Vagina HealthSex Health

Causes For a Fishy Smell of Vagina

If you notice a fishy odor from your vagina or vaginal discharge, it may be caused by sweating, a bacterial infection, or even your genetics. The most common is cause is vaginitis, an infection or inflammation of the vagina.


Vaginitis is inflammation or an infection of the vagina. It is most commonly caused by a bacterial infection, but can also be caused by a yeast infection or a sexually transmitted infection (STI) called trichomoniasis. A fishy odor is a common symptom.

Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is an imbalance or overgrowth of bacterium in the vagina. Having penile-vaginal intercourse with a new partner is usually the cause.

Women who aren’t sexually active can also get bacterial vaginosis, though. Douching or other hormonal changes, such as pregnancy and menopause can result in bacterial vaginosis.


Trichomoniasis is an STI caused by a parasite spread through sexual contact that can cause a foul or fishy smelling odor.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

A UTI may cause foul or strong-smelling urine. You may also experience burning, itching, or pain.

Period Blood or Lost or Forgotten Tampons

Your menstrual cycle may cause different odors. A stronger or fishy odor may be caused by an infection or from a forgotten tampon. Let your doctor know if you are concerned.


Vaginal sweating due to exercise, heat, or other reasons is normal and can occasionally have an odor. If you notice a foul odor when you sweat, let your doctor know.

How Is the Cause of a Fishy Smell Diagnosed?

If you are experiencing symptoms of vaginitis or are concerned about your vaginal odor, see your OB-GYN. They will likely perform a pelvic exam where they’ll look inside your vagina for inflammation or abnormal discharge.

They also may take a sample of the discharge for lab testing. They can also perform a pH test. This tests the vaginal discharge for an elevated pH.

An elevated pH may mean you have a bacterial infection. But your doctor will need to assess your other symptoms, plus review your medical and sexual history to confirm the diagnosis.

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