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WHY DO I SMELL LIKE FISH?
By Heather Rupe, DO The supermarket shelves are lined with products encouraging us to keep our lady parts clean and pleasant-smelling. Why does the vagina smell? The vagina is a carefully balanced ecosystem of fluid discharge and bacteria meant to keep the vaginal PH at a healthy 4. This combination of fluid and bacteria that make up the vaginal discharge that can, at times, emit certain odors. Most of these odors are natural and normal, but there are times when excess odor can signal a problem. After performing a very unscientific poll of all the gynecologist I know, we determined that one can smell a normal vagina from 1 foot away. More pungent odor or any associated with pain, burning or itching should prompt a visit to your provider. Some common causes of vaginal odor include: Bacterial Vaginosis BV — The vagina is normally colonized with healthy bacteria, but if something disturbs the ecosystem, then unhealthy bacteria like BV can take over. BV is most commonly caused by an overgrowth of the bacteria Gardnerella vaginalis. Symptoms include a thin grey, runny discharge and a strong fishy odor. The odor is more pungent when in contact with semen, so often women will first notice this as a strong odor after sex. BV is annoying and can increase your risk of other infections, but is easily treated with antibiotics. Garlic, onion, asparagus, and curry are few of the more odoriferous foods known to affect body odor. Antihistamines can lead to vaginal dryness and decreased vaginal secretions, which can also have an effect. Additionally, herbal therapies and the newly popular essential oils can lead to changes in vaginal odor. Sweat when combined with discharge can escalate the natural musk to a whole new level of stank. This is a natural odor, though sometimes slightly unpleasant. To minimize the smell, change clothes after exercising and wear breathable fabrics. Hormonal Changes — The amount of discharge varies throughout menstrual cycles. Hormonal therapies, birth control pills and vaginal creams can have an effect the vaginal PH and odor as well. Menopause also leads to major changes as the decreasing estrogen levels can lead to increasing incidence of yeast infection and BV. A Forgotten Tampon — There is one odor that is so foul, it is unlike anything you have every smelled in your entire life. While the odor is particularly offensive, it does resolve quickly after the tampon is removed. Rarely, the retained tampon can also lead to serious infection, so it is important to see your doctor should this occur symptoms include a brown discharge and odor. Douching is never indicated for vaginal odor or any other reason. It only further changes the bacterial content and can spread infection. You do not need to insert anything inside your vagina to clean it: You might also take a probiotics to help restore normal bacterial balance. For proper hygiene, clean the external area of your vagina vulva and labia with a mild soap. If odor persists despite these measures, then follow up with your provider. The opinions expressed in WebMD Second Opinion are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Expand The opinions expressed in WebMD Second Opinion are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD Second Opinion are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment. Do not consider Second Opinion as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial immediately. She is the co-author of The Pregnancy Companion: She is on the team that makes sure all WebMD content is medically correct, current and understandable.
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