If you notice a fishy smell “down there,” you’re not alone. Many women experience this at some point in their lives, but it is often an indication that something isn’t right. While doctors agree that it’s difficult to gauge what’s “normal” and what isn’t, a particularly strong odor typically indicates an infection. There could be other causes as well. Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of fishy vaginal odor, and some tips on how to ditch the odor.
Table of Contents
- 8 Common Causes of Fishy Odors
- How to Get Rid of Vaginal Odor
- When to See a Doctor for Vaginal Odor
- Best Product in 2016 – Over the Counter Product: RepHresh Vaginal Gel
8 Common Causes of Fishy Odors
The most common cause of an unpleasant, or fishy, odor is an infection – bacterial vaginosis in particular. Doctors are still unsure of what causes this infection, but common symptoms include:
Bacterial vaginosis is typically transmitted through sexual intercourse, and is treated with antibiotics. See your doctor right away if you think you might have this type of infection.
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a parasite. Most women don’t experience any symptoms, but if they do present themselves, women often experience:
- Frothy discharge that is green or yellow in color.
- Discharge that has a fishy odor.
- Burning during sex or urination.
Trichomoniasis is easily treated with a single round of antibiotics, so see your doctor if you suspect that you might have this STI.
3. Yeast Infection
Yeast infections are common among women, and often causes a thick white or yellow discharge to appear. The discharge may also take on a fishy smell, and you may experience soreness, itching and burning as well.
This type of infection is typically treated with an antifungal medication that can be purchased over the counter.
Sweat can cause unpleasant smells in the vaginal area. These odors are caused by the apocrine sweat glands in your vaginal area – the same glands found in your armpits. When these glands secrete oils, the bacteria on your skin metabolize them and emit a distinct odor. The more sweat you produce in this area, the stronger the odor will be.
If you have a habit of wearing tight clothing or underwear, trapped sweat in your groin may be causing the fishy odor. Overweight women, in particular, have this issue as skin folds trap sweat and lead to unpleasant smells.
5. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Also known as PID, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is caused by bacteria, and is typically transmitted through sexual intercourse. The bacteria travels through the vagina and into the uterus.
PID is often the late-stage result of an STD, like chlamydia or gonorrhea. Most women don’t realize that they have this disease until they begin experiencing chronic pain or have difficulty getting pregnant. When symptoms do present themselves, women often experience fishy odors, pelvic pain, fatigue, painful urination or sex, fever and heavy discharge.
6. The Foods You Eat
You may not realize it, but the foods you eat can actually affect your vaginal odor. Foods that have strong scents, like garlic, pepper, chilies, fish, blue cheese, onion, cabbage and broccoli can cause strange odors. If food is causing the fishy smell, try eliminating them from your diet to see if the smell improves.
7. Poor Hygiene in General
Aside from being sweaty, your body can develop a fishy smell in the vaginal area if your overall hygiene is poor. You may not necessarily need to bathe every day, depending on your activity level. However, you still need to make sure your lady bits are clean.
When you wash your vagina, you should not use anything scented, perfumed, harsh, or antibacterial. A healthy vagina produces healthy bacteria, which helps fight off infections. Destroying the healthy bacteria will not help your vagina smell less fishy.
On the contrary, it could actually further skew the balance of bacteria and pH levels of your vagina and cause the smell to worsen. You should wash the outside of your vagina with warm water and mild, natural soap with no scents or harsh ingredients.
You should not wash the inner part of your vagina because the inside is “self-cleaning,” so it is not necessary for you to wash it yourself. If you do, you could cause further irritation.
You also shouldn’t douche, as it is unnecessary for the regular cleansing of the vagina. In fact, doing so too often could make matters worse, as it will wash away the much-needed healthy bacteria.
Another reason for a fishy smell might be because you have forgotten to change your pad or tampon, or if you have forgotten a tampon completely. During your menstrual cycle, you should replace your pad or tampon as often as the packaging instructs you to.
If you have completely forgotten a tampon, bacteria can build up in your vagina and cause unpleasant odors. Not only can forgetting a tampon cause bad odors, but it also has a risk of causing toxic shock syndrome.
If you find that you have forgotten a tampon, wash your hands and remove it. Clean your vagina as you normally would – warm water and mild soap – and let it air out. If the smell persists, you may consider calling your doctor to make sure a bacterial infection has not set in.
When using tampons, remember to always wash your hands before and after insertion and to change them regularly, depending on the flow of your cycle. If you sleep with a tampon in during your menstrual cycle, put a new one in before bed and remove it in the morning.
This will help maintain a healthy environment.
How to Get Rid of Vaginal Odor
There are several ways to get rid of vaginal odor – some natural, some over-the-counter and some prescription strength.
If you do have an infection caused by an STD or bacteria (like bacterial vaginosis), please consult with your doctor before trying any over the counter method. Antibiotics or a prescription medication may be required to clear the infection.
If you’ve been advised by your doctor that an over the counter method is okay or the fishy smell is caused by something other than an infection, there are some things you can do at home to get rid of the smell.
But first, let’s talk about some things you should stop doing – because they’re probably making the problem worse.
Get Rid of Vaginal Odor – Things that Should Stop Doing
1. Don’t Douche
Douching is not a good idea. Forcing water or a cleaning agent into your vagina can destroy healthy bacteria or push an infection up into your uterus. It’s best to avoid feminine sprays, too.
Remember: Your vagina has its own natural cleaning mechanism. There’s no need to force water or harsh chemicals into your vagina to keep it clean.
2. Don’t Wear Tight Underwear
Tight underwear can trap bacteria and sweat, which can create strong, fishy odors. Wear looser-fitting underwear and clothing to prevent this from happening.
3. Don’t Wash with Harsh Soap
Soaps with harsh chemicals or strong scents can irritate the vagina and in some cases, lead to an infection. Wash with a mild soap, or simply stick to plain water.
4. Don’t Use Feminine Sprays
When you use feminine sprays on your vagina, you are essentially spraying all sorts of chemicals onto a relatively delicate area. Vaginal skin is much thinner than the rest of the skin on our bodies.
Therefore, it absorbs the chemicals faster and sends those chemicals right into our bloodstreams. Aside from that, the vagina already has a self-clean mode and spraying chemicals on it can interfere with that.
It’s best to consider natural ways to restore your pH balance or consult your doctor if you feel more comfortable with that.
5. Avoid Sugary Foods
Sugary foods can contribute to the growth of bacteria in the body, especially yeast. If you notice vaginal odor, avoid sugar, alcohol and wheat products, including processed foods.
Get Rid of Vaginal Odor – the Natural Methods
6. Eat Yogurt – the Best Natural Method
Yogurt contains natural beneficial bacteria that can help keep yeast infections at bay. It will take some time for this remedy to work, but it will keep the balance of good and bad bacteria at healthy levels.
Make sure that the yogurt contains live and active cultures.
Some women have also found success by applying the yogurt directly to the vulva.
7. Other Natural Methods
Yogurt isn’t the only natural method you can try. You can add baking soda or essential oils – such as tea tree oil or lavender oil – to a bath to try and fight off the harmful bacteria and replenish the healthy bacteria in your vagina.
Some things you can add to your diet to aid in restoring the pH balance in your body are citrus fruits, cranberry juice, turmeric milk and foods that have probiotics such as Kefir.
Probiotic foods work wonders in maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal tract. However, they can also help with vaginal odor too. You can apply yogurt to the area around the outside of your vagina and it will get rid of the odor quickly.
Eating it will help maintain healthy probiotic levels, reducing harmful bacterial growth in your body. Other probiotic foods to eat (not slather on your area) include miso, kimchi and sauerkraut. You can also take a probiotic supplement.
Probiotic foods and supplements are becoming increasingly more common in your regular grocery store. But if you can’t find them there, you can surely find them in a local health-food store.
Cranberry juice is beneficial for multiple reasons. Its acidic nature helps maintain the body’s pH balance, which will help minimize bacterial growth. Additionally, cranberry juice can also reduce the risk of urinary tract infections.
Baking soda is known to treat pH imbalances that contribute to the growth of bacteria in your vagina. You can mix a teaspoon of baking soda with 8 ounces of water and drink it.
On the other hand, you can mix baking soda in water and wash with it – not the inside of your vagina, but the outside area.
Some essential oils are also helpful for remedying vaginal smells and bacteria. Lavender oil smells great, but it also has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
You can mix one cup of water, one tablespoon of witch hazel and ten drops of lavender essential oil and use it to wash the outside of your vagina.
Tea tree oil also has antimicrobial properties and can be mixed with water – six drops of tea tree oil with one cup of water. It can be used like the lavender oil to wash the area outside your vagina.
You should not use these mixtures to wash inside of your vagina because that could cause more irritation and further disrupt the pH levels of your vagina, contributing to bacterial growth.
Turmeric is another natural ingredient that has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It can be found in almost any kitchen cabinet. You can drink a mixture of one teaspoon of turmeric powder with one cup of warm milk every evening before bed.
This will help your body overall, since it has beneficial properties. However, it can also help restore and maintain the pH balance of your body – including your vagina.
Neem Bark Extract
Neem bark has antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties, all of which help support a healthy gastrointestinal tract.
Studies have shown that this extract is beneficial in fighting bacterial infections because of the strong response it generates in the immune system and white blood cells.
Eating plenty of citrus fruits will help reduce vaginal odor because the Vitamin C and other antioxidants found in citrus fruits will help keep bad bacteria from growing in your vagina.
Unlike the essential oil mixtures, it is not advised to apply citrus fruits to your vagina because the acid might burn if you are experiencing redness or irritation. On top of that, the sugars might encourage fungal growth.
Other Fruits and Veggies
Citrus isn’t the only type of fruit that can help. It should be pointed out that many other fruits and vegetables can help. Many foods contain Vitamin C besides citrus fruits. Some examples are: strawberries, kiwi, guava and bell peppers.
Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, salad and collards, among others, can help keep your body hydrated and increase circulation, which contributes to the prevention of vaginal dryness.
Foods that have Vitamin B6 and potassium such as avocados will discourage bacterial growth by supporting healthy vaginal walls.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a great addition to your daily diet because they have Vitamin E, which can help prevent vaginal dryness. When your vagina gets too dry, it can become itchy and may stop creating its own vaginal discharge, which helps as a natural bacteria-fighter.
Apple cider vinegar is great for a variety of uses, especially when it comes to the health of our bodies. This is due to the antibacterial and antiseptic properties that it has, which can aid in getting rid of that fishy vaginal odor. You can actually take a bath with apple cider vinegar.
Add one or two cups of it to your warm bath water and soak for twenty to thirty minutes. This will help fight off the toxins and bacteria and will help restore the pH balance of your vagina.
If you want, you can add one or two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to a cup of water and drink this every day. Not only will you see benefits with your vaginal odor situation, but your body will also benefit overall.
White Vinegar and Sea Salt
White vinegar often takes a back seat to apple cider vinegar. However, it is also very effective at eliminating odors and it makes a great cleaning agent.
Taking a warm bath with a half cup of white vinegar and a half cup of sea salt a couple times a week can help restore the pH levels in your vagina.
Last but not the least, make sure you hydrate. Not only does your body need water for every day functioning, but water also helps cleanse your body of toxins and harmful bacteria – this includes the vagina.
Women on average need about a half-gallon of water each day, depending on size and activity level.
Safety is always important and it’s essential not to leave the fate of your body in the hands of the internet.
Keep in mind that while taking care of the smelly situation on your own is possible, there may come a time when you should just see your doctor about it – even if that means from the very start.
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, you should exercise caution before using essential oils or other methods you haven’t tried out before.
If you’ve tried natural remedies and they have not been effective, or if you are just trying to wait it out, you should definitely contact your doctor.
You should also contact your doctor if the vaginal odor has other symptoms, such as itching, burning, redness, irritation, or abnormal discharge.
The vagina regularly produces vaginal discharge that can vary in color and texture, depending on what point of your menstrual cycle you are in.
In general, if your discharge is very unpleasant-smelling or looks different from what you are used to seeing, you should contact your doctor.
One of the most effective ways to eliminate unpleasant vaginal odors is to maintain healthy vaginal pH. RepHresh can help you do that.
Designed to eliminate odors, RepHresh offers pre-filled applicators that last for three days. Each box includes a 12-day supply of applicators.
The great thing about this gel is that it’s clinically proven to maintain healthy pH levels in the vagina, which not only helps keep odors away, but prevents infections as well.
Vaginal odors are something no one wants to talk about, but if you’re experiencing a particularly strong, fishy odor, it’s time to do something about it. First, see your doctor to see what the cause is. If your doctor permits, try one of the products or remedies above to eliminate odors and restore your vagina’s healthy PH.