Your vagina is a complex thoroughfare. It's a world unto itself and yet somehow intimately connected to the rest of your body in ways science is only now beginning to understand. It can expand and contract like the waistband on your favorite yoga pants and shove a wriggling human out from its depths. In short, it's amazing. But sometimes, things go amiss. Discharge happens. Sometimes, the smell isn't great, or it's different, like fish or copper pennies. You may find yourself wondering, why does my vagina smell metallic? If that's the case, I have some possible answers for you.
Your vagina contains an intricately woven balance of flora and bacteria which serve a multitude of purposes. Not only does it keep the tender tissues healthy and lubricated, it also serves to protect your body from harmful bacteria that can make their way into your vaginal channel on a daily basis, according to the Annual Review of Microbiology. There's harmony in the everyday environment in your vagina, but when that harmony is disrupted, either by nature or invasion, it can result in odor and discharge. However, according to The Cleveland Clinic, a metallic odor around your period or after you give birth is completely normal and related to the blood in and around your vagina.
Evidence suggests women are often more worried and self-conscious about the smell of their genita than they probably should be, noted Feminism and Psychology. Think of all of the off-color fish jokes you've heard bandied about women over the years. Heck, even drag queens who define their look as acutely, stereotypically feminine, refer to themselves as "fishy" or "serving fish." When I was growing up, there was a very famous douche commercial that ran frequently that discussed douching for when you feel "not so fresh." It's endemic to a misogynistic society that the natural fragrance of a woman's body is made use for comedy and lambasting for public consumption. It can make you hyper aware of your scent down there. Even if it's completely normal, as is the case with a metallic smell most of the time, according to nurse midwife Emmie Clarke of British Columbia.
Clarke tells Romper that if a patient comes in and asks, "Why does my vagina smell metallic?" it's almost always because their period is about to come, or it just left. "It can also be because you've given birth, or you're experiencing ovulation spotting." Basically, your vagina can smell like pennies any time blood is involved, and let's be honest, it's your vagina — there will be blood.
That's not to say it's always going to be expected. Clarke notes that the beginnings of spotting from miscarriage can have an almost overwhelming metallic aroma, and that would be both jarring and heartbreaking. Also, if you think you're getting your period and instead get implantation bleeding, you could get the smell and a baby, which, if you aren't expecting it, might freak you out.
"Fishy odors, rotting smells, yeasty aromas, and the smell of fecal matter are the odors that are concerning," says Clarke. Fishy smells typically mean a bacterial infection. Yeasty smells like beer or bread mean an overgrowth of yeast. A rotting odor might be a forgotten tampon or other infection. A fecal smell, while it could just be hygienic, might point to a vaginal fistula. A metallic smell is just a matter of course in life for most women. However, if it concerns you, or if it persists, definitely call your provider and have it checked out. It's always better to know than to worry.
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