Vulvovaginal Odor Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

Understand vulvovaginal odor symptoms, including 4 causes & common questions.

This symptom can also be referred to as: bad smell from vagina

Vulvovaginal Odor Symptom Checker

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Contents

  1. 4 Possible Vulvovaginal Odor Causes
  2. Real-Life Stories
  3. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  4. Statistics
  5. Related Articles

4 Possible Vulvovaginal Odor Causes

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced vulvovaginal odor. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is an inflammation of the vagina due to overgrowth of the bacteria which are normally present.

It is not considered an STD (sexually transmitted disease) but nearly all cases are found in women after unprotected sexual contact, especially with multiple partners. Frequent douching is also a factor.

Male partners do not carry this condition, but it can spread between female partners.

Common symptoms include an itchy, foul-smelling discharge that may look grayish or greenish, as well as burning during urination. However, some women have no symptoms.

The greatest risks of bacterial vaginosis are secondary. The symptoms can be similar to actual STDs and so should not be ignored. This condition makes a woman more vulnerable to actual STDs, as well as to pelvic inflammatory disease and to infections following any gynecologic surgery.

Pregnant women with bacterial vaginosis are at risk for premature or low-birth-weight babies.

Diagnosis is made through symptoms, and/or pelvic exam and vaginal swab.

Treatment consists of oral medication, and sometimes a cream or gel that is inserted into the vagina.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: vaginal itch or burning, vulvovaginal odor, bloody vaginal discharge, white/gray vaginal discharge, thick vaginal discharge

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Yeast infection

Yeast infections are due to alterations in the balance of microscopic organisms in the vulvar and vaginal regions. The term "yeast infection" is most commonly used to describe symptoms caused by the fungus Candida albicans.

Symptoms include itching of the vaginal and vulva, burning, redness...

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Vulvovaginal Odor Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your vulvovaginal odor

Normal case of vaginal discharge

It is perfectly normal for every woman to have a clear or thin white vaginal discharge which is more or less constant.

The body protects the vaginal tissues by producing this light mucus from glands in the cervix and in the vaginal walls. This keeps the tissues lubricated so that they do not dry out and become irritated, and keeps the tissues slightly acidic because that helps to kill off any harmful germs.

The discharge is also a cleaning mechanism, clearing away any dead cells or bacteria as it moves out of the vagina. Douching is not necessary for normal discharge.

Vaginal discharge may change at different stages of life. During pregnancy, it becomes white and milky in appearance.

During and after menopause, the discharge lessens due to the drop in estrogen levels. If the dryness causes irritation or difficulty with sexual activity, a gynecologist can recommend an appropriate remedy.

Normal vaginal discharge never causes itching or has a foul smell, and is never any color other than clear or white.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: vaginal discharge, mild vaginal discharge, white/gray vaginal discharge, clear vaginal discharge, severe vaginal discharge

Symptoms that always occur with normal case of vaginal discharge: vaginal discharge

Symptoms that never occur with normal case of vaginal discharge: vaginal itch or burning, painful urination, severe vaginal discharge, vaginal pain, abdominal pain (stomach ache), bleeding after sex, missed period, vulvovaginal odor

Urgency: Wait and watch

Pelvic inflammatory disease

Pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID, is the general term for a bacterial infection of a woman's reproductive organs.

PID is most often a complication of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) such as gonorrhea or chlamydia. However, it is possible to get PID from other causes.

Any woman can be affected. It is most often found in sexually active women under age 25, especially those who have had PID before, have multiple partners, and/or douche frequently.

Symptoms include fever, lower abdominal pain, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, pain and/or bleeding during sex, and pain on urination.

Untreated PID can cause infertility due to damaged tissue in the reproductive tract, as well as chronic pelvic and abdominal pain. Unprotected sex partners will be infected as well.

Diagnosis is made through symptoms, pelvic examination, vaginal and cervical swabs, and urine tests.

Treatment is with a course of antibiotics. Be sure to finish all of the medication as directed, even when you begin feeling better.

To prevent PID, have all partners (male or female) tested for STDs and avoid unprotected sexual contact.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fever, abdominal pain or unusual vaginal discharge, vaginal discharge, nausea or vomiting, vaginal bleeding, pelvis pain

Symptoms that always occur with pelvic inflammatory disease: fever, abdominal pain or unusual vaginal discharge

Urgency: In-person visit

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Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Vulvovaginal Odor

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • When was your last menstrual period?
  • Are you sexually active?
  • Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Do you feel pain when you urinate?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Please take a quiz to find out what might be causing your vulvovaginal odor. These questions are also covered.

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Vulvovaginal Odor Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced vulvovaginal odor have also experienced:

  • 26% Vaginal Discharge
  • 15% Foul-Smelling Vaginal Odor
  • 8% Yellow Pus Vaginal Discharge

People who have experienced vulvovaginal odor were most often matched with:

  • 75% Bacterial Vaginosis
  • 25% Yeast Infection

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant (a.k.a. the quiz).

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