One of the cool things about writing for (and I would think, reading on) a women's lifestyle site is you feel comfortable tackling all of the topics that directly affect us. And when it comes to today’s issue, let’s not act like we all haven’t had moments when we’ve caught a whiff of our own vagina and thought to ourselves, “OK. What’s really going on?”
If you’re currently noticing an aroma that seems a little “off,” before you go into semi-panic mode — or worse, you try and mask it with perfumed washes that typically do more harm than good — check out some of the most common vagina smells — then compare and contrast. That way, you’ll have a good idea of what’s actually going on and what you need to do to get everything…handled.
1. If Your Vagina Smells Like a Penny…
Do you have times when your vagina gives off a scent that is similar to a copper penny? If so, more times than not, it’s no big deal. This is usually an indication of iron being present which makes perfect sense when you’re on your period or if a night of some semi-wild (albeit consensual) sex led to a bit of breakthrough bleeding. In fact, as far as sex goes, if you’re engaging in unprotected copulation, sometimes your partner’s semen can throw off your vagina’s pH balance which also can result in a metallic-like smell. The main thing to keep in mind with this one is it shouldn’t happen, non-stop, all of the time. If it is, see your doctor, just to make sure it’s all good. Better to be on the safer side whenever blood scents are lingering around.
2. If Your Vagina Smells Like Sourdough Bread…
So, what if your vagina smells a lot like sourdough bread? If you’ve never had that before, the best way to describe it is…kinda on the “ferment-y” side. Usually what this indicates is that the good bacteria that’s in your vagina is working overtime to keep that space acidic. At the end of the day, this is a good thing because good bacteria help to prevent bad bacteria from overtaking your vagina and ultimately causing an infection. I’ve personally noticed this smell when I’ve had a lot of kefir or gone a week straight taking a strong probiotic. Anyway, if this is what’s going on, you’re pretty much all good.
3. If Your Vagina Smells Like Ammonia…
Wanna know an underrated sign that you could be dehydrated? If your vagina has a strong ammonia-like scent, that’s a potential giveaway. The reason why is because sometimes, urine can store up in our underwear or on our vulva and if it’s strong, it could be due to not getting enough water. Another thing that can trigger this smell is bacterial vaginosis (BV). So, if you’re noticing this one and your discharge is grey, yellow or green, super thin, and/or you’ve got vaginal irritation, while you can test for BV at home, you’ll probably need a prescription to treat it. In other words, see your doctor.
4. If Your Vagina Smells Like Molasses…
This one is a little iffy. What I mean by that is, while some of the bacteria in your vagina can smell a little on the sweet side, if there is an overgrowth of yeast going on in there, that can result in your genitalia smelling somewhat like molasses too. So, if you notice that along with the scent, you’ve got a thicker discharge, vaginal itching, and/or a swollen vulva, that sounds a lot like a yeast infection is brewing. I wouldn’t ignore that if I were you. More times than not, those bad boys only get worse over time.
5. If Your Vagina Smells Like a Swimming Pool…
So, what if your va-jay-jay smells a lot like the chlorine that’s in a swimming pool? Usually, this isn’t that big of a deal either; especially if you’re noticing it right after you have sex. Sometimes, the pH balance of our vaginas is disrupted by the chemicals that are in the lubricants and condoms that we use. Anyway, if the smell bothers you too much, try going with a natural or unscented lubricant and/or switch up your condom brands to see if that helps. Either way, the scent usually passes in a couple of hours. All good.
6. If Your Vagina Smells Like Cheese…
If your vagina smells similar to your favorite cheese, there isn’t really a clear-cut reason for it. On one hand, it could be nothing. On another, it could be a sign of BV or the STD trichomoniasis (more on that in a sec). So, what should you do? In this case, don’t just pay attention to the scent but the discharge as well. As far as healthy discharge goes, it’s on the thinner side (a milky-like texture), the color is usually white or off-white, it doesn’t have a strong smell and it is non-irritating. This means that if your vagina smells like a cheese plate and your discharge doesn’t look the way I just said, please get checked out.
7. If Your Vagina Smells Like Fish…
Out of all of the scents that I’ve talked about, probably the most common one (that’s openly discussed) is a vagina that smells like fish. First up, no, “she” is not supposed to normally smell like that. Well, let me back up — fresh fish has a very mild aroma to it; it’s fish that’s been laying out and is decomposing that’s highly problematic. If “Door B” is what you’ve got going on, don’t Elmo shrug it off because usually it’s a telltale sign that you’ve got an overgrowth of anaerobic organisms going on (which is another sign of BV) or you could have trichomoniasis.
What are some other indications of the latter? Frothy discharge. The constant need to urinate. Discomfort (like a burning sensation) when urinating. Itchy and swollenness in your vulva. Although trichomoniasis is easily curable with the help of antibiotics, please don’t be out here trying to handle it on your own. You need your healthcare provider to give a proper diagnosis, followed by a prescription. In other words, Googling at-home treatments ain’t gonna cut it.
8. If Your Vagina Smells Like Musk…
Although every vagina is unique (check out “Did You Know That There Are 10 Different Kinds Of Vaginas? Yep.”), if there’s one scent that is kind of “universal” when it comes to what a healthy vagina should smell like, words like “slightly musky” and “earthy” fit the bill. For the record, your vagina should never smell overpowering and oftentimes, based on where you are in your cycle, the scents can shift a bit. Still, if musky is what you are leaning towards most of the time, you’re pretty fine. Carry on.
9. If Your Vagina Smells Like Weed…
Ever had your vagina smell like weed before? If so, you’re not making it all up in your head. Something that your genital region is full of is apocrine sweat glands that happen to release fluid that has a milky-like substance. When it mixes in with the bacteria that is inside of your vagina, that can result in a scent that is reminiscent of cannabis. The more you know, chile.
10. If Your Vagina Smells Like Death…
Something that sometimes happens on the day that follows the last day of my period is there is irritation at the opening of my vagina. If I check to see if there’s a scent, it can smell a lot like death (no joke). A hack that has helped to avoid irritability is I wear my menstrual cup on that day too. Good thing because, I’ve discovered that the “WTF is that smell?!” smell is what can happen when bacteria, uterine tissue, and blood all mix together (or if you forgot to take a tampon out). Thankfully, it’s nothing to worry about — so long as it doesn’t go too long past your cycle. If it does, you already know what I’m about to say, right? Where’s your physician at? Exactly.
There you go. 10 common vagina scents, what they basically mean, and what you should do about them. Hopefully, this all has helped to put your mind at ease and also brought clarity to the fact that a healthy vagina isn’t supposed to smell like a bed of roses, scents change from time to time and, more times than not, you — and your vagina — are gonna be just fine.
Featured image by Getty Images
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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A dead bedroom can kill any relationship. In all long-term, committed relationships, couples experience various phases, from the initial passion to a more complex and enduring connection. Yet, as time passes, sex may decrease, which introduces an issue often referred to as "bed death."
According to Advance Psychology Partners, 'bed death' occurs when individuals in a committed relationship experience a decline in the frequency of sexual activity and fall short of the desires of both or either partner. It is sometimes labeled a "sexless relationship" due to the infrequency of sex. In the U.S., an estimated 20 million people find themselves in such relationships.
This shift is a significant change for couples. Let’s face it: no one wants to be in a sexless marriage or relationship. But how can couples effectively confront the impact of fading physical intimacy on the overall health of their enduring partnership?
"I have found that many factors influence one's desire to dive, and it is often not a majority of just one thing. Most people assume that if they don't desire [sex], they are no longer physically attracted, but in my experience, that has little to do with it most of the time," explained Brittanni Young, LMFT, CST.
"Some of the heavy contributors that I see most often include excessive goal orientation towards orgasm, people not prioritizing their own sexuality, and the landfill of ‘should’s’ that develop from toxic sexual scripts created long ago in upbringing," she added.
Furthermore, these issues are not exclusive to any particular orientation, but it does manifest differently.
Young is a licensed marriage and family therapist, sexologist, and board-certified sex therapist who practices in Georgia and Florida. She has worked in the sexology field for over a decade. Young helps couples and individuals looking to get through challenges of all facets facing sexuality and intimacy, such as desire mismatch, over-compulsion, and dysfunctions. She recently launched a deck of intimacy connection cards called "Show Me Your Cards." Young is working on another product that helps teach children to consent and negotiate appropriate touch. She sat down with xoNecole to discuss what causes the decline in the bedroom, the myth of 'lesbian bed death,' and recommendations on overcoming "bed death."
The Decline In Intimacy
Intimacy often dwindles within relationships, a phenomenon triggered by various factors such as stress, the insidious monotony of routine, and the toxicity of unresolved conflicts, to name a few. While couples manage daily life, exchanging intimate desires and concerns may take a backseat. Sadly, this gradually erodes the closeness once shared in the relationship.
"Typically, the first thing I do when working with a couple on desire challenges is rule out medical causes by referring them to their primary care physician or other provider they are working with," Young shared. "There are times when unmanaged or mismanaged conditions factor into low desire levels. Also, many medications can wreak havoc on keeping desire levels up, such as antidepressants, SSRIs, anti-anxiety, and blood pressure medications, to name a few."
Jeff Bergen/ Getty Images
"Next, I look at the state of the relationship. If there is dissatisfaction in the relationship, then it definitely affects how close and intimate one wants to be to another. There are also plenty of individual factors one can bring into the equation, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, feelings of shame or guilt around one's own sexuality, and external life stressors that can get in the way. I find that life stressors can be a big one for folks, as once you get in the habit of not prioritizing sex, it tends to stick," she added.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent "bed death." It can involve prioritizing your wants and open communication about sexual needs.
"What tends to be effective for all couples is taking an inventory of how satisfied they are with their sexual behaviors and engagement. Being truthful in this vein can be the start of unlocking inhibitions that can keep you from seeking out and being genuinely vulnerable in intimate spaces," Young explained. "Next, I suggest opening up lines of communication around these truths. When people assume that nothing can be done, hope is lost."
The Myth Of 'Lesbian Bed Death'
The notion of "lesbian bed death" perpetuates a simplistic and inaccurate stereotype about the sexual dynamics within lesbian relationships. Contrary to the myth, the experience of a decline in intimacy is not universal among lesbian couples. The diverse spectrum of relationships among women challenges this oversimplified narrative, emphasizing that the complexities of sexual dynamics extend beyond stereotypical assumptions.
"The notion of 'lesbian bed death' is based on a research study done by Pepper Schwartz in 1983 that found that lesbian couplings fell behind in sexual frequency compared to heterosexual and gay male couplings," Young revealed.
"Several other studies [after] have replicated these findings but give very little information about sexual satisfaction. Despite there being more research needed overall in the sexuality field, more recent research did find that when it comes to the length of sexual encounters, lesbian couples had the longest duration of encounters. To that end, sexual quality over quantity is a better marker of satisfaction, and that is what I pay most attention to in my work. With that said, dissatisfaction can happen in all couplings over time," the sexologist continued.
Factors influencing reduced intimacy among lesbian couples may include communication challenges, societal pressures, and individual variations in libido. Menstruation can also play a role, with some couples navigating discomfort or hormonal changes during this period.
"There are certainly some nuances that come into play with lesbian couples that differ from heterosexual or other-oriented couples. As I stated earlier, physiological factors can factor into the rise and fall of libido. The hormone fluctuations that come from menstruation and menopause can impact desire levels, and it is double present in lesbian couples. Another nuance is the lack of a sexual script from society on lesbian sexual behavior. There are patriarchal roots to sexual research, which have created our societal norms that tend to leave out anyone who isn't heterosexual," Young stated.
Overcoming The Challenges
Westend61/ Getty Images
While 'bed death' challenges couples, solutions are within reach. By identifying and addressing the underlying causes, couples can rekindle the flame of intimacy and ensure a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.
"In the words of Esther Perel, another sexual professional in the field, 'love enjoys knowing everything about you; desire needs mystery.' I recommend keeping it in the front of your mind, prioritizing, and keeping it interesting. Be open to learning more about your own sexuality every day, as well as your partner. You are always growing; what worked for you 20 years ago may not be the same today. Stay curious with one another and be open to exploring new ways to pleasure. You deserve it," Young said.
For instance, Young advised that couples should "keep sexual encounters light and playful." And not be afraid to introduce new elements, such as toys.
"Touch often in ways that are consensual and feel safe! I made 'Show Me Your Cards' to serve this purpose specifically. Just because you do not feel in the mood to go all the way does not mean you aren't in the mood to hold hands, exchange body massages, or dance together. Connecting often in any physical form, as long as it feels pleasurable, still counts as 'being in the mood,'" she said.
Overcoming the hurdles of "bed death" and debunking myths surrounding 'lesbian bed death' offers a unique perspective for couples grappling with the difficulties of sustaining a connection. Learning the proper ways to work through a sexless relationship can help foster a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.
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