Vaginal odor may vary throughout your menstrual cycle and may be especially noticeable right after having sex. Normal sweating also can cause a vaginal odor. Though it may be tempting to douche or use a vaginal deodorant to decrease vaginal odor, these products may actually increase irritation and other vaginal symptoms.
Bacterial vaginosis — an overgrowth of normally occurring vaginal bacteria — is the most common vaginal infection that causes a vaginal odor. Trichomoniasis — a sexually transmitted infection — also can lead to vaginal odor. Chlamydia and gonorrhea infections usually don't cause vaginal odors. Neither do yeast infections.
Generally, if you have vaginal odor without other vaginal symptoms, it's unlikely that your vaginal odor is abnormal.
Common causes of abnormal vaginal odor include:
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Poor hygiene
- Retained or forgotten tampon
Less commonly, abnormal vaginal odor may result from:
- Rectovaginal fistula (an abnormal opening between the rectum and vagina that allows feces to leak into the vagina)
- Cervical cancer
- Vaginal cancer
April 12, 2014
Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.
- Bacterial vaginosis — CDC fact sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/STD/BV/STDFact-Bacterial-Vaginosis.htm. Accessed Dec. 10, 2013.
- Douching fact sheet. Office on Women's Health. http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/douching.html. Accessed Jan. 6, 2014.
- Sobel J. Bacterial vaginosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 10, 2013.
- Ferri FF. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2014: 5 Books in 1. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2014. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Dec. 10, 2013.
- Trichomoniasis — CDC fact sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/std/trichomonas/STDFact-Trichomoniasis.htm. Accessed Dec. 10, 2013.
- Toglia MR. Rectovaginal, anovaginal, and colovesical fistulas. http://www.uptodate.com/home Accessed Dec. 11, 2013.
- Anderson MR, et al. Evaluation of vaginal complaints. JAMA. 2004;291:1368.