What Causes Fishy Odor in Vaginas?

Your vagina will have a slight odor and it's quite normal. It may indicate a problem when you notice a strong odor. Do you notice a fishy smell coming out of your vagina? Have you noticed your vaginal odor change just recently? This may be due to an underlying issue, especially when you have other signs and symptoms such as burning, itching, discharge, and irritation. This often makes women ask, "Why do vaginas smell like fish?" Keep reading to find your answers.

How Are Vaginas Supposed to Smell?

It actually depends on so many factors.

  • If you've just had a bath, your vagina may have no smell at all.
  • If you've just finished your workout session in the gym, you may notice a strong musky odor coming from your vagina.
  • You're more likely to notice a flinty-iron smell of blood when you're menstruating or giving birth.
  • Your vagina will smell like a good malt beer when yeast overgrows in it, and you will notice faintly bleach-like smell right after a sex session.

Simply put, your vagina will have its own special smell that may change due to different factors. How you smell is usually a combination of bacteria living in your vagina, how you dress, what you eat, how much you sweat, how often you clean yourself up, what your glands secrete, and how your bowel works. You also need to bear in mind that there are glands near your vagina that secrete pheromones that attract your sexual partner. It means you don't always need to worry about how your vagina smells, and there is usually no need to deodorize your vagina because it sometimes affects the vagina's natural pH and leads to different gynecological conditions.

Why Do Vaginas Smell Like Fish?

You may notice a fishy smell when you have bacterial vaginosis, a type of bacterial infection that can affect women of any age. It is usually the result of an overgrowth of bacteria normally present in your vagina. Lactobacilli are good bacteria that outnumber anaerobes or bad bacteria present in your vagina. Any misbalance will lead to an infection and result in bacterial vaginosis.

You may have it even if you have never been sexually active, but it usually affects women who are sexually active and engage in sexual activities with one or more partners. Along with a fishy smell, you may also notice a milky-white discharge from your vagina. The odor becomes strong usually when you have unprotected sex and semen mixes with vaginal secretions. It is also common for vaginal odor to become strong when you're having your period. You need to go see your healthcare provider to confirm if you have bacterial vaginosis or not.

What to Do If Vaginas Smell Like Fish?

Now you already know the answer to your question, "Why do vaginas smell like fish?" It means you should go see your doctor to diagnose bacterial vaginosis, which is the most common reason why your vagina smells like fish. Your doctor will check for other signs and symptoms, perform a pelvic exam, and even take a sample of your vaginal discharge to identify the real issue.

It is important to understand that bacterial vaginosis doesn't always cause other health problems, but in some cases, it leads to certain issues such as the following:

  • It increases the risk of miscarriage if you develop this infection during pregnancy. It may also lead to uterine infection or early delivery.
  • You may end up developing a pelvic infection if you get bacterial vaginosis after a pelvic procedure such as an abortion, a cesarean section, or a hysterectomy.
  • If you have bacterial vaginosis and you're exposed to a sexually transmitted infection, you're more likely to have that as well.

Your doctor will use antibiotics to treat your infection. You may have to use them as pills that you have to swallow or you can use them in the form of capsules that you have to put in your vagina. You will have to take pills though if you're pregnant.

With the use of antibiotics, your bacterial vaginosis should clear in a couple of days, but even if it does, you may have to continue with your treatment for a week or so. Be sure to continue taking your medication even if you feel better. Not completing the course of your antibiotics is only going to make it difficult to eliminate the infection.

How Can I Prevent Bacterial Vaginosis?

Bacterial vaginosis is usually the answer to your question, "Why do vaginas smell like fish?" You will have to take antibiotics to help clear the infection, but you can always take steps to prevent it from happening in the first place.

  • Take steps to minimize vaginal irritation. You should stay out of whirlpool spas and hot tubs and rinse soap thoroughly from your outer genital area after a shower. Be sure to dry yourself properly to prevent irritation. Only use non-deodorant and unscented tampons or pad.
  • Don't go overboard with the idea of deodorizing your vagina. A normal bath is enough to keep your vagina clean. Repetitive douching may disrupt the normal organisms living in your vagina, which in turn will increase the risk for an infection.
  • Never go for unprotected sex and be sure to limit the number of your sex partners limited.
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