Whether you’re a woman or not, vaginal odor is normal and changes depending on the time of the month, hormones and personal vaginal flora. A slight tangy or vinegar smell is usually produced by lactobacilli and is considered to be healthy.

Occasionally, the odor can change and become much stronger which could indicate a problem. This article will explore the reasons why your vagina may smell like vinegar.

Bacterial Vaginosis

Vaginal discharge can be a white, yellow or grey liquid with an unpleasant smell. The odour is caused by the waste that the body excretes and if it is strong it may be due to bacterial vaginosis, a sexually transmitted infection or other problems. It is important to consult a doctor if the discharge is accompanied by fever, spotting, blood in your urine, painful urination, pelvic pain or genital itching.

A vinegar odour is commonly associated with bacterial vaginosis (BV). BV is an imbalance of the bacteria in the vulva that causes symptoms like itching, burning or itchy vaginal discharge. BV usually has no visible signs and can be diagnosed by your doctor based on symptoms and history.

Yeast infections can also cause a vinegar-like odour in the vagina. A yeast infection is the result of too many yeast cells in the vulva and can be caused by antibiotics, stress, sex or hormonal changes.

It is normal for the vulva to have some sort of odour, especially after having sex. The odour can be caused by sweating, menopause or being dehydrated. It is important to remember that all women have a natural odour and it is not necessarily harmful unless it is very strong or accompanied by other unhealthy symptoms. Vaginal odours can change with every menstrual cycle, pregnancy or even with the weather.

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Multiple Sexually Transmitted Infections

The vagina has a signature musky scent that can vary based on your menstrual cycle, hormones, personal vaginal bacteria and more. A slightly tangy or sour smell, similar to the smell of fermented foods, is actually completely normal and healthy, since it indicates that you have a good amount of the beneficial bacteria Lactobacilli in your system.

However, a vinegar-like odor may be a sign of more serious problems like a yeast infection or a sexually transmitted disease (STI) like trichomoniasis. Trichomonas is often accompanied by thin, white, green or yellow discharge and itching. If you suspect that you have a STI, you should contact your healthcare provider right away.

Vinegar-smelling vaginal discharge is also very common during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. In fact, 65% of women experience a vinegar-smelling discharge in their early pregnancy. This is completely normal and usually disappears in the next trimester, though.

In some rare cases, a strong vinegar odor in the private areas can be a sign of cancer, including vaginal and cervical cancer. If your vinegar-like odor is accompanied by symptoms such as pain, itching or burning, blood in the vagina, severe pelvic pain, fever, genital discharge that changes color or texture and an abnormal cervix, you should seek medical attention right away. At Nao Medical, we provide remote consultations to help women regain control of their health and find relief from the symptoms that are causing them discomfort. Contact us today to schedule your appointment!

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Sweating

Vaginal discharge can smell different, but it isn’t always a cause for alarm. Your genitals naturally produce fluids that create a mildly acidic environment to inhibit the growth of bad bacteria and prevent infection. These liquids are also responsible for flushing unhealthy bacteria and cellular debris to maintain healthy microflora balance. The exact composition of these fluids changes based on the food you eat, hygiene habits, menstrual cycle, when you last had sex and more. This is why you can sometimes notice a vinegar-like odor, even when you aren’t ill.

A tangy or vinegar-like odor is normal and typically caused by a good bacteria in the vagina called Lactobacillus. It is the same bacteria that create the fermentation process in foods like yogurt and sourdough bread, and it also inhabits your vulva. It produces lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide and other acids that help keep your vagina healthy.

You may also notice a vinegar-like odor from urine when you are dehydrated. This is because the water in your body’s urine decreases, which causes it to become more concentrated with excretory byproducts like uric acid. Uric acid has a strong odor similar to vinegar and also contains high amounts of ammonia.

While every woman’s body has its own signature scent, a strong vinegar-like odor can indicate an issue that requires medical attention. If you are concerned, make an appointment with Nao Medical to get diagnosed and treated.

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Menopause

During Menopause, your vaginal canal can smell like vinegar. This occurs because of hormonal changes that decrease the production of progesterone and estrogen. These changes also reduce the bacterial balance of your vulva. This is why you may experience a vinegar-like odor in addition to itching, pelvic pain and excessive discharge during Menopause.

Your vaginal odor can vary from mild and pleasant to sour and vinegar-like. The sour smell is normal because the bacteria in your vulva produce lactic acid and other substances that maintain the health of the vulva. This lactic acid produces an odor that is similar to vinegar, pickles or sauerkraut. You can avoid this smell by maintaining proper vaginal hygiene and washing your vulva twice a day.

Another reason your vagina can smell like vinegar is due to dehydration. When you don’t drink enough water, your urine becomes more concentrated with excretory byproducts including uric acid. Uric acid is a common ingredient in cleaning products and therefore can smell like ammonia or vinegar.

Your sweat glands can also cause your vagina to smell like vinegar. Your body has two types of sweat glands, eccrine and apocrine. Eccrine glands produce sweat to cool your body down and apocrine glands produce sweat in response to emotions such as anxiety or stress. Sweat in your groin contains a lot of protein and lipids that are odorless on their own but when they mix with the lactic acid produced by your vaginal bacteria, they can smell like vinegar.