vaginosis (Gardnerella vaginalis and others, distinct fishy smell, can be caused by normal vaginal flora, also sexually transmitted)
  6. Pelvic inflammatory disease (caused by an untreated pelvic infection of some kind)
  7. Unbalanced microflora (may just need adjusting, no ‘infection’ as such, just a bit off)

Vaginal infections/problems without (bad) vaginal odour:

  1. Yeast infections (cause thick, white, copious discharge, itch, rawness)
  2. Chlamydia (causes urinary tract issues and white discharge)

The first port of call is a trip to the doctor, but a comprehensive microbiome test may be useful. Getting antibiotics for an infection based only on culture may not get sneaky bacteria like Mycoplasma species, which are not routinely tested for.

Antibiotic resistance is a huge issue with vaginal infections, so for a speedy recovery, proper testing is essential at the outset. You may also need to be treated if it’s an STI or BV.

Fishy vag – BV

It becomes harder when the cause is BV, and if she has a very fishy-smelling vagina, this is likely to be the cause (if it isn’t an STI). Either way, your lady needs to know about her smell not being quite right.

While your head is between her legs is not the ideal time to say it, but in fact, if it is really smelly, it is the only time – don’t proceed with a fishy vagina, because it means something is wrong and you can catch it!

There is a stupid myth that some vaginas just smell like fish, but the cause is bacteria, and putting your penis in it without a condom is a very bad idea. The fact is, she wouldn’t want you to continue on and act like nothing was wrong – she may not know.

You may think, how could she not know? But the nose is far from the vagina. Talking about it might be awkward, but it’s less awkward than either suffering through it, or just ending the relationship and her never knowing why (and you both maybe missing out on a sweet pairing!).

Women may not know what their vaginas smell like, and since the fluids are generally on the inside, they may never know unless you tell them that they have an unpleasant odour. This isn’t going to be a fun conversation, so see our article on telling your girlfriend she has bag vag for help.

The solution(s) for bad vaginal smells

One way to try to deal with non-infective, non-BV bacterial imbalance is fermented foods and probiotics added to the diet, with a focus on lactobacilli-containing foods, as these are the predominant species in the vagina.

Life-Space Womens Microflora Probiotic is an excellent choice for vaginal health, as it contains the most important strains. If her vag is just a bit off, a round of vaginal and oral probiotics can work wonders.

Bad vaginal tastes

If your lover’s vagina tastes bad, but smells fine, you have a different kind of problem on your hands. Taste and smell are so important in our sexual enjoyment, and what she tastes like can really change how you feel about her and your sexual experience.

Food and drink experiments

Vaginal taste and smell tend to reflect what she eats, drinks and smokes, which presents you with a much greater problem than merely having a shower: you are talking about the fluids her body naturally produces, and telling her you don’t like the taste is also not a fun chat.

The taste may be alterable, so do some experiments with her. It is well known that men can change the taste of their semen by eating and drinking differently (pineapple anyone?), and ask any man who has gone down on a vegan woman, and they’ll tell you that vegans taste better.

Things that change the way she tastes include smoking, booze, broccoli, asparagus, onions, garlic, some spices, red meat, and junk food. Unamazingly, fruit and vegetables and clean living make vaginas taste good, with pineapple also working on women for a sweeter juice taste.

Taste is variable, but is not unchangeable for the most part, though you may just have an aversion to her particular flavours (this must be considered). If you’re not into it, you’re not into it.

Getting your lover to make a change so her vagina tastes better (to you) is going to depend very heavily on the type of relationship you have, and how easily you are able to have difficult conversations about very personal things.

Bad vag is the sort of thing that women get dumped for ‘no reason’ over, because you don’t want to bring up a really embarrassing thing that you don’t like about her body, since that makes you a jerk, right? Wrong. It’s a real bummer to talk about, but it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. That’s up to you both.

How to introduce vaginal taste experiments

  • Tell her you want to see if her vaginal fluids change flavour if she eats pineapple – you do it too, to experiment with the taste of your semen. This is a fun game. Don’t mention that her vagina tastes bad to you. Obviously.
  • Figure out a way to get her to take a course of women’s probiotics – this is one way you may definitely taste the difference, and use positive feedback (“Wow! You taste so delicious now, holy crap!”) to encourage her to consider how bacteria affect her flavours.
  • Introduce live fermented foods to her diet, to introduce the probiotic bacteria less obviously – do your own taste tests to see if you can effect change.

How her menstrual cycle could affect her vaginal taste and smell

Keep in mind that a woman’s cycle will change her microflora, and that may result in a variety of flavours during her cycle. This can even mean more iron flavours near to her period, and a tangy taste, plus varying smells – this is normal and natural, but should never be ‘off’ or bad, but can be stronger depending on the hormonal phase she is in.

Tang, sour

Lactobacilli produce lactic acid, which is what makes yoghurt – and vaginas – tangy. This means that is going to be a characteristic of a vagina.

Managing your expectations

Don’t expect miracles. If you just don’t like the taste of vaginal fluids, that’s ok but we can’t help you! Keep in mind that humans are very attracted to sexual partners using scent molecules – don’t underestimate the power of your nose to lead you to healthy and compatible sexual partners.

If you love their smell and taste, you’re in the right place. If it seems a bit off, try to talk about it if you can, and if you can’t, always use a condom and avoid getting vaginal bacteria in your mouth.

The mouth is a lot like a vagina in tissue, and dental issues and vaginal issues can be quite similar and some bacteria passed between sexual partners this way. Don’t let it be you.

Partying and fast food

Crappy food, booze, drugs and smoking can alter bacterial balance, leading to vaginas being a bit off. Partiers are gonna party, so adding in a course of oral probiotics can be a safe, easy way to reset the balance.

Being honest – would you want someone to tell you?

If you feel like her diet and lifestyle may be contributing negatively to her flavour, it may be useful to be honest about it. Be tactful and offer solution suggestions. Keep the chat positive and give positive reinforcement.

See how to tell your girlfriend she has bad vag for more help in having the chat.  

Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)