Telling your girlfriend she has bad vag

Sometimes vaginas go bad. Bad vag may mean a bad smell or unpleasant vaginal taste that appears suddenly, develops over time, or has always been there.

You will all have different kinds of relationships with the gal you want to share this difficult information with, from someone you just met to someone you’ve been with for decades. The relationship largely dictates the type of conversations you’ll be having, so use your intuition to determine which approach to take.

This article has been written with a penis-vagina hetero pairing in mind because we need to talk about the influence of the penis in bad vag, but can be applied to any relationship.

There are three reasons for your conversation:

  1. A bad-smelling vagina is off-putting and unpleasant for you as a lover
  2. A bad-smelling vagina means something is wrong with her vagina that needs medical treatment
  3. If she has bad vag and you have been putting your penis into it, you may have contagious bad vag on your penis, without symptoms, that you can pass on to other vaginas in the future

While reasons 1 and 3 relate to your experience, the key to the universe lies in number 2. If she treats the problem, the other two things go away. Treatment should thus be your aim.

Someone has to tell her – the argument for saying something

Imagine that your penis smelt gross, but you couldn’t really smell it because maybe you always jerk off in the shower, or you don’t ever smell your hand after you touch your penis, or you use a lot of scented products that disguise it, or you have a terrible sense of smell. Whatever the reason, you missed it.

You would expect a lover to say something, right? But your lover didn’t say anything, she just stopped going down on you, or worse, still went down on you but was secretly gagging the whole time. Washing the sheets right after you left. Scouring the internet for advice like this. Maybe thought you were cheating and caught an STI.

It’s never too late to tell someone they have a booger, a smelly penis or bad vag.

What’s wrong with her vagina?

One of the reasons guys tend to be a bit shy in coming forward when it comes to ‘women’s business’ is that men are kept in the dark about vaginas and thus feel they cannot help.

Educating yourself will be really important here since you are going to your girlfriend with a problem and so it’s useful to have the pathway forward at hand. That means learning what causes her symptoms.

Luckily, there are only a handful of causes of bad vag. She may have an STI (such as gonorrhoea or trich). It could also be a form of vaginal dysbiosis such as bacterial vaginosis (BV) or aerobic vaginitis (AV), which can, but does not require sexual transmission. BV and AV can develop happily on their own.

BV is the most common blight on vaginas in the world, but it’s not really talked about, even between women. It’s embarrassing and gross and can be really difficult to treat when it becomes chronic. (Which is why early or better-late-than-never intervention is important.)

Viruses and yeasts don’t tend to cause bad smells, but they can upset the ecosystem (vaginal dysbiosis). Human papillomavirus (HPV) (the cervical cancer virus that women get pap tests for) is an example of a common co-infection.

Bad vag can and does spread between penises and vaginas, even if you don’t get symptoms. Read more about bad vag and penises.

Bad smells are almost always bacterial in nature, outside of obvious hygiene practices like showering regularly (which is being taken as a given).

Understand this is going to be uncomfortable

Bringing up the horrible smell of someone’s genitals to their face is difficult. It’s embarrassing for you both. But it’s an important thing to bring up even though it would be easier to disappear into the night and let someone else deal with it.

Your girlfriend may not be aware that she has a problem, she may not know how bad it is, or what the implications for your sexual health are. This isn’t just an awkward conversation; both of your sexual health is at stake and it’s much more important than you think.

Rules to live by

Vaginas naturally smell ‘of the sea’, but not fishy and not unpleasant. A healthy vagina is generally very neutral in its smells, though the particular woman and her particular scents will usually change some over the course of her menstrual cycle. A healthy vagina smells the way skin might smell – just sort of like nothing much really.

It is abnormal for a vagina to smell off, fishy, like rotten meat, ammonia, metallic, old blood or musty. Even if it is a natural cyclical change, bad smells indicate an underlying bacterial imbalance.

Also good to keep in mind is that when we are sexually aroused we produce different odours, but these have a very distinct ‘sex’ smell, and are not unpleasant though they may be strong. This is not bad vag.

There is a variation in our enjoyment of others’ body odour that pertains to our personal biological preferences. We do a lot of judgement about lovers, food and the world using our nose. Sometimes you may just not like the way someone smells and that’s ok – that’s a message to maybe don’t get so close to them.

You need to be able to tell the difference between your personal preference and when something is wrong. It should be pretty obvious, but when vaginal odour is a little off, add sex smells, add a sweaty day, it can be quite subtle. Bad vag won’t always make a plant wilt.

Your lover might not be aware of the same things you are: you are getting a close-up view and smell of something she never gets that close to. Many women don’t know to smell themselves regularly to keep tabs on their odour.

Talking about it

You have two overarching options: discard the relationship or persevere.

Discarding the relationship

If you are going to discard the relationship for whatever reason, at least slip the proverbial note under her door and send her a message to say, “BTW go get your vag checked, it smells weird”.

You can also send an anonymous message saying she may have an STI and to be checked using this service. That will at least get her to the doctor to be tested, where she can find out about her issue and deal with it on her own.

Persevering with the relationship

If you are sticking around, you need to discuss bad vag with her simply because her continuing to have a smelly vagina is just not a realistic option for your happiness, even if she’s blissfully ignorant.

Choosing the right time to talk

The more low-key, kind and funny you can make this chat, the better it will be for everyone. If you have the sort of relationship where you can just blurt this out, do it. The faster you blurt it out, the better. The best blurt goes something like this:

‘I thought you should know that your amazing vagina normally smells beautiful, but it has been smelling a little weird lately.’

Scheduling ahead

Timing is everything. You do not need to turn this into a ‘we need to talk’ talk, but if you’re not sure how it’s going to go down, plan some key items ahead of time.

Does she have some time off in the next couple of days to go to the doctor and get treatment? Is she about to leave on a big work trip or holiday? Are you planning a romantic getaway? Can she afford the doctor’s visit or treatments right now? Is she in the middle of her period?

It’s important to know what’s coming up for her so you don’t leave her in an embarrassing pickle where she is unable for whatever reason to get treatment quickly.

Using sex – and the smell as it is fresh – as the catalyst

It might be that the best time to bring it up is during or after sex, so you can act like that’s the first time you smelt it. We’re in a very vulnerable state then so just be very gentle if you choose this option. Make sure not to make a face, gag or make awful noises – just ‘notice it’s different’ and bring it to her attention.

This tactic works even if your girlfriend has had bad vag as long as you’ve known her. You can make the executive decision whether to say this or not – you can just as easily pretend it’s new. The result should be the same: her getting treatment.

She may know she has a problem and will explain it to you. Or, maybe she doesn’t know, and asks you what you mean. Explain what the smell is (using words like ‘weird’, ‘unusual’ and ‘different to normal’, and if it’s fishy, say so but do not say words like ‘disgusting’ or ‘revolting’ or ‘repulsive’ even if that’s how you feel).

You can say you are no expert, and of course, you love her vagina, but it’s possible something is going on with her bacteria.

Don’t accuse her of having an STI, but also be sure not to eliminate that from the equation. Sometimes STIs are long-term guests without symptoms, and if you are in the world of casual sex without condoms, STIs are simply a reality.

Top tips

  • Make sure she makes an appointment with the doctor and has enough money for the consultation and the medication if required.
  • She needs proper testing to rule out/confirm what bacteria reside in her vagina. If she is diagnosed with BV, we have a book for her and a book for you.
  • Once she has a diagnosis and treatment plan, make an effort to understand what has happened to her by reading everything you can on My Vagina and other reliable resources. Be an ally and not a scared guy avoiding ‘women’s business’. We’re passed the 1950s. Be interested. The treatment may not work… which leaves you both with a bigger, longer problem.
  • Reassure her that it doesn’t affect the way you feel about her. Depending on her maturity and life experience, it could be a bit of a blow – the message women receive from our culture is that their vaginas and bodies are the only worthwhile thing they have to offer. Making her vagina ‘defective’ and ‘disgusting’ can have a much greater psychological impact than you may assume. Ask her and talk.
  • Make sure she doesn’t put anything inside her vagina to try to ‘treat’ her problem before going to get tested to avoid false-negatives. Going to the doctor with probiotics in your vagina or taking leftover antibiotics from a throat infection may give a result saying everything is fine – when it’s not.
  • Although vaginas (and penises) are very funny and everybody knows it, keep the jokes to yourself. Let her make the jokes if she wants, and laugh where appropriate, but just the right amount. Then hug her and tell her how much you love her beautiful vagina.
  • Send her to My Vagina and Aunt Vadge! We’re bad vag experts.

What to do before the test results come back

  • Once the swab has been taken, she can use a six per cent hydrogen peroxide douche to clean out her vagina of odours and fluids. This is a short-term fix so you can have sex without nasty smells, but is not a cure and she is still infectious due to the biofilm, so no bareback.
  • If she is feeling embarrassed, you won’t have to worry about sex because nobody will be getting any, but avoid penetrative sex without a condom and do not ejaculate inside of her. Semen has an alkaline pH which makes bacterial infections and overgrowth worse in about three seconds flat. There are many other fun places to present your liquid gifts to her; find one.
  • If you have been having unprotected sex, you may also need to be treated, so it is in your best interests to make sure you know what is wrong with her, even if you don’t have any symptoms. Avoid believing it is just a women’s problem; whatever she’s got, you’ve got. And the other partners you may have had also have it… Check in.

Don’t act like this is just a women’s problem – it could easily be a problem for you too, but without symptoms.

If you need further questions answered, Ask Aunt Vadge – she knows everything!  

Original price was: USD $9.99.Current price is: USD $0.00. ex GST/VAT/TAX
Original price was: USD $9.95.Current price is: USD $0.00. ex GST/VAT/TAX
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)