Vaginal Odor : Causes, Symptoms & Treatment


Every woman’s vagina has a distinct smell when it is healthy. The smell may be slightly sweet or musky. But there are times when vaginal odor can change to quite an extent, like when you have eaten something too spicy, or have partaken of food with strong flavors. It is not unheard of for vaginal odor to take on the smell of what you have eaten that particular day. Your vaginal odor will also change according to your menstrual cycle. These are all natural changes to the vaginal odor and you will not think that the smell of your vagina deviates too much or is abnormal in any way. However, sometimes vaginal odor can get really bad to the point where you cringe and want to pinch your nose shut. What do you do then? Why has the vaginal odor suddenly changed to something so foul in the first place?

Vaginal odor causes symptoms treatmentIt can be very difficult for you to discuss vaginal odor with your friends or the female members of your family because it is an intimate and highly embarrassing situation. It is understandable that you may not even be comfortable bringing it up with a doctor. Have courage. Vaginal odor is something that every woman will go through at some point in her life, and doctors know this and are there to help you. If you are not OK talking to your family doctor or a male doctor about it, look for a female gynecologist. But do not ignore vaginal odor and expect it to go away as it can often be a sign of an infection. Let’s look into some of the main reasons for vaginal odor, what the different symptoms of vaginal odor can mean, and briefly cover what the treatment will be.

Causes of Vaginal Odor

  • Bacterial vaginosis, a form of vaginitis, is usually the cause of vaginal odor in most women who report the problem. Bacterial vaginosis occurs when there are more bad bacteria than good bacteria in your vagina, which leads to a nasty infection.
  • There are several forms of non-infectious vaginitis like a yeast infection, for example, which can lead to vaginal odor. These forms of vaginitis are accompanied by rash-like symptoms, and are caused by wearing too-tight underwear or pants, using harsh soaps to clean your vagina, douching, having bubble baths, sitting in a hot tub or sauna. So although all these situations may not be the direct cause of vaginal odor, they definitely contribute to it.
  • Trichomoniasis is another type of vaginal infection that is classified as a sexually transmitted disease and which causes the vaginal odor to get really yucky. Many sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea, chlamydia, or genital herpes can cause vaginal odor.
  • Your vaginal odor may be due to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
  • Poor hygiene is often the cause of vaginal odor. The vagina is a damp, dark place and there are already plenty of bacteria down there doing their best to keep the environment clean. But they need a little support from you in the form of basic vaginal hygiene. If you are going to wear the same panties two days in a row or not wash properly when you use the toilet, you are just setting yourself up for bad vaginal odor, not to mention the other infections which can lead to even worse vaginal odor.
  • If you have a forgotten tampon in your vagina or are unable to get a tampon out, your body will react to it and vaginal odor may be one of the symptoms that you face.
  • In very rare cases, vaginal odor may be caused by cancer of the vagina, uterus, or cervix.

Symptoms of Vaginal Odor (or Identifying Vaginal Odor)

  • If vaginal odor has a fishy smell, especially after sex, it is generally because of a type of vaginal infection called bacterial vaginosis. Apart form the fishy vaginal odor, you may experience abnormal vaginal discharge.
  • If vaginal odor is particularly foul, then it could be trichomoniasis – a sexually transmitted infection.
  • If vaginal odor is accompanied by a black vaginal discharge, it is usually a sign that there is a foreign object in the vagina that your body is reacting badly to.
  • If vaginal odor is accompanied by pustules or ulcers on the vagina or labia, it is usually a sign of a sexually transmitted disease like gonorrhea.

Treatment for Vaginal Odor

You cannot treat vaginal odor on its own as it is a symptom of something else. So the cause of the vaginal odor will first have to be accurately diagnosed, and the the root of the problem will have to be treated in order for the vaginal odor to go away.

Generally, you will be given oral medication to treat an infection, along with ointments or creams to soothe other symptoms that accompany the infection in addition to vaginal odor.

If vaginal odor is simply a matter of bad hygiene, then taking a bath with water and a mid soap will help.

Prevention of Vaginal Odor

Since vaginal odor is an embarrassing and uncomfortable affliction, especially in a sexual encounter, you would be better off taking steps to avoid it in the first place. Fortunately, learning to take care of a few things in your life will ensure that vaginal odor is kept at bay.

  • Use a condom during sex to protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Practice good vaginal hygiene. Wash with a mild soap and water about twice a day. Don’t overdo it though as over-washing can rob your vagina of its natural moisture and lead to vaginitis.
  • While we’re talking about vaginal hygiene, keep in mind that douching is not good for your vaginal health at all and is a practice that should definitely be banned if you want to prevent vaginal odor.
  • It may not always be possible for you to wash the vagina when needed. Carry around feminine wipes in your purse which will allow you to get clean wherever you are. Just make sure you wipe from front to back. And chose a gentle, unscented brand.
  • Allow the vagina to breathe. Certain fabrics can prevent this like nylon, for example. Cotton panties are thus always better to prevent vaginal odor. Go without panties as much as you can. Try sleeping in the nude or at least without your panties on.
  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, and drink plenty of water to keep your vagina healthy and natural-smelling. Your nutrition and overall health plays a huge role in vaginal odor, so take care of your health to take care of your vagina.
  • Change your tampon regularly during your period.


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