Many women experience feminine odor from time to time. Feminine odor is typically from inflammation of the vaginal area and is especially frustrating, because it can leave you feeling unclean and gross, even if that is not the case. Unfortunately, “the fact that they are common does not make them any less embarrassing”, says Whitney Coy of sheknows.com.

We all smell differently. “Everything we consume – food, drinks, medications, drugs, alcohol – change vaginal secretions and men’s semen” says Justine Shuey, Phd., a professor of human sexuality and certified sex educator. If your scent suddenly varies greatly from your normal for no apparent reason, visit your doctor as it may be a sign of infection.

There are many causes of feminine odor and in this article, we will look at the top five.

1. Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis ( BV ) is the most common cause of vaginal odor according to a Mayo Clinic staff report. “Every vagina is filled with naturally occuring bacteria and bacterial vaginosis is simply an overgrowth of that bacteria” says Colette Brown-Graham, MD a board certified ob-gyn and diplomat to the National Board of Medical Examiners.

Many women in their reproductive years, according to Mary M. Galenberg, MD for the Mayo Clinic, will experience at least one case of bacterial vaginosis. The cause is largely unknown, but unprotected sex and frequent douching can put you at higher risk. “Both hormonal and non-hormonal IUDs have an increased risk of BV which is characterized by fishy smell” says Colette Brown-Graham
The symptoms include, itching, soreness, discharge and a smell. Some cases of BV will not go away on their own but, Planned Parenthood recommend that all women with BV symptoms should visit their doctors for treatment.

The treatment for vaginal vaginosis is usually as simple as a dose of antibiotics.

2. Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Some sexually transmitted diseases ( STD ) can cause feminine odor. The most common is chlamydia and gonorrhea. Both diseases re common and easy to treat however, they can cause serious complications if they go untreated. Both are unfortunately undiagnosed because they may or may not produce symptoms.

“The most common symptoms of chlamydia nd gonorrhea include painful urination and puss-like discharge, although an unpleasant odor is often present as well” says William C. Shiel Jr. MD.
It is recommended that you visit your doctor immediately, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms and abstain from sex or use protection during sex.

3. Yeast Infection

Yeast are fungi that has many types. A type of yeast that can cause infection in human is called candida. They occur mainly in warm moist areas of the body where the skin is often folded together ( groin, armpits, underneath the breasts and occasionally fingernails ). The yeast that affect the vagina is called yeast vaginitis.

Yeast infection is also very common and very uncomfortable. They present much like bacterial vaginosis with the addition of a thick white discharge. “Yeast infections do not require antibiotics instead, can be treated with one- or three course vaginal antifungal treatments” says Dr. Ann Kulze. Your doctor may also recommend a one-time oral anti-fungal treatment.

Treatment for yeast infection has become very simple and can even be purchased over the counter. However, some of the treatments can get messy, so it better to use them overnight.

4. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

“Pelvic inflammatory disease ( PID ) is an infection of woman’s pelvic organs including, the uterus ( womb ), fallopian tubes ( tubes ), ovaries and cervix” says Melissa Conrad Stoeppler, MD. PID occurs when bacteria ( usually sexually transmitted ) travel through the vagina into the uterus. It is a late stage result of an undiagnosed STD, such as chlamydia. Pelvic inflammatory disease usually, is not diagnosed until you experience chronic pains or having trouble getting pregnant because it does not usually have symptoms. Young sexually active women with multiple sex partners are greatest risk for pelvic inflammatory disease.

If symptoms of PID are present, they may include pelvic pains, odor, heavy discharge, fever, fatigue, painful intercourse or painful urination.

Pelvic inflammatory disease can be treated with antibiotics, though it may leave behind scar tissue that has lasting effects. According to Galenberg, the lasting effects might include, chronic pain, infertility or ectopic pregnancies.

5. Poor Feminine Hygiene

Hygiene is one of those things everyone is supposed to know, unfortunately no one ever talk seriously about it. A good personal hygiene is the first and the most important way to protect ourselves from diseases and other forms of illnesses.

It is possible that the cause of your feminine odor may be nothing more than poor hygiene. Yes, we have got a lot complicated parts down there and caring for them is not always easy.

First and foremost, make sure that you are washing every day. Women have oil and sweat glands in the vaginal area that, while completely natural, can cause odor if not well attended to. Use mild fragrance-free soaps, because anything else can upset the sensitive area and lead to even more troubles suggested, Whitney Coy.

Make sure that you wipe from front to back after visiting the rest room and wear clean underwear every day even if you do not have the time take a shower.

There are lots of products out there that claim to help with odor – stay away from them. Douches, sprays and cloths and creams, they actually cause more problems than they solve.

A quick tip is to wear always an underwear that has a cotton crotch. It will wick moisture away from your body and keep you dry, which can naturally help you stop odor.



1. Fauci, Anthony S. et al; Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 17th edition, McGraw-Hill Professional, 2008
2. Medicinenet newsletter, may 2013
3. Internet health database

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