Vaginal odor is typically from inflammation of the vaginal area. Inflammation of the vaginal area can occur because of poor hygiene but is often a result of infection in or around the vagina. A common infection that can cause vaginal odor is overgrowth of the normal vaginal bacteria to cause bacterial vaginosis.
The sexually transmitted disease trichinosis can cause vaginal odor. Uncommon causes of vaginal odor include cancers and an abnormal passageway between the rectum and vagina (rectovaginal fistula).
What other symptoms might occur with vaginal odor?
Abnormal vaginal odor is often described as a strong fish-like smell that may become worse or more noticeable after sexual intercourse. Vaginal odor may occur with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.
For example, vaginal odor due to an infection that causes pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) may occur with fever and pelvic pain.
Symptoms that may occur along with vaginal odor
Vaginal odor may accompany other symptoms including:
- Difficulty getting pregnant or infertility due to scarring of the reproductive organs as a result of certain sexually transmitted diseases or pelvic inflammatory disease
- Genital blisters or lesions due to genital herpes or chancroid
- Low back pain, fever, nausea, and vomiting due to pelvic inflammatory disease
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Pelvic or abdominal pain or cramps
- Unusual, heavy or persistent vaginal discharge
- Unusual vaginal bleeding or spotting
- Vaginal or genital itching
- Vaginal or genital pain or burning
Symptoms that might indicate a serious or life-threatening condition
In some cases, vaginal odor can be caused by or indicate a serious underlying condition, such as a sexually transmitted disease or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Seek prompt medical care if you have unusually strong, persistent or bad vaginal odor. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have the following symptoms:
- Change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness
- Change in mental status or sudden behavior change, such as confusion, delirium, lethargy, hallucinations or delusions
- Heavy vaginal bleeding or any bleeding with pregnancy
- High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Severe lower abdominal or back pain
What causes vaginal odor?
Unusually strong or persistent vaginal odor can be caused by a variety of diseases, disorders or conditions that affect the vagina, cervix, and other reproductive organs.
Vaginal odor is commonly caused by an infection or inflammation of the vagina (vaginitis) or cervix (cervicitis).
Vaginitis and cervicitis can be caused by sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, or other types of infections, such as a vaginal yeast infection or a bacterial infection.
The most common cause of vaginal odor is bacterial vaginosis (BV), which is associated with an overgrowth of certain bacteria in the vagina. The exact cause of BV is not known. The underlying causes of vaginal odor include:
- Bacterial vaginosis (often caused by a Gardnerella vaginalis bacterial infection)
- Chancroid (sexually transmitted disease caused by Haemophilus ducreyi)
- Chlamydia (sexually transmitted disease caused by Chlamydia trachomatis)
- Genital herpes (sexually transmitted disease caused by the herpes virus)
- Gonorrhea (sexually transmitted disease caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae)
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID, which is a complication of several different sexually transmitted diseases)
- Poor genital hygiene
- Tampon left in the vagina for more than several hours
- Trichomoniasis (sexually transmitted disease caused by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis)
- Vaginal yeast infection (vaginal thrush) caused by Candida albicans
What to do when you have vaginal odor?
Many women believe that vaginal odor are the result of a lack of personal hygiene and wash excessively their vagina unaware that they worsen the problem.
While poor genital hygiene can be the cause, excessive washing is not the solution. Very often, women hampered by a strong vaginal odor should not begin to wash themselves intensively.
That does not help at all. The first thing to do should be restoring the acidity and the balance of the vaginal flora naturally. That restoration cannot be done by excessive antibiotic intake; it decreases your immune system.
How to restore the balance of the vaginal flora?
The vaginal flora consists of a large number of microaerophilic bacteria. Among them, lactobacilli are considered the principal ones for their role in protecting the vagina.
These micro-organisms are primarily responsible for protective acidity of the vagina. Wash the vagina too often increases its pH, which disrupts the vaginal flora and can cause vaginal infections and particularly unpleasant odors.
That is, do not rush to wash your vaginal excessively when you suffer from vaginal health issues.
If the vaginal flora is disrupted, pathogenic bacteria proliferate, resulting in bacterial vaginosis. This type of proliferation tends to increase the number of bacteria normally present in the vagina causing unpleasant fishy vaginal odor.
What are the potential complications of vaginal odor?
In some cases, vaginal odor can be due to an underlying condition that can result in serious or life-threatening complications. You can minimize the risk of serious complications by seeking early medical care and following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you.
Complications of vaginal odor and some underlying causes include:
- Birth defects, premature delivery, miscarriage, still birth, and life-threatening infections passed to unborn children during pregnancy and childbirth or through breast-feeding
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Difficulty getting pregnant and infertility
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Higher risk of catching HIV/AIDS
- Pelvic adhesions and scarring of the fallopian tubes
- Spread of sexually transmitted diseases to sexual partners
Is there a natural treatment for vaginal odor?
Yes, there are herbal remedies formulated to be total feminine products. Not only are they designed to attack the root causes of your current bacterial vaginosis but also their recurrence.
Naturally, they balance the flora of your vagina. The ingredients in these remedies can assist in the re-establishment of the natural lactobacilli in your vagina and significantly boost your immune system to fight your existing condition and its recurrence.