Question: I have a rather embarrassing question. My boyfriend told me my vagina smells bad, especially after sex. What is the cause and is there a remedy? Please help.
Answer: A stinky vagina is usually caused by an infection. Every private area in a person's body has a certain natural odour. However, when this scent is affected by an infection and there is a foul smell, this can be a cause for concern. A stinky vagina can be an uncomfortable and embarrassing development. When this occurs, most women try all sorts of douches and sprays to get rid of the smell. However, instead of relief, these may result in making the problem worse. Therefore, it is always beneficial to seek medical advice when encountering a smelly vagina. It may be embarrassing, but it will be worth the embarrassment when the problem gets resolved.
Probable Causes of Vaginal Odour
There are several probable causes of a smelly vagina. Most of these causes may be treated with antibiotics. Following are some of the most commonly encountered reasons behind an obnoxious smell from the genital area:
- Bacterial Vaginosis - Bacterial vaginosis results in smelly vaginal discharge. BV occurs due to an overgrowth of normal bacteria in the vagina. BV sometimes has no symptoms. However, some women may experience a thin, gray-white discharge accompanied by a fishy odour, as well as vaginal itching. This usually is most predominant after sexual intercourse. Antibiotics help treat BV.
- Chlamydia - Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease. Many people affected with chlamydia do not know they have it as symptoms are rare. However, some women experience a smelly, vaginal discharge, as well as genital pain. Symptoms such as painful intercourse, abdominal pain and pain when urinating help identify chlamydia. Treatment is necessary as complications can arise without treatment.
- Gonorrhoea - Gonorrhoea is also a sexually transmitted disease. Symptoms of gonorrhoea include vaginal discharge with a distinctive odour, pain when passing urine, vaginal bleeding, etc. Antibiotics are used to treat gonorrhoea.
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) - PID is another sexually transmitted disease affecting the female reproductive organs. Vaginal discharge with an unpleasant odour is the primary symptom of PID. This is also accompanied with pain during intercourse, irregular periods, pain in the lower back, lower abdomen and pelvic pain, etc. PID too requires antibiotic treatment.
- Trichomoniasis - Women experiencing painful urination, foul smelling vaginal discharge and itching in the vagina may be having trichomoniasis. This is a sexually transmitted disease affecting men and women. Pregnant women with trichomoniasis are at risk of delivering prematurely. Flagyl or Tindamax is prescribed for treatment of trichomoniasis.
Sometimes, the cause of a stinky vagina could be due to more common reasons such as poor hygiene or a forgotten tampon. In addition, there are also other less common causes of a stinky vagina. These include cervical cancer, rectovaginal fistula and vaginal cancer.
Preventing Vaginal Odour
The prevention of vaginal odour depends on identifying the cause. For example, practicing safe sex helps prevent sexually transmitted infections resulting in a smelly vagina. Vaginal odour occurring due to lack of personal hygiene can be alleviated by keeping the vaginal area clean. However, avoiding the use of scented soaps, scented tampons or harsh soaps will be beneficial. Wearing loose cotton underwear, especially during hot, humid summer months also helps prevent vaginal odour and vaginal infections. Furthermore, women should avoid the use of harsh chemicals when washing underwear as it may result in infections which may cause a smelly vagina. Vaginal douches are recommended, although caution must be taken when douching. There are many negative side effects to douching that including the flushing out of the "good" bacteria and allowing the spread of "bad" bacteria. Vaginal odour can be prevented by consuming high amounts of yoghurt. Yoghurt contains lactobacillus, the "good" bacteria and a high consumption will help restore the vaginal PH balance. Healthy vaginal PH balance ensures an odour-free vagina.
Vaginal odour or smelly vaginal discharge could be symptoms of a serious infection which needs antibiotics. Therefore, a foul, fishy odour emanating from the vaginal area should be looked into by a doctor. The doctor will screen for infections through a few simple tests and prescribe proper treatments depending upon the identified cause.