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Vaginal odor: what causes that strong smell?

Every woman has her own body scent. The same applies to your vagina. It is completely normal to have some sort of intimate odor. If this odor becomes unpleasant this could be an indication of a vaginal infection. But how do you know if your vaginal odor is abnormal?

Let´s start with what is considered normal.

Normal vaginal smell

Every woman is unique and so is her vaginal odor. However, most women will notice a slightly acidic scent. This is due to the presence of lactic acid in the vagina.

When hormone levels change, vaginal odor can also change. The odor tends to be more intense during ovulation than on other days. Many women also notice changes in odor after sexual intercourse. This is because sperm temporarily raises the pH level of the vagina.

Normal vaginal odor is nothing to be embarrassed about, but it can leave you feeling uncomfortable. You can even feel a bit insecure wondering whether other people would notice it too. (If you think about it, have you ever noticed another female’s vaginal odor?)

If the odor starts to intensify this could be an indication of bacterial vaginosis.

“Another symptom of bacterial vaginosis is a thin, grayish white discharge.”

Can an unpleasant vaginal odor indicate an illness?

One of the most common causes of vaginal odor is bacterial vaginosis, also known as BV. A strong, fish-like odor is one of the main symptoms of this vaginal infection, which is caused by an overgrowth of harmful/unwanted bacteria in your vagina. Another symptom of bacterial vaginosis is a thin, grayish white discharge.

Usually, this infection is fairly harmless and the symptoms will fade away spontaneously, although this may take some time. Treatment for BV is usually with antibiotics, prescribed by a doctor. This is an effective treatment for bacterial vaginosis but unfortunately can cause some unpleasant side effects, such as nausea and vomiting, as well as future resistance.

As an alternative, there are self-care products that you can buy without a prescription to treat bacterial vaginosis. Choosing products with natural ingredients can treat the infection and at the same time restore your natural vaginal flora.

There are some more serious causes of unpleasant vaginal odor. If you notice a smell other than the characteristic ‘fishy’ smell of BV, you are advised to visit your doctor.