Is Your Vaginal Fishy Smell a Symptom of Something Else?

The vagina’s natural odor is a bit tangy, fermented, and sour, like the smell of some foods that have been fermented. That’s because it’s dominated by your healthy “lactobacilli” bacteria that keep it acidic and prevent the growth of bad bacteria.

But if your vaginal fishy smell has an odd odor, it could be a sign of something more serious than your normal flora. There are a few different things that can cause an unusual smell in the vagina, including bacterial vaginosis, perspiration, or a sexually transmitted infection called trichomoniasis.

Bacterial vaginosis

A fishy smell that lasts for a long time is usually caused by bacterial vaginosis (BV). It happens when there’s an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina. It’s most commonly seen in women after they have penile-vaginal intercourse with a new partner, but it can happen to anyone at any age.

Itching and a thin, white, gray, yellow, or green discharge can also indicate BV. Treatment for BV involves getting rid of the bad bacteria with oral antibiotics or inserting antibiotics into the vagina.

Period-specific odors

During your menstrual cycle, changes in the pH of your blood and uterine lining can subtly alter your vaginal microflora. This can result in a slight fishy smell, says Christine O’Connor, MD, director of well woman and adolescent care at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.

If you notice a stronger odor, make an appointment with your doctor to find out what’s going on. Your gyno will be able to determine the cause of the smell and prescribe antibiotics if needed.

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