What is vaginal odor?
Vaginal odor is any odor that originates from the vagina. It’s normal for your vagina to have a slight odor. That scent may change or get stronger during sexual arousal, it shouldn’t have an unpleasant smell. A strong or foul vaginal odor, or a change in vaginal odor, may be a sign that a woman has an infection.
How common is vaginal odor?
Vaginal odor is extremely common. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Which signs and symptoms can vaginal odor usually be associated with?
Related signs and symptoms include:
What causes vaginal odor?
Causes of vaginal odor can include:
- The infection most commonly associated with a change in vaginal smell is bacterial vaginosis. Bacterial vaginosis, or BV, is not necessarily an STD, although it is associated with sexual behavior and has been shown to be sexually transmitted in lesbians. One of the main symptoms of BV is a strong, fishy odor that is particularly prominent after sex with men. The smell increases at that time because semen reduces the acidity of the vagina, and the chemical compounds that produce the smell are more noticeable at a higher pH.
- Trichomoniasis can also cause a change in vaginal odor. This infection is an STD, although men rarely have symptoms. In contrast, women infected with the Trichomonas vaginalis parasite usually develop a strong vaginal odor along with itching or discomfort during sex or urination. Their vaginal discharge may also change in appearance, becoming frothy or shifting in color.
- Finally, yeast infections are known to cause vaginal odor changes in some women. Yeast infections are not sexually transmitted and, although they are sometimes associated with sex, some women are prone to them for other reasons. For example, women with uncontrolled diabetes may be at higher risk of yeast infections because yeast likes to feed on the excess sugar in their urine.
- Vaginal odor changes can also be a symptom of other sexually transmitted infections and reproductive conditions, particularly if those conditions are severe and/or accompanied by a discharge.
Most of the time, a shift in vaginal odor is caused by conditions that are relatively straightforward to diagnose and treat.
That doesn’t mean that getting appropriate care is any less important. Left untreated, bacterial vaginosis, for example, can potentially leave women vulnerable to more serious infections, and it has occasionally been associated with pelvic inflammatory disease, which can affect fertility.
The conditions mentioned above are some common causes of vaginal odor. Consult with your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
What increases my risk for vaginal odor?
There are many risk factors for vaginal odor, such as:
- Hormonal imbalances
- Poor hygiene
Please consult with your doctor for further information.
When to see your doctor
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you or your loved one has any of the following:
- Vaginal odor that is stronger than normal and seems to be getting stronger
- A“fishy” smell
- An increase in discharge or if the fluids are no longer white or translucent
- Afrequent itch or one that is painfully irritating
On noticing one of these symptoms or having any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor to get the best solutions for your situation.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage vaginal odor?
These following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with vaginal odor:
- Practice good hygiene. Clean the outside of your vagina regularly with a washcloth and mild soap.Cleansing will wash away dead skin, sweat, and dirt. Don’t use perfumed soaps or body washes. The scents and chemicals may upset your vagina’s natural pH.
- Use only exterior deodorizing products. If you want to use any sprays or perfumes, only use them on the outside of your vagina. Don’t insert them. They can upset your natural chemistry and lead to bigger problems.
- Change your underwear. If you normally wear satin, silk, or polyester panties, make the switch to 100 percent cotton. Cotton is breathable and does an excellent job wicking away sweat and fluids from your body. Excess moisture can upset your natural bacteria levels.
- Consider a pH product. Over-the-counter (OTC) products may be helpful for restoring your vagina’s natural pH. If you try one and the odor remains or grows worse, make an appointment with your doctor. You may need to use a different product or look for a stronger prescription alternative.
- Consider probiotics. Probiotics, which are good-for-you bacteria, can help maintain the pH balance in your vagina. Probiotic-rich foods include yogurt, kombucha, and unpasteurized sauerkraut.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Aim to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. A balanced diet makes for a healthy body, and that includes your vagina.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is good for more than just your skin. It can help your vagina’s overall health, too, by encouraging healthy sweating and fluid release.
- Avoid douches and scrubs. You might think they’ll help eliminate bad bacteria, but they also eliminate the good bacteria. Let your body work out the bacteria ratios, and skip these unnatural washes.
- Wash your vagina before and after intercourse. Sex introduces bacteria, as well as foreign substances like lubrication and spermicide from condoms. Wash before and after sex to help maintain natural bacteria levels.
- Cut out tight clothes. Clothes that are too tight don’t let your vagina and groin area breathe. Getting plenty of oxygen is vital to good vaginal health.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor for the best solutions.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Vaginal odor. https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/vaginal-odor/basics/definition/sym-20050664. Accessed January 17, 2019.
7 Tips for Getting Rid of Vaginal Odor. https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/how-to-get-rid-of-vaginal-odor. Accessed January 17, 2019.
Understanding Changes in Vaginal Odor. https://www.verywellhealth.com/why-does-my-vagina-smell-funny-3133225. Accessed January 17, 2019.
Review Date: January 17, 2019 | Last Modified: January 17, 2019