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Smelly Vaginal Discharge: Causes and Treatments

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For most women, smelly vaginal discharge is not a comfortable topic of conversation. As embarrassing and disturbing as it may be, discharge with a foul odor can create emotional and physical problems alike. Most of the time, a discharge with a slight odor is perfectly normal. This will vary from woman to woman. Some women have a clear color to their vaginal secretions while others have a milky-white color. However, when this color changes and the odor goes from distinctive to fishy and repugnant, there may be an underlying problem that must be treated promptly.

Smelly Discharge From Vagina But No Infection

Likely Causes

Other than infection, there are many things that can contribute to a smelly discharge of the vagina. Douching can disturb the normal bacteria balance of the vaginal flora leading to an unpleasant musty smell. Sitting around with wet panties or excessive sweating around the vaginal may also provide the genital area with a moist environment for bacteria growth which may cause some women to experience vaginal discharge with a smelly odor.

Another possible cause of smelly discharge is the use of scented soaps, perfumes, and lotions on and around the vagina. These disrupt the pH balance and can lead to an unpleasant odor. Finally, a change in laundry detergent, soap, sanitary napkins, or tampons can trigger irritation and lead to a smelly discharge.

Possible Treatments

The most important thing to remember when seeking out a cure for smelly vaginal discharge is prevention. Avoid using harsh soaps, perfumes, and other chemicals on the genital area. One should also refrain from douching or using any scented feminine vaginal washes, as these wash away both “good” and “bad” bacteria that is needed to maintain the balance in the vaginal flora. Another remedy is eating plain yogurt which contains lactobacillus acidophilus that helps to inhibit the growth of “bad” bacteria in the vagina and get rid of any smelly vaginal odor.

Smelly Discharge After Period

Likely Causes

TamponNo one wants to admit that they have a forgotten tampon in their vagina. This can be dangerous, as it could lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can cause infertility if left untreated. If one has a smelly discharge after one’s period, consider the forgotten tampon and see a doctor immediately.

Possible Treatments

The treatment for smelly discharge after a period would, of course, involve removal of the forgotten tampon – should this be the cause. Many women find that they have a brown smelly discharge after their period. This is normal and does not need treated. This unpleasant smelly discharge will go away after a day or two.

Smelly Discharge After Sex

Likely Causes

If one experiences a foul odor accompanied by greenish, yellowish, or grayish-white smelly discharge after intercourse, it may be a vaginal infection. These types of infections are very common, as each woman can expect to have one or two during their reproductive years. After sex, if one notice a discharge with a foul fish like odor, it may be an indication that one has bacterial vaginosis, a condition that can be aggravated with sexual activity with a new partner or with multiple partners. This is the most commonly occurring vaginal infection. Other possible infections that could lead to a musty smell after sex include trichomoniasis vaginitis or candida vaginitis (vaginal thrush).

Possible Treatments

The treatment for smelly discharge really depends on its cause. For bacterial vaginosis, a doctor will prescribe antibiotics or an intra-vaginal antibiotic cream. It is wise to refrain from sexual intercourse while taking the treatment. Trichomoniasis vaginitis can be treated with similar antibiotic therapy. One should also inform your sex partner, as he will also need to be treated as well for this sexually transmitted disease. Candida vaginitis can be treated with popular over-the-counter vaginal preparations like Monistat or Clotrimazole. These products should not be used if your fishy genital odor persists after a few days, however.

Smelly Discharge During Pregnancy

Likely Causes

One thing one should be aware of is that pregnant women produce a lot of vaginal discharge and the discharge may occasionally produce a slight smell which is considered a normal thing. Most of the discharge associated with pregnancy has a musty smell and does not cause any pain or inflammation. See your obstetrician, should you experience a change in vaginal discharge color, increased amounts of the discharge, burning with urination, or pelvic and vaginal pain.

More: Vaginal Odor During Pregnancy

Possible Treatments

Depending on the cause of your vaginal discharge, your obstetrician will treat you with medications that are safe to take during pregnancy. It is not unheard of for a woman to have bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, chlamydia, or a yeast infection while pregnant. You should never try to self medicate, as some over-the-counter medications may not be suitable for the pregnant female.

Tips For Preventing Smelly Vaginal Discharge

  • Make sure you only wear cotton underwear as tight underwear and pants may cause vaginal sweating which when comes into contact with vaginal discharge can produce an unpleasant smell.
  • Wash your genital area once or twice each day with a mild unscented soap and water. Do not douche.
  • Use condoms if you are sexually active as vaginal infections like bacterial vaginosis often develops after unprotected sex with a new partner or among women with multiple sex partners.
  • Cut down on sugary foods and alcohol that can increase the amount of yeast in your body as well as vagina. Drink more water to help the body flush out toxins and “bad” bacterial from the vagina.
  • Visit your gynecologist every year for a routine examination to rule out other possible diseases such as cancer of the cervix, uterine or bowel as well as sexually transmitted diseases.

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{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Kathleen March 14, 2013, 1:06 pm

    I think we have all had this problem! I am on Atkins and don’t drink so that definately helps. Being overweight though, I get sweat in the folds and down there! Ew. I did get a lot of problems while I was pregnant! Occasionally, I will get a uti from the sweat and bacteria. I do find that changing my undies a lot does help, I wear granny pants ….ha ha single!
    Thanks for another informative article!

  • Tracy October 18, 2014, 12:48 am

    I personally find that making sure you’re wearing cotton underwear helps a lot as well. Also making sure you clean down there properly when you shower is a huge help!

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