Vaginal Odor


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By Medicover Hospitals / 9 Feb 2021
Home | symptoms | vaginal-odor
  • The vagina has a unique fragrance. Some women may feel self-conscious about the smell of their vagina, but it is normal for a healthy vagina to have a slight odor. However, this smell can change when there are infections or other health problems.
  • Article Context:

    1. What is vaginal odor?
    2. Causes
    3. Diagnosis
    4. Treatment
    5. When to visit a Doctor?
    6. FAQ's

    What is vaginal odor?

  • Vaginal odor is usually because of inflammation of the vaginal area. Inflammation of the vaginal area can occur because of poor hygiene but is often the result of an infection in or around the vagina. A common infection that can cause vaginal odor is an overgrowth of normal vaginal bacteria that causes bacterial vaginosis.
  • Types of vaginal odor:

    Normal healthy vaginal odors:

      Spicy, fermented, or sour:

    • These are perfectly healthy adjectives to describe vaginal odor created by your normal bacterial flora. By producing lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide, and other substances to keep harmful bacteria at bay, good bacteria help keep the vagina healthy. By holding it on the acidic side, between 3.8 and 4.5 for non-menopausal women and between 4.5 and 6 for those in menopause, they help sustain vaginal pH levels, to prevent the overgrowth of fungi and other harmful bacteria.
    • Metallic, like a jar of pennies:

    • A metallic vaginal odor could be due to menstrual blood or light bleeding after sex that travels through your vaginal canal. Blood contains iron, which explains the metal smell. It could also be due to contact with semen, which can affect the pH balance of the vagina.
    • Bittersweet or molasses:

    • If your vaginal odor is giving off a slightly spicy gingerbread smell, your normal bacteria may change a bit, affecting your pH balance and therefore your aroma. Bleach, like a clean kitchen sink. A chemically vaginal odor could be attributed to some urine on the underwear or around the vulva. But keep in mind that it could also be a sign of a bacterial infection.

    Unhealthy vaginal odors:

  • If your vaginal odor is foul, such as the smell of dead fish, it may be a sign of a more serious condition:
    • Bacterial vaginosis (BV):

    • BV is a bacterial infection that occurs when healthy lactobacilli become out of balance and overgrow. Symptoms include a thin vaginal discharge that has a strong fishy smell and a little itching or burning when urinating. BV is treated with an antibiotic.
    • Trichomoniasis:

    • A sexually transmitted infection is another possible explanation for a strong fishy vaginal odor. Women with trichomoniasis may notice genital itching, burning, redness, or pain, urinary discomfort, and a clear, white, yellowish, or greenish vaginal discharge. Trichomoniasis can be treated with antibiotics.

    Rotten Vaginal Odor:

  • The cause of a putrid vaginal odor may be a misplaced tampon. In addition to a very smelly vaginal discharge that is yellow, green, pink, gray, or brown, you may experience additional symptoms. These include fever, vaginal itching, painful urination, pain around the pelvis or abdomen, redness around the genital area, and vaginal swelling.
  • Causes:

  • Abnormal vaginal odor is usually caused by one of the following:
    • Bacterial vaginosis (most women with symptoms have an abnormal vaginal odor)
    • Trichomoniasis (50% of symptomatic women have an abnormal vaginal odor)
  • In rare cases, the abnormal vaginal odor may be the result of a yeast infection or cervical or vaginal cancer.
  • The following table describes the most common signs and symptoms for each causative factor, which will help distinguish between possible causes.
  • vaginal-odor-causes


  • Don't diagnose yourself. Since different conditions can manifest in the same way, the cause of abnormal vaginal odor cannot be known from the smell. Self-diagnosis and self-treatment are likely to be ineffective and harmful.
  • Treatment:

  • The abnormal vaginal odor goes away without treatment at least a third of the time. If it doesn't resolve on its own, your healthcare provider will prescribe antibiotics. These can be taken in pill or cream form.
  • When to visit a Doctor?

    • Avoid home care and consult your doctor if this odor is triggered by abnormal symptoms.
    • For instance, you may need an appointment if your vaginal odor is worse than usual and seems to get worse.
    • Also, the smell of "fish" is a reason to make an appointment. A foul smell is a symptom of a vaginal infection.
    • These odors could be signs of a problem that is not improving. You may need your doctor to prescribe prescription medications or treatments.
    • You don't want to delay treatment. An untreated infection may compromise your efficiency to get pregnant later in life.
    • The other causes can be:
      • fever
      • bleeding not associated with your period
      • burning
      • vaginal inflammation
      • genital rash or redness
    • Some vaginal secretions are normal. If you find an increase in discharge, or you can have an infection if the fluids are no longer white or translucent.
    • Occasional itching is also normal, but if you develop frequent itching or one that is painfully irritating, you may experience signs of a larger problem.

    Home Remedies:

    Change your clothes immediately after exercising:

  • The best thing to do is to keep your groin area as dry as possible, and one of the best ways to do this is to change out of sweaty clothes as soon as possible.
  • Consider probiotics:

  • Probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria for you, can help maintain the pH balance of your vagina. Probiotic-rich foods include unpasteurized yogurt, kombucha, and sauerkraut.
  • Eat a healthy diet:

  • Try to eat a balanced diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. A balanced diet contributes to a healthy body, and that includes your vagina.
  • Stay hydrated:

  • Drinking lots of water is good for more than just your skin. It can also help the overall health of your vagina by promoting healthy sweating and fluid release.
  • Avoid douching and scrubs:

  • You may think they will help wash out bad bacteria, but they also kill good bacteria. Let your body calculate the bacteria ratios and skip these unnatural washes.
  • Before and after sex, wash the genital area:

  • Sex adds bacteria, and foreign substances such as condom lubricants and spermicides. Wash before and after sex to help maintain natural levels of bacteria.
  • Trim tight clothing:

  • Clothing that is too tight does not let your vagina and groin breathe. Getting enough oxygen is vital for good vaginal health.
  • Wear cotton panties:

  • Cotton panties remove excess moisture from sweat or discharge. Synthetic fabrics are not that good at this.
  • Fewer Tampons:

  • Try to stay aware of tampon use, especially during the end of your period. You can even set a reminder on your phone to take out that last tampon if you forget it.
  • Use condoms:

  • Unprotected sex increases the risk of several conditions that can cause vaginal odors.
  • Frequently Asked Questions:

  • It may be due to bacterial vaginosis, a mild vaginal infection, not an STD, which occurs when the balance of good and bad bacteria in the vagina is disturbed.
  • Yeast infections produce a thick, white discharge from the vagina that can resemble cottage cheese. The discharge may be watery and is often odorless. Yeast infections generally cause itching and redness in the vagina and vulva.
  • Bacterial vaginosis, a normally occurring vaginal bacteria overgrowth, is the most common vaginal infection that causes a vaginal odor. Trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted infection, can also cause vaginal odor. Chlamydia and gonorrhea infections generally do not cause vaginal odors.
  • Citations:

  • Karger -
  • Clinical Manifestations -
  • Prioritising primary care patients with unexpected weight loss for cancer investigation: diagnostic accuracy study -
  • JAMA Internal Medicine -