This article has been medically reviewed by Lacy Windham, MD. Lacey Windham, MD, is a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist in Cleveland, Tennessee. Dr. Windham attended medical school at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. Residency was completed at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia. During his residency, he received several awards such as Most Outstanding Resident in Maternal Fetal Medicine, Most Outstanding Resident in Oncology, Most Outstanding Resident in General Residency and Special Award in Non-Invasive Surgery.
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Fishy Vaginal Odor: What Causes It And How To Treat It
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It is normal for the vagina to have a slight odor. But if you notice your vagina has a strong fishy or foul odor, it could be a sign of another health problem or problem.
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There are several common infections that can cause vaginal odor or odor, and you can try home remedies and professional products to get rid of this odor quickly.
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This article has been medically reviewed by Lacy Windham, MD. Lacey Windham, MD, is a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist in Cleveland, Tennessee. Dr. Windham attended medical school at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. Residency was completed at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia. During his residency, he received several awards such as Most Outstanding Resident in Maternal Fetal Medicine, Most Outstanding Resident in Oncology, Most Outstanding Resident in General Residency and Special Award in Non-Invasive Surgery. This article has been viewed 2,021,293 times.
The content of this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis or treatment. Before starting, changing or stopping any health treatment, you should consult your doctor or other qualified health care professional.
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The fastest way to get rid of vaginal odor is to keep the area clean using water and an undiluted soap. While it may be tempting, avoid using feminine sprays, which can remove healthy bacteria from the vagina and make the condition worse. Wipe your back after using the bathroom to eliminate bacteria that can cause bad breath. During your period, change your tampon or pad every 4-6 hours to prevent odor build-up. Along with good hygiene, keep loose clothing and 100 percent cotton underwear to increase air flow and prevent odors caused by sweat and bacteria. Read on for more advice from our medical colleagues on how to get rid of vaginal odor with natural remedies! All vaginas have a mild odor, even healthy ones. Sex, menstruation, pregnancy etc. Your vaginal odor may change in response, but a strong, unpleasant vaginal odor and discharge may be a sign of a health problem, such as vaginitis. Antibiotics are often all that is needed to treat the condition and relieve the odor.
All vaginas smell naturally. Your vaginal odor can tell you about your lifestyle, activity and overall health. For example, vaginal odor often changes during menstruation. Vaginal discharge often has a pronounced midcycle odor. It may smell stronger after sex or after a workout. Everyone’s vagina has a unique odor, and that’s normal.
A strong, unfamiliar, unpleasant odor—especially a fishy odor that lingers for days—is not unusual. A bad vaginal odor can be a sign of a health problem, especially when accompanied by other symptoms such as a grayish-white vaginal discharge, burning, and itching.
Your vaginal odor often depends on your pH level, or how acidic your vagina is. A variety of bacteria live in the vagina. They do what is called vaginal flora. These bacteria exist in a delicate balance to keep the vagina at the right level of acidity (pH). A healthy pH helps prevent infections that cause vaginal odor. On the other hand, an imbalance of vaginal flora can cause the vagina to smell fishy, musty, or completely unpleasant.
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Intermittent vaginal odor is normal and usually resolves on its own. Symptoms may be related to hormonal changes or diet. For example, foods with strong odors, such as garlic or fish, can cause your vagina to smell different.
However, bad breath that does not go away may be a sign of an underlying condition that requires medical attention.
An imbalance in the level of bacteria in your vagina can lead to an infection and inflammation known as vaginitis. The most common type of vaginitis that causes an unpleasant odor also causes other symptoms, such as abnormal vaginal discharge.
If you forget to remove the tampon, you may smell rotting meat. The odor goes away after you or your healthcare provider removes the tampon.
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Vaginitis is a common cause of vaginal odor during pregnancy. However, other factors can cause you to smell new. Many people report an increased sense of smell during pregnancy. In addition, desire can affect the smell of the vagina and cause you to eat different foods. Increased blood flow to your vagina and changes in pregnancy hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and prolactin can affect your pH levels and cause new odors.
Vaginal odor after childbirth is normal. When your vagina returns to its pre-pregnancy state, it releases blood, mucus and other pregnancy-related waste called lochia. Lochia has an old metallic smell, just like period blood.
You can prevent unpleasant vaginal odor caused by infection by adopting habits that balance the level of bacteria in the vagina.
Your healthcare provider will take a sample of your discharge to find out what is causing your vaginitis. The most common cause of unusual vaginal odor is the highly pathogenic bacteria Gardnerella vaginalis that causes the fishy odor associated with BV. As part of the diagnosis, your provider may also:
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At least one third of cases of abnormal vaginal odor are not treated. If the odor does not improve on its own, your healthcare provider will prescribe antibiotics to treat the underlying condition and relieve the vaginal odor. These are available in pill or cream form.
You can practice healthy habits to keep your vulva clean and prevent vaginal infections.
If you experience an abnormal vaginal odor or a sensation associated with discharge, burning, and irritation, contact your healthcare provider. Untreated vaginitis can lead to vaginal infections that can spread to the uterus or fallopian tubes. Vaginitis can also increase the risk of STIs.
If you are pregnant, you should especially seek medical attention. Pregnant women with vaginitis or vaginal odor are associated with preterm birth, low birth weight, amniotic fluid infection, and other complications.
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Odor elimination begins with identifying the cause of the odor. Sleep may be short, depending on your stress level, menstrual cycle, etc. There may be a change in smell associated with it, in which case treatment may not be necessary. Simple lifestyle changes related to maintaining the natural pH of the vagina can do the trick if hygiene is an issue. If vaginitis is to blame, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to clear up the infection.
Strong vaginal odor can be a symptom of vaginitis, or it can be a temporary odor related to hygiene, lifestyle, or other changes. Note that you have other symptoms. If the odor is related to an infection, you will usually notice other changes, such as vaginal irritation, burning, and discharge.
Many people know that their vagina has an odor – or are concerned if it smells at all. But a healthy vagina should have a slight odor. Think of your vaginal odor as a sign that your vaginal flora is working to keep vaginal infections at bay. But if you’re experiencing unpleasant vaginal odor along with other symptoms, it may be time to see your provider. A course of antibiotics is all that is needed to get rid of the smell and return the vagina to its natural smell.
Cleveland Clinic is a not-for-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Our vagina produces a white or clear liquid called vaginal discharge (1). Often odorless or strongly scented, the vagina protects the vagina from infection, lubricates it, and maintains overall vaginal health (2, 3). However, it can also be responsible for vaginal odor.
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