Vaginal odor is any smell that comes from the vaginal area. All vaginas have a slight smell, which can vary throughout your menstrual cycle and with hormones. However, big changes to your normal vaginal odor can be a sign that something’s wrong, like an infection.
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It’s normal for your vagina to have a light, natural, and musky scent that’s not unpleasant. There’s no single way a healthy vagina smells because everybody has their own unique odor.
While some women can be self-conscious, it’s not healthy to try to eliminate the vagina’s scent. In fact, fragrances used to mask it can make things worse by irritating your sensitive area. Usually, you’re the most sensitive to your own smell and other people around you don’t notice it.
Normal things that can change your odor include:
Common causes of abnormal vaginal odor include:
Less commonly, unusual vaginal odor can be caused by:
Certain smells are not normal and should prompt testing or a trip to a healthcare professional.
Abnormal vaginal odor includes a:
Often, the STDs associated with abnormal vaginal odor are the same ones that cause abnormal vaginal discharge.
STDs that can cause an unusual smell include:
STDcheck.com offers testing for all of the above infections, either individually or in addition to other STDs. You can add on trichomoniasis testing during the checkout process or order it by itself by calling 1-800-456-2323.
It’s common to be worried whether your vaginal odor is normal, and typically it is. However, if you notice persistent, strong or foul vaginal odors—especially along with changes in the color or texture of discharge or other symptoms like itching or pain— you may want to get tested and talk to a care provider.3
The better you know and understand your natural scent, the easier it is to recognize when something is off. Don’t be embarrassed or afraid to really get acquainted with your vagina and its scent, so you can identify what’s not normal and get tested, if necessary.
Depending on what your vagina smells like, a doctor may have certain suspicions about the cause. In order to confirm their hunch, a doctor may take a sample of your discharge, check your vagina’s pH, or perform other tests or exams.4 STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trich can be detected through a quick, simple urine test.
If your vaginal odor has you worried about STDs, it’s a good idea to get tested. You can get tested quickly and easily through STDcheck.com by ordering online and visiting a lab near you.
Fishy vaginal odor can be a symptom of a vaginal infection such as bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection. It can also be caused by poor hygiene, certain foods or drinks, and certain medications. If you are experiencing a fishy vaginal odor, it is recommended to see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Treatment depends on what’s causing your vagina to smell. Some vaginal odor goes away on its own; however, others may require treatment (for example, pills or creams).
If you have a fishy vaginal odor due to chlamydia, gonorrhea, or trichomoniasis, these STDs are easily curable with prescription antibiotics. If you test positive through our service, our doctors offer consultation and can prescribe medication if necessary to eliminate the infection.
Sometimes, the smell of your vagina can subtly change with normal hormone shifts, and that’s okay. Maintaining good hygiene helps with odor, and it’s very simple and easy to do. Usually, keeping your vagina clean doesn’t require anything fancier than gently washing your vulva—the outer parts around the vagina—with warm water and mild, unscented soap.
Your vagina is an amazing, self-cleaning organ that secretes discharge to stay healthy and get rid of dead cells and bacteria. Your vagina naturally has a balance of good bacteria and an acidic pH, which help prevent infections. In fact, getting too heavy-handed with certain products can actually make matters worse by causing imbalances and irritation.
Here are some tips to prevent fishy vaginal odor:
Medically Reviewed by Kaci Durbin, MD, MBA, FACOG on January 25, 2023Written by Taysha on January 22, 2020