Vaginal Odor: More Than An Embarrassment

Health & Medical Blog

Although infection of the vagina or cervix often is responsible for a strong vaginal odor, there are a number of underlying conditions and diseases that can be the cause. It's important to see your doctor if the odor persists or is accompanied by additional symptoms. Prompt diagnosis and treatment of the condition causing the odor reduces the risk of experiencing serious complications, including pregnancy complications if you are expecting.


Since vaginal odor can be a sign of another health-related issue, you shouldn't automatically assume that it has to do with poor hygiene. Generally, a bad vaginal odor is associated with other vaginal symptoms such as:

  • Fish-like odor

  • Heavy white or grayish vaginal discharge

  • Heavy vaginal bleeding

  • Spotting or vaginal bleeding during pregnancy

  • Vaginal itching or burning when you urinate

  • Genital blisters

  • Fever

  • Severe low back pain

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Cramps or chronic pain in the lower abdomen

You should not take any of these symptoms lightly, especially if they occur in combination with bad or persistent vaginal odor. The symptoms could be a sign of a serious medical condition, including pelvic inflammatory disease – often a complication of a sexually transmitted disease.


Common causes of vaginal odor include sexually transmitted diseases and bacterial, viral, or yeast infections.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Sexually transmitted diseases that can cause vaginal odor include:

  • Gonorrhea – a bacterial infection that can occur in the genitals, rectum, or throat and which, if pregnant, you can pass on to your infant during delivery

  • Chlamydia – a bacterial infection that can lead to infertility, ectopic pregnancy, or premature delivery

  • Chanchroid – a bacterial infection that causes open sores in the genital area

  • Genital Herpes – a viral infection that, if you are pregnant, can lead to miscarriage, premature birth, or neonatal herpes, which you can pass to your unborn baby

  • Trichomoniasis – an infection caused by a protozoan parasite, which doesn't always cause symptoms but, if you are pregnant, can lead to preterm delivery or low birth weight for your infant

Bacterial/Viral/Fungal Infections

Vaginitis can occur when there is an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the vagina. While bacterial vaginosis (BV) – a common vaginal infection – doesn't usually lead to complications, the condition can increase your risk of developing a sexually transmitted disease, including HIV/AIDS. If you are pregnant, it also can put you at risk for pregnancy complications.

If not diagnosed or left untreated, cervicitis, or inflammation of the cervix, can spread from the cervix to the uterus and into the pelvic cavity. Treatment depends on what type of microorganism is causing the infection. Contact a business, such as Florham Park OB/GYN Dr. Donald Chervenak MD, for more information.   


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Finding the Right Healthcare: Putting Families First

A few years ago, I experienced a huge health scare with my blood pressure. My doctor at the time didn't offer evening or late night care, which forced me to visit the local emergency room for help. Although it may seem like a small thing to some people, not having access to my doctor when I needed it really bothered me. It bothered me so much that I searched for a new doctor after my child was born. Now, I'm happy with my family's new physician. The doctor offers after-hour care, which is a wonderful thing for us. My blog offers tips on how to find the right doctor for your family, as well as many other services you might need one day. So, please read through the blog for the information you need now.