Vaginal odor refers to any odor emanating from the vagina. It is natural for your vagina to smell slightly. It’s usual to have a faint odor coming from the vaginal area. The smell of a woman’s vagina changes frequently during her menstrual cycle.
During the middle of the cycle, the most fluid is discharged, and it may have an unpleasant odor. After sex, the smell of the vaginal area may be stronger. However, a strong vaginal odor — for example, a “fishy” smell — may be odd and suggest a problem.
When an abnormal vaginal odor occurs as a result of an infection or another issue, it is sometimes accompanied by additional vaginal signs and symptoms such as itching, burning, irritation, or discharge.
Causes of Abnormal Vaginal Odor
Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina that can result in discharge, itching, and pain. The cause is usually a change in the normal balance of vaginal bacteria or an infection. Reduced estrogen levels after menopause and some skin disorders can also cause vaginitis.
Trichomoniasis is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by a parasite. In women, trichomoniasis can cause a foul-smelling vaginal discharge, genital itching, and painful urination.
3. Bacteria Vaginosis
An infection that occurs from an overgrowth of normal vaginal bacteria. It is a common cause of vaginal odor.
4. Rectovaginal Fistula
A rectovaginal fistula is an abnormal connection between the lower portion of your large intestine — your rectum — and your vagina. Bowel contents can leak through the fistula, allowing gas or stool to pass through your vagina.
5. Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix — the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina.
6. Vaginal Cancer
Vaginal cancer is a rare cancer that occurs in your vagina — the muscular tube that connects your uterus with your outer genitals. Vaginal cancer most commonly occurs in the cells that line the surface of your vagina, which is sometimes called the birth canal.
Prevention of Abnormal Vaginal Odor
Preventive measures can lower a woman’s risk of developing an abnormal vaginal odor. Good hygiene is one among them, as is taking a shower on a regular basis.
Using an intravaginal liquid washing solution instead of douches is also a preventive measure as douching can lead to infection by upsetting the pH levels in the vagina.
When To See The Doctor
One of the most common reasons women visit their doctor is for vaginal problems. Severe or persistent abnormal vaginal odor, discharge, burning, or itching should prompt you to seek medical attention. If left untreated, vaginitis can result in uterine or fallopian tube infections. Women with vaginitis have an increased risk of developing STDs.
Pregnant women should seek medical attention in particular. The risks of preterm birth, low birth weight, infection of amniotic fluid, and other complications are higher in pregnant women who have vaginitis or a bad odor in the vaginal area of the body.
Treatment of Vaginal Odor
About a third of the time, abnormal vaginal odor goes away on its own. If it doesn’t go away on its own, you’ll be given antibiotics by your doctor. These are available as a cream or a tablet.