You say you shower before oral sex, that you have no odor or discharge, and yet your partner says you “taste sour.” You’re wondering if you have an infection without realizing it.
The vagina has its own environment, called the vaginal microbiome or vaginal flora. Multiple species of bacteria reside and belong there—a lot like in the GI tract. Over 300 species have been discovered that can reside in vaginas, and the specifics of that microbiome vary from one woman to another. We don’t all have the same composition of bacteria species. The make-up up of the different bacteria influence odor and taste. There will be a (usually) mild odor to the vagina, and the taste varies as well.
One common feature is we all have a dominance of lactobacillus, which is “good” bacteria that helps keep the pH in balance (acidic is good), and prevents the “bad” bacteria from overgrowing and causing infection.
This is not a factor of cleanliness! You cannot sterilize your vagina, and we recommend not douching either; it tends to disrupt the delicate balance that nature has worked to achieve and will put you at risk for infection. The vagina is amazingly low maintenance, and the less you fuss with it, the better. If you have an infection, you will have symptoms of an increase in discharge, irritation, and maybe itching. This doesn’t sound like an infection.
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten. Read more about and from her here.