Vagina Health

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.

When To See Your Doctor

Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:

  • itching
  • burning
  • pain during urination
  • redness or irritation
  • pain after sex
  • unusual discharge that’s grey, white, or yellow-green in color
  • discharge that has a foul odor

Medical treatment that can help

Treatment to stop or prevent that fishy smell will depend on what is causing your symptoms.

Bacterial Vaginosis

Your doctor may perform a pelvic exam and send samples to a lab, if needed. If you test positive for a bacterial infection, your doctor will give you a prescription for antibiotics.

A commonly prescribed antibiotic for vaginitis is metronidazole (Flagyl) tablets or a cream or gel such as clindamycin (Cleocin) that you apply to your vagina. Follow all your doctor’s instructions for taking these medications.

Yeast Infection

You can use an over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal cream to treat a yeast infection. Options include miconazole (Monistat 1) or tioconazole (Vagistat-1). Your doctor may also prescribe you an antifungal medication.

Although you may be able to treat a yeast infection yourself with OTC remedies, see your doctor if this is the first time you’ve had these symptoms, your symptoms worsen, or these treatments aren’t working.


A UTI is usually treated with antibiotics and home remedies. Follow your doctor’s instructions exactly for taking antibiotics, as you need to complete the entire course of treatment for them to be effective.

Antibiotics are not the only treatment option, and your doctor may prescribe other medications.

You’ll also need to drink plenty of water as your body recovers and avoid coffee and soft drinks until your infection is cleared up. They can irritate your bladder as you recover.

Stuck Tampons

Your doctor or OB-GYN can easily remove a stuck tampon. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. It can be dangerous for your health if they aren’t removed.

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