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:
- Vaginitis (bacterial vaginosis)
- Poor hygiene
- A retained or forgotten tampon left in place for several days
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
March 23, 2018
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. https://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/stdfact-bacterial-vaginosis.htm. Accessed Feb. 9, 2017.
- Douching fact sheet. Office on Women's Health. http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/douching.html. Accessed Feb. 9, 2017.
- Sobel JD. Bacterial vaginosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 9, 2017.
- Ferri FF. Cervical cancer. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2017. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2017. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Feb. 9, 2017.
- Ferri FF. Vaginal malignancy. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2017. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2017. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Feb. 9, 2017.
- Toglia MR. Rectovaginal and anovaginal fistulas. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 16, 2017.
- Anderson MR, et al. Evaluation of vaginal complaints. JAMA. 2004;291:1368.