The vagina is a delicate organ; almost anything that is used on it can upset the natural balance of bacteria and yeast. When a vagina is healthy you can feel and smell the healthiness and when a vagina is unhealthy you can also feel and smell the infection.
Many women believe that the vagina is not suppose to smell or actually have a smell to it, this is not true. There are many products on the market that perpetuate this notion selling millions of dollars in products.
A healthy and clean vagina has a natural light and mild musty/earthy scent that is not offensive but is rather erotic in the right situation. This however, depends on your life-style habits and where you are in your cycle whether the natural scent of the vagina is strong or mild.
Drinking alcohol, smoking, daily diet, water, medication, stress, exercise, weight, age, vitamins, hormones, genetics all play a role in the changes of the vaginal scent. The scent changes that occur are very normal and will happen throughout your lifetime.
The three most common types of vaginal infections or vaginitis are vaginal yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis. Two of the three can be caused by an imbalanced in the vagina's flora whether it be yeast or bacterial. The third, trichomoniasis, is an STI. However, two of the three BV and trich usually causes the strong fishy vaginal odor.
The other three common types of vaginitis are chlamydia vaginitis, viral vaginitis and non-infectious vaginitis we will discuss these at another time.
Vaginitis is the inflammation (swelling) of the inner vagina or vulvavaginitis is the inflammation of the vulva and inner vagina caused by infection or irritation. It may cause burning, heavy/unusual discharge, itching, pain (also during intercourse) and foul odor.
If you smell a strong fishy odor coming from your vagina and you have grey or off-white vaginal discharge chances are you are suffering from bacterial vaginosis or BV. There are other factors that can cause fishy vaginal odor ( BV however, is the most common cause). The vagina is NOT supposed to smell like fish.... at all.
When suffering with BV after intercourse the fishy smell becomes prominent that's because intercourse affects the vaginal environment. When the unhealthy bacteria secretion of the vagina mixes with semen a strong fishy odor occurs. Again, the vagina is not suppose to smell like fish... not even after sex and if it does there is a high chance you have BV. Although, in some women, there may be no symptoms.
It is true that after engaging in sexual intercourse there's a distinctive strong pungent musky smell that fills the atmosphere, the smell is a combination of natural body odor, sweat, semen and vaginal secretions. However, this odor should not smell fishy at all, it is a natural healthy smell. It is also true that the after-sex smell will not be as pungent if you both shower or bathe before engaging.
BV is not an STD or STI it is an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina. This imbalance throws off the vaginal pH. A reduction of the vagina's healthy and protective bacteria lactobacillus is out-numbered by the infectious bacteria gardnerella. In a healthy vagina, lactobacillus bacteria act as a disinfectant. The bacteria produces natural hydrogen peroxide that helps the vagina to self-cleanse, maintains an acidic environment and control and balance the amount of healthy bacteria in the vagina.
Although doctors say that BV is common in women of childbearing years women who do not engage in sexual intercourse can be affected. Women who douche have lower amounts of the protective bacteria lactobacillus however, I douche monthly as did my mother and my sisters as well at the end of our menstrual cycle, and I've only had BV once and that was during my second pregnancy. So, I am not sure how accurate this belief is.
BV is a polymicrobial which are multiple combinations of fungi,
parasites, viruses and/or especially bacteria. When suffering with BV, gardnerella is the prominent bacteria mixed with minor bacteria; sometime called gardnerella vaginitis. Gardnerella lives in small amounts in a healthy vagina. When the good bacteria in the vagina is out of balance there is an overgrowth of the bad bacteria.
There is another known infection or vaginal issues that can cause fishy discharge other than BV. Trichomoniasis also called Trich (trick) is an STD this infection often shows no symptoms in some women and rarely in men. It is caused by the parasite Trichomonas Vaginalis (a single-celled protozoan parasite). If symptoms occurs they will appear around five (5) to twenty-nine (29) days. Look for heavy watery or frothy discharge that's either gray or yellowish-green with a strong fishy odor. There may be lower abdominal pains in some women, painful urination and intercourse. There may be also itching in the vulva area. Even if you show no symptoms you can still be infected and you can still infect others (vagina to vagina, vagina to penis, penis to vagina only).
Trich may not show symptoms so it is very important you get diagnosed because untreated (natural o traditional) it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and make you susceptible to HIV and other STD's.
Click here for Understanding Vaginal Discharge