fishy vaginal odor

Fishy Vaginal Odor

Did you know every healthy vagina has its own unique and natural smell? Do you also know women recognize their vaginal odors, something even their partners may never realize? 

Knowing how a vagina smells is vital. One recognizes when the smell changes from subtle to fishy vaginal odor and takes action promptly. 

Having a fishy vaginal smell is a situation no woman would want to experience. The condition denies one peace of mind due to discomfort, affects their social life, and can even result in infertility. So, being knowledgeable on vaginal discharges and odors should be every woman's priority. 

But what causes a vaginal odor, and how can it be treated? Sometimes the fishy odor results from our actions and, at times, things out of our control. Luckily, this article is packed with all the information you need to understand what causes the mystery smell and its treatment.

Causes of Fishy Vaginal Odor

fishy vaginal odor

These are the possible causes that could have led to the unpleasant smell;

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

BV is caused by a series of bad bacteria that affect the vagina. The vaginal illness arises when an overgrowth of the harmful bacteria affects the natural balance between the healthy and unhealthy bacteria found in the vagina. 

Fishy vaginal odor is the main symptom of bacterial vaginosis and is most noticeable after sex. Additional symptoms include itchiness inside and around the vagina, burning sensation when urinating, and grey or yellow vaginal discharge. 


Trichomoniasis is a urinary tract infection caused by a parasite transmitted during intercourse. Sexually active individuals can contract the illness and experience a strong fishy smell and a  green, yellow, grey, or white discharge. Other symptoms include genital itching, redness, burning sensation, pain during intercourse, and urination. 

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

Pelvic inflammatory disease is another reason(although less likely) you may be having a fishy vaginal smell. One usually contracts PID if untreated UTI finds its way from the vagina to the fallopian tubes, uterus, and ovaries.

Apart from a foul-smelling vaginal discharge, PID can also lead to bleeding during or after sex, fever, pain when passing urine, pelvic pain, and infertility. 

Excessive Sweating

A fishy vaginal smell can result from sweating around the pelvic area after vigorous exercise or anxiety. In rare cases, a sweat-triggered foul smell can result from an underlying condition known as trimethylaminuria. 

Forgotten Tampon

Vaginal odor can be a result of a tampon left on for a long time. A forgotten tampon can cause toxic shock syndrome and a fishy vaginal smell. 


What you eat can affect your vaginal ph. Foods like broccoli, fish, and garlic can cause a fishy vaginal smell.

How Is the Cause of a Fishy Smell Diagnosed?

woman smells vaginal fishy smell

If you experience abnormal vaginal discharge and the home remedy is not working, it is a clear sign you have underlying medical issues. The best step is to seek medical attention, as self-diagnosis can aggravate the situation and cause permanent damage. 

Upon reaching out to a health provider, they will undertake the necessary exams and diagnostic tests to determine the cause. The first thing the doctor will probably do is a physical exam. Looking at the vagina during a vaginal and pelvic exam while checking for abnormal discharge and inflammation may produce a clear diagnosis.

If a stuck tampon is the cause, a doctor can see it through a physical exam. They may also take sample discharge for trichomoniasis and bacterial vaginosis diagnosis. The vaginal fluid test usually tests for elevated ph. An elevated ph shows a bacterial infection. In addition, they may perform a urinalysis screening to test for urinary tract infection. 

Although rectovaginal fistula causes a fishy smell in rare cases, doctors use rectal and vaginal exams to diagnose. A CT scan, MRI, and ultrasound may be applied if a physical exam shows no clear diagnosis. The doctor may also suggest a pap test to screen vaginal cells for cancer if cancer is suspected. 

Apart from the vaginal screening and testing, the doctor may also determine if the vaginal odor is caused by other factors such as sweating, medication, hormones, hygiene, and lifestyle factors. In addition to the tests, the doctor may also require a complete medical and sexual history to give a proper diagnosis. 

Home Remedy for Foul-Smelling Discharge

vagina odor home remedy

These simple steps can clear the unpleasant odor in the comfort of your home.

  • Tea tree oil
  • Tea tree oils have antibacterial and antifungal properties that help fight infections while eliminating the foul odor. You need to mix 3-4 drops of tea tree oil with water to make the remedy. Use the water to rinse the vagina. You can also dip a tampon in the mixture of a small amount of olive oil and a few drops of tea tree oil and insert it in the vagina. Let it sit in for about one hour.

  • Baking soda
  • Vaginal odor subsides when ph normalizes, and baking soda helps bring the ph level to be normal. So, mix half a cup of baking soda in your bathing water and soak your lower body on it for about 30 minutes. You can also mix half a tablespoon of baking soda with water to rinse the vagina. 

  • Garlic
  • Garlic is an ancient home remedy that is known for treating infections due to its antibacterial properties. To use it, peel one clove of fresh garlic and wrap it in a cheesecloth (about 6-inch square) and attach a small string. Insert the clove in the vagina and leave it overnight. 

  • Guava leaves
  • Guava leaves have antibiotic properties that help fight infections and bad odor. To prepare the remedy:

    • -Boil two-liter of water and take it off the heat.
    • -Add 60 grams of guava leaves and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
    • -Remove the leaves and soak the lower part of the body in the infusion. 

    Fishy Vaginal Odor After Sex

    woman and man laughing on the bed

    Sometimes having a fishy vaginal odor after sex does not mean that your partner is unfaithful; it just happens. Mostly, the foul odor has to do with altered ph. Anything that enters the vagina affects its ph levels and eventually its smell. 

    When having penetrative sex, semen which is alkaline may affect the vaginal ph acidic nature, temporarily affecting the smell. Also, when engaging in oral sex, bacteria and digestive enzymes in the saliva can alter the ph levels resulting in a foul odor. 

    Anal sex can also cause a foul smell down there. Engaging in anal sex and switching to the vagina without protection or cleaning up transfers anal bacteria. Anal bacteria cause urinary tract infection that leads to a fishy vaginal odor. 

    Use of scented or flavored protection can also cause fishy vaginal odor after sex. Some of these products contain harsh chemicals that irritate the vaginal lining, causing inflammation and a foul odor. Additionally, having sex with a new partner or multiple partners can also cause vaginal odor. 

    In most cases, bad odor after sex goes away after taking a bath. If it persists, it could result from poor hygiene, sweating, trichomoniasis, or pelvic inflammatory disease. 

    Vaginal Odor Treatment: How to Get Rid of Fishy Vaginal Odor?

    take soap by hand

    Vaginal odor treatment depends on what is causing the symptom. Here are some of the treatment options.

    Medical Treatment 

    If you test positive for bacterial vaginosis, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics in tablet form or vaginal cream for your bacterial vaginosis treatment. The doctor's orders should be adhered to when taking the medication. You can also use over-the-counter antifungal cream if a yeast infection triggers the foul odor.

    Your health care provider may also prescribe other forms of antifungal medication if OTC medication fails to clear the symptoms. Antibiotics are also used to treat fishy odor caused by UTI. The doctor may prescribe other medication if the symptoms persist. Similarly, a doctor can also remove a stuck tampon. 

    Practice Good Hygiene

    Wash the area between your legs gently to remove sweat and dirt. Avoid harsh soaps and body wash when washing inside the labia as they can alter the ph levels. The labia do not require soap to clean. Running water over the area is enough as the vagina is acidic and naturally kills harmful bacteria. 

    Check Your Underwear

    If your panties are made of polyester, silk, or satin, switch to cotton underwear immediately. Cotton is a moisture-wicking fabric that swiftly transfers sweat to the outer layer and dries up quickly. It would be best if you also avoided tight underwear to prevent sweating. 

    Use a PH Product

    Over-the-counter ph products can eliminate the fishy odor but seek medical help if the symptoms do not disappear. 

    Vaginal Care After Sex

    Semen and vaginal fluids contact can cause a fishy odor. So always urinate immediately after sex to clear foreign substances. Also, use a condom to prevent semen-vaginal fluid contact. Rinsing the vulva with water immediately after sex is advisable. 

    Avoid Douching

    Douching has been described as a threat to vaginal flora as it alters the natural balance leading to vaginal infection. The practice can also push bacteria towards the uterus, causing more harm.

    What's the Most Common Cause of Fishy Vaginal Odor?

    woman pinching the nose with a finger

    According to the centers for disease control and prevention, the most common vaginal infection affecting fertile women is bacterial vaginosis (BV). The condition causes the vaginal to produce abnormal discharge due to an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the vaginal area.

    In the recent past, the condition was known as Gardnerella vaginitis. But after intense study, the disease control found that BV is caused by several bacteria naturally living in the vagina hence the change of name. 

    Although BV is not a sexually transmitted infection, it affects sexually active people. It is believed that having multiple sexual partners can alter the vaginal bacterial balance, exposing one to BV infection. 

    How to Get Rid of Vaginal Odor

    boric acid powder

    Vaginal odor can be irritating and stressful. But with proper hygiene practices, you can keep your vaginal area healthy and with its natural scent. Also, taking a bath, especially after a workout, keeps the vaginal area dry and free of fishy odor. In addition, avoiding scented soaps due to their interference with the ph levels is advisable. 

    Always wipe from front to back as the vice versa transfers anal bacteria into the vagina. Also, switch to tampons or vaginal cups during the menstruation period. Sanitary towels may cause sweating, a perfect breeding condition for bacteria. 

    Maintain one sexual partner. Having multiple sex partners can affect the delicate balance of vaginal ph, exposing you to infection. Therefore always clean sex toys after use and use condoms to prevent semen-vaginal fluid from coming into contact. 

    If the fishy vaginal odor persists even after taking the mentioned steps, consult a doctor immediately. Your doctor will provide medical advice on how to maintain a healthy genital area and prescribe medication and best probiotic for vaginal health

    The Bottom Line

    Your vagina homes millions of bacteria, and their structure changes abruptly, affecting the way you smell. So, to maintain a natural vaginal scent, always practice good hygiene, use a gentle soap and avoid unprotected sexual contact. 

    The fishy vaginal odor can go away after home remedies. But get proper treatment and prevent more severe consequences if the smell does not clear. 

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