Fishy vaginal odor is an extremely common concern among women of all ages. However, it’s not just a cosmetic problem that can be fixed by using scented feminine hygiene products. The fishy smell can be a symptom of various health issues, in most cases, these are non-serious. An unusual vaginal smell is a good reason to visit your gynecologist to find the underlying cause. If you’re struggling with fishy vaginal odor, here is what you need to know about it:
1. The most common cause of the fishy vaginal smell
If you’re dealing with a fishy vaginal smell, it’s likely due to bacterial vaginosis. Bacterial vaginosis is a type of infection that is provoked by a bacterial imbalance in the vagina. When the balance between healthy and unhealthy bacteria is disrupted, it leads to an overgrowth of bad bacteria that cause inflammation, irritation, and that unpleasant smell.
If your fishy smell is provoked by bacterial vaginosis, you’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal infection in women between the ages of 15 and 44.
Though doctors still don’t know the mechanism of development of bacterial vaginosis, it’s known that having a new sex partner or multiple sex partners can disrupt vaginal microflora and increase the risk for bacterial vaginosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Many people with bacterial vaginosis don’t have any symptoms, but if any symptoms are present, these include gray or white discharge and fishy vaginal odor. The unusual smell is especially noticeable after sex. Other signs of BV might include burning during urination and itchiness in and outside the vagina.
Luckily, bacterial vaginosis is easy to diagnose and treat. Your gynecologist will examine your vagina and take a sample of vaginal discharge to check for bad bacteria. The treatment usually involves taking antibiotics in the form of vaginal tablets or oral pills.
There are some tips that will help you reduce vaginal discomfort while you’re getting treatment. These include avoiding the use of scented hygiene products, pads, and tampons, wearing breathable cotton underwear, and staying out of hot tubs.
2. Other causes of a fishy smell
In rare cases, bacterial vaginosis might indicate sexually transmitted infections, like trichomoniasis. Trichomoniasis is also accompanied by yellow, white, green, or gray discharge, vaginal itching, burning, pain during urination or sex, and redness.
Another possible cause of the fishy vaginal odor is a pelvic inflammatory disease. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a serious infection that typically occurs when the sexually transmitted infection spreads to the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus. Though the condition is typically symptomless, it might provoke pain during urination, fever, heavy vaginal discharge, and even fertility issues since it leaves scars on reproductive organs.
Treatment for the pelvic inflammatory disease includes taking a combination of antibiotics. In rare cases, you might need hospitalization and further treatment.
3. Prevention of fishy odor and bacterial vaginosis
Experts still don’t know how exactly bacterial vaginosis develops and spreads, which means there are no sure ways to prevent BV. However, you can try a few measures that can lower your risk for bacterial vaginosis. According to the Office on Women’s Health, these include using latex condoms properly during each sexual intercourse, not douching, and limiting the number of your sex partners.
Another good and effective way to lower the risk for bacterial vaginosis is to encourage general vaginal health and clean sex toys between uses. So, to prevent a fishy vaginal smell, you need to treat the root cause of it. Before starting any treatment, you should consult your gynecologist who will identify the cause correctly and prescribe the proper treatment.
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