When Your Vagina Smells Fishy

Your vagina smells fishy is a warm, dark and delicately balanced place, home to a delicate ecosystem containing naturally-occurring bacterial flora. Having a regular, normal vaginal smell is nothing to worry about, but when it starts to feel a little off or you notice an unpleasant fishy odor with your discharge, that’s something else.

OB-GYN Dr Kameelah Phillips says that the most common reason for your vagina to smell fishy is an overgrowth of bacteria called bacterial vaginosis. It’s treatable with antibiotics that you insert into your vagina.

Another culprit is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a condition that often happens when you’re infected with sexually transmitted diseases, like chlamydia or gonorrhea. It causes your vagina to swell and can also lead to an unusually fishy odor, Christine Greves, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn at Orlando Health Center of Obstetrics and Gynecology, tells SELF.

It’s not uncommon for people to get a “fishy” smell after unprotected sex, though it typically goes away once you’re in the bathroom and have had a shower or bath. If you’re worried, however, it’s best to go see your gynecologist right away.

A strong odor in your vagina is usually a sign of something more serious, such as vaginitis or an infection. Your OB-GYN will likely do a pelvic exam and take a sample of your discharge for testing. They’ll also perform a pH test, which measures your vaginal discharge’s acidity levels. They’ll also check your hormones and look for any other symptoms you may be experiencing, such as itching, burning, or bleeding.

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