Vaginal odor is any odor that originates from the vagina. It's normal for your vagina to have a slight odor. But, a strong vaginal odor — for instance, a "fishy" smell — might be abnormal and could indicate a problem.
An abnormal vaginal odor is usually associated with other vaginal signs and symptoms such as itching, burning, irritation or discharge.
Bacterial vaginosis — an overgrowth of normally occurring vaginal bacteria — is the most common vaginal infection that causes a vaginal odor. Trichomoniasis — a sexually transmitted infection — also can lead to vaginal odor. Chlamydia and gonorrhea infections usually don't cause vaginal odors. Neither do yeast infections.
Generally, if you have vaginal odor without other vaginal symptoms, it's unlikely that your vaginal odor is abnormal.
Common causes of abnormal vaginal odor include:
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Poor hygiene
- Retained or forgotten tampon
Less commonly, abnormal vaginal odor may result from:
- Rectovaginal fistula (an abnormal opening between the rectum and vagina that allows feces to leak into the vagina)
- Cervical cancer
- Vaginal cancer
Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.