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Vaginal Odor and STD: What You Need to Know

When noticing an unusual vaginal odor, it’s natural to wonder if you have an STD. You’ve probably heard stories of women receiving an STD diagnosis after complaining about unpleasant vaginal odor.

While it’s true that vaginal odors and an STD often go hand in hand, this fact doesn’t paint the full picture. In reality, you can experience undesirable vaginal odor for many non-STD reasons.

We at Rapid STD Testing have outlined this extensive guide to vaginal odor and STD infections. If you’ve ever wondered, “What STD makes your vag smell?” keep reading to learn more about vaginal odor, STDs, and what you can do about these symptoms.

What Is a Normal Vaginal Odor?

Many women wonder what smell a healthy vagina should even have. Should vaginas smell at all? If so, what’s a normal vaginal scent?

In reality, it’s normal for vaginas to smell, and all vaginas give off a light scent. Many women describe their vaginal smell as “musty,” though the exact smell varies significantly from woman to woman. For this reason, knowing what your vagina typically smells like can clue you in to when it changes.

Though all vaginas smell, a healthy vagina should not give off a foul or fishy odor. You also shouldn’t be able to smell vaginal odor through layers of clothing. So if you’re noticing a stronger or unpleasant smell, that’s a sign something may be off, and you need to get evaluated for an STD.

What STD Causes Vaginal Odor?

The pH environment of a vagina makes up an extremely delicate system. This aspect makes vaginal odor susceptible to STD-driven changes.

That being said, any disrupted vaginal flora will probably cause a change in vaginal scent. However, though STD foul odors can occur, an STD also generally causes several other symptoms.

For instance, most STDs cause a distinctive STD discharge appearance that gives off a fishy or “funky” odor. This altered discharge differs considerably from typical vaginal discharge. Apart from unusual-smelling discharge, most STDs cause discomfort when urinating, pelvic pain, pain during or after intercourse, or reproductive inflammation.

STDs that can alter vaginal odor are:

Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis, or “trich,” is an infection caused by the protozoan parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. Trichomoniasis is a very common STD whose primary symptom in women is foul-smelling vaginal discharge. This discharge may take on a white, gray, yellow, or green color and can even include blood. Furthermore, trichomoniasis may cause painful urination and genital itching.

Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is not an STD but an overgrowth of vaginal bacteria. Sexual activity, particularly unsafe sexual activity, can produce this overgrowth. You can also get BV from non-sexual causes such as douching, which upsets your vagina’s pH levels.

BV’s main symptoms consist of a gray, fishy-smelling vaginal discharge, burning sensation in vagina, vaginal itching, and abdominal pain. Nonetheless, many women with BV experience no symptoms at all, making BV a tricky condition to diagnose.

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is an extremely common bacterial infection that causes mild symptoms. Many women who have chlamydia are entirely asymptomatic. Nonetheless, it may manifest in women as unusual vaginal discharge, pain during urination, and pain during intercourse.

Though chlamydia may produce a stronger vaginal smell, this side effect is most often not the leading symptom. If left untreated, chlamydia can lead to serious issues like vaginal bleeding, pelvic inflammatory disease, and scarring to the reproductive system.

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is another prevalent and bacteria-driven infection. In women, it attacks the urethra, throat, or rectum and may even spread to the cervix. Symptoms include increased discharge, abnormal vaginal bleeding, and painful urination. Like chlamydia, gonorrhea can intensify vaginal odor but does not typically produce a fishy or foul-smelling aroma.

If you notice a foul vaginal odor, it’s important to investigate the potential cause or causes. Rapid STD Testing highly recommends you get a 10-panel STD test to elimiate vaginal odor STDs as a cause of your symptoms. Our clinics across the nation offer confidential same-day STD testing.

Non-STD Causes of Abnormal Vaginal Odor

Do you have vaginal odor but no STD? If so, what should you do about your vaginal odor?

Many conditions can influence vaginal scent. Everything from diet to hormones to clothing can significantly impact vaginal odor.

The list below comprises the most widespread non-STD causes of vaginal odor:

  • Diet. Strong-tasting foods such as garlic or onion can make your vagina smell different.
  • Hormonal swings. Throughout your monthly menstrual cycle, hormones such as estrogen and progesterone can change vaginal odor.
  • Sweating. You may notice a stronger vaginal odor while exercising or sweating from excessive heat.
  • Urine. Strong-smelling or burning urine can also shift vaginal odor since the urethra and vagina are so close to each other.
  • Tight-fitting clothing. Tight clothing such as jeans or Spandex does not allow sufficient airflow around the vagina, creating a more intense odor.
  • Sex. Not washing the vagina before and after sex can strengthen its odor.
  • Scented bath products. Lotions, shampoos, and body washes can upset the vaginal flora. When the flora changes, this shift may create an unusual odor.
  • Vaginal infections. A yeast infection is the most common type of non-STD vaginal infection. Yeast overgrowth in the vagina causes this infection. A yeast infection may create a sweet-smelling aroma that resembles beer or bread.
  • Lodged tampon. A forgotten tampon in the vagina will quickly create a foul-smelling odor.
  • Pregnancy. Pregnant women often notice stronger or somewhat altered vaginal odor from fluctuating hormones.

In rare cases, cervical or vaginal cancers may produce a strange vaginal odor. Rectovaginal fistula is another uncommon condition characterized by a tear between the vagina and anus. As a result, it can cause a fecal-tinged odor.

Altogether, many reasons cause unpleasant vaginal odor besides an STD. Only a medical professional can rule out the correct cause for your odor.

Options and Treatment for Abnormal Vaginal Odor

As annoying as vaginal odor is, it’s highly treatable. Your particular treatment plan depends on the underlying cause of your odor. That’s why before testing out any treatment, you must first confirm you are STD-negative, then visit a doctor to see what’s causing your odor.

Rapid STD Testing offers STD screenings at numerous local clinics. The screening process involves samples from inside your vagina that will show whether you have an STD and may also order a urine sample.

If the results show that you have an STD, the next step is to visit your doctor. They’ll likely prescribe you antibiotics that will cure your condition—and get rid of your odor.

If the doctor determines you don’t have an STD, they may recommend various home remedies to manage your vaginal odor. These treatments may include:

  • Washing the vagina more frequently and wearing clean clothing.
  • Drinking more water.
  • Taking probiotics to rebalance your vaginal flora.
  • Practicing safe sex with condom use.

How to Prevent Abnormal Vaginal Odor

Fortunately, you can use many methods to prevent vaginal odor.

The most important step is engaging in safe sex. So, limit your sexual partners, always use condoms, and test for STDs before becoming sexually exclusive with a partner. 

You should also stay mindful of your personal hygiene. Rinse your vagina with water every day. In addition, wear loose-fitting clothing that doesn’t stifle the vagina.

Do not douche or use soap on the vagina. The vagina is self-cleaning, and using these cleaning agents can disrupt its all-important pH balance.

Lastly, pay close attention to certain foods or beverages that seem to change your vaginal odor. For example, many women find that eating garlic changes their vaginal scent. By monitoring your diet, you may discover “trigger” foods or drinks you can reduce or eliminate.

Take Control of STDs and Foul Odors

Don’t suffer needlessly or worry about a vaginal odor STD! Schedule a rapid STD test with Rapid STD Testing at a local testing center.