Causes of a Fish Smell in the VaginaCauses of a Fish Smell in the Vagina

The vagina is an area tucked away in your pelvis that’s full of lymph nodes and glands, all of which have their own delicate ecosystem. It’s also home to a variety of unique odor-producing bacteria that produce the scent you smell when you’re sexy, having intercourse or even just showering.

But if you start noticing an odd fishy smell, it could mean something else is wrong down there. “When it’s accompanied by other symptoms like itching, burning or an unusual watery discharge, it’s a warning sign that you may have a serious underlying infection,” Dr. Holmes says.

Bacterial vaginosis is the most common cause of a fish smell vagina odor. It’s an overgrowth of the bad bacteria that cause vaginal infections, according to Dr. Marilyn Jerome, a gynecologist at Foxhall OB-GYN Associates.

Another common culprit is perspiration, a body’s natural way to cool down after vigorous activity or when you’re stressed. Sweat can accumulate around the vagina and make you a prime target for infection.

Pelvic inflammatory disease is also a potential cause of a fishy odor, as it’s a bacterial infection that spreads up into the pelvic organs and reproductive system. It can cause severe pain, bleeding during sex or between periods, a fever, painful urination, a foul smelling vaginal discharge and trouble getting pregnant, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Other causes of a fishy vaginal odor include sweating, trichomoniasis (an STI that can cause a chemical-like odor) and a rare condition called rectovaginal fistula.