Bad vaginal odor – what to do?

Does your vagina smell stronger than usual? The gynecologists on Livi explain to you the different possible causes of a bad vaginal odor.

Every vagina has a natural bacterial flora which, when well balanced, has the role of protecting it against infections. Each woman has her own vaginal odor which evolves according to the different phases of the menstrual cycle. Generally, if you don’t experience any genital discomfort, and you don’t notice anything unusual about the smell or consistency of your vaginal discharge, there’s nothing to worry about. But sometimes, an unpleasant odor can emerge and reveal a disorder. If it bothers you, especially when it is accompanied by other bothersome symptoms, it is necessary to talk to a healthcare professional.

Common causes of bad vaginal odor

If vaginal odors are often associated with poor personal hygiene, it is good to know that a vaginal infection can also be the cause.

Bacterial vaginosis (BV)

Bacterial vaginosis is one of the most common causes of an unpleasant vaginal odor. But half of the vaginosis cases are completely asymptomatic. It mainly affects women between the ages of 15 and 44. Bacterial vaginosis develops when the usual vaginal flora is out of balance and replaced by pathogenic bacteria. Vaginal discharge is then more abundant and malodorous, this smell is accentuated after sexual intercourse. A fishy smell is characteristic of Gardnerella vaginalis, a bacterium often involved in vaginosis. You may also experience itching and swelling around the vulva.

Treatment for vaginosis depends on the bacteria involved and the symptoms, so in some cases, it is not necessary. But if the symptoms and the smell are bothersome, we recommend that you consult a healthcare professional, especially if you are pregnant. Bacterial vaginosis is usually easily treated with antibiotics – in the form of tablets, gels, or creams – however, it can recur and require treatment for up to 6 months. Prefer the use of condoms until the symptoms disappear.


Trichomoniasis is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the world, in men and women. It is a parasitic disease that usually does not cause many symptoms. Some women develop yellowish vaginal discharge with a strong odor. As with bacterial vaginosis, the vulva may be red and itchy. Trichomoniasis is generally benign and asymptomatic when it is limited to the vagina, but the parasite can go up to the level of the uterus and fallopian tubes and then be a source of complications. That’s why it still needs to be taken care of.

It is a parasite that is transmitted sexually and, more rarely, by still wet towels, bath water, or previously contaminated toilet seats.

In women, the intensity of the symptoms is more marked at the beginning and end of the menstrual cycle because the vaginal pH is more favorable to the development of trichomonas. Diagnosis is made through a genital swab and treatment is based on taking antibiotics. There is no preventive treatment or vaccine, protection during sexual intercourse is the best prevention.

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)

Toxic shock syndrome is a very rare pathology but can be very serious. 1% of women have bacteria from the Staphylococcus aureus family in their bodies. Finding traces of this bacterium in the vagina is not alarming, but under certain conditions, it can become responsible for toxic shock syndrome. The blood that stagnates in the vagina is an environment conducive to the development of this bacterium. This can happen because of a tampon or menstrual cup during menstruation. When the bacteria grow in the blood in the vagina, they can then spread throughout the body through the blood vessels. A bad vaginal odor can alert you along with other concerning symptoms:

  • Digestive disorders;
  • A high fever ;
  • Unusual skin rashes ;
  • A drop in blood pressure.

The most serious consequence is a failure of several organs that can lead to death.

The risk of triggering toxic shock syndrome is multiplied by 2 when a tampon is kept for more than 6 hours. To limit the risks, it is recommended to respect a delay of 4 to 6 hours for tampons and menstrual cups. It is, therefore, necessary to avoid these types of sanitary protection during the night. A person who suffers from toxic shock syndrome Avanafil must go to the emergency room as soon as possible.

Vaginal mycosis

Vaginal infection with Candida (yeast-like fungus) is one of the causes of vaginitis. It is very common and usually results in itching, burning sensations, and a change in the appearance of the vaginal discharge which may become thick and white, similar to curdled milk. These losses are however not very fragrant.

You are advised to consult when the symptoms of Candida vaginitis cause discomfort in your daily life. Appropriate treatment will relieve the symptoms but will also prevent their long-term worsening. Some treatments for vaginal yeast infection are available in pharmacies without a prescription, others require a doctor’s prescription.

Consult as soon as possible in case of abnormal vaginal discharge and signs of urinary tract infection. General practitioners and gynecologists on Livi can prescribe local treatment if the diagnosis of vaginal yeast infection is proven.

Hormonal fluctuations

Similar to changes in smell during your menstrual cycle, other major hormonal fluctuations can also affect the smell of your vaginal mucus. During puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, the smell of vaginal secretions may change.

The vaginal discharge can then be thicker or thinner, yellowish or even brown, but it should not have a bad smell. If you notice strong and unpleasant vaginal odors, talk to a healthcare professional. Especially if you are pregnant, it is necessary to understand the cause of these changes.

Gynecological pathologies

Very rarely, smelly discharge can be a symptom of cervical cancer. In this case, unusual vaginal discharge and smelly secretions may be the first symptoms to appear. You may then notice bleeding during intercourse or another vaginal bleeding outside of your period, called metrorrhagia. The smell of the discharge will be a little metallic, very different from that associated with yeast infection or vaginosis.

Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers in women. It can appear at any age from 25 years. However, a vaccine exists and can prevent two-thirds of cancers of the cervix. However, vaccination does not protect against all the HPVs responsible for cervical cancer, which is why regular Pap smear screening remains essential.

Screening is recommended from age 25 at regular intervals until age 65. It is carried out by smearing the cervix (cervical-uterine smear). It is a quick and painless medical examination carried out by a gynecologist or a general practitioner.

Do STIs cause vaginal odor?

Yes, for trichomoniasis. In contrast, STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea rarely cause changes in the smell of cervical mucus, but they can cause other symptoms, such as pelvic pain. If in doubt, seek advice from a healthcare professional.

How to cure a bad vaginal odor?

As seen above, a bad vaginal odor can have many causes. To treat these unpleasant odors, you must begin by identifying their cause. To do this, observe the vaginal discharge, its texture, color, and abundance in order to talk to your doctor or a gynecologist. You may need to carry out additional examinations to find out the origin of these odors. The health professional will prescribe an appropriate treatment.