Fishy Smelling Discharge With Odor: Causes, Treatment

fishy smelling discharge

Last updated on July 28th, 2018 at 05:07 am

Fishy smelling discharge with odor is an abnormal discharge that is experienced by young women. It is caused by vaginal infections and sometimes sweats.

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) and trichomoniasis (Trich) can cause fishy smelling discharge in women. While BV is not a sexually transmitted infection, trich is an STD. Early treatment of fishy discharge is therefore important because vaginal infections can cause PID (pelvic inflammatory disease) which will result in ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage in women.

More than 30 percent of women in the United States are affected by bacterial vaginosis. It is possible not to show any smelly discharge if you have BV because some women do not show symptoms of the disease.

Also, BV and trich can cause increased transmission of other STDs. This article will explain cause and treatment of fishy odor in women.


What causes discharge in females?

As you get older, you will start to discharge clear white fluid from your vagina. This usually starts just before you notice your first period. It is not abnormal as it’s a natural way to keep your vagina healthy and clean.

Your discharge is made up of good bacteria (lactobacillus), other bacteria, fungi, cervical mucus and vaginal epithelial cells.

There is a reasonable balance of these organisms with the good bacteria keeping the vaginal acidic. The normal vaginal pH is between 3.5 to 4.5. This is necessary to prevent infection. Any action that affects this balance can cause fishy smell in your discharge.

Also, the good bacteria when destroyed can lead to an imbalance with predominant harmful bacteria. This will give rise to a bacteria infection.

In addition, if a woman takes a broad spectrum antibiotic, it can kill both the good and bad bacteria in the vagina. This will shift the balance to predominant fungi (Candida albicans) leading to a yeast infection.

Normal vaginal discharge is white thick discharge without odor or itching that can sometimes change to brownish pink discharge or sometimes yellow discharge before and after your period.


What causes fishy smelling discharge in women?

Fishy smelly discharge is an abnormal discharge in women that requires treatment. The common cause are:


A stressful day can increase the amount of sweat in your vagina area. This is a common cause of fishy odor in women. It can be relieved by not using synthetic underwear and reducing stress. The more you sweat, the more you can have that fishy smell.

Vaginal douching

Douching in women can change the normal vaginal flora. Women that use vaginal douche to clean their vagina will end up killing these good bacteria. This will cause an increase in harmful bacteria and fungi. If you always use a douche, then it’s important to stop.

Use of broad spectrum antibiotics

Antibiotics (broad spectrum) can kill both good and bad bacteria that can cause an overgrowth of fungi resulting in fishy-smelling discharge and itching of the vagina.

Bacterial vaginosis (BV).

This is caused by Gardnerella vaginalis and bacteroids. They can be present without you showing any symptoms. However, any disruption of the vaginal flora will cause problems in women. This can result in a fishy smelling discharge without any pain or vaginal burning sensation. Bacterial vaginosis can be treated and cured in women. If you experience any abnormal fishy smell with odor then you should inform your doctor to get tested and treated. Bacteria vaginosis treatment involves the use of metronidazole.


This is an infection in women caused by trichomonas vaginalis. It is sexually transmitted and can affect both males and females. Most infected women do not show the symptom of trich infection.However, it can cause fishy smelly discharge with vulvar itching and painful urination in women.If not treated early can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) symptoms.


How to treat fishy discharge with odor?

If you notice any unusual fishy odor in your vagina, then it’s important to inform your doctor. This is because normal vaginal discharge does not have a fishy smell and does not cause dysuria.

Also, during your clinic visit, some test will be done. If your fishy discharge is due to bacterial vaginosis, it can be treated with metronidazole (Flagyl). Can BV be cured? yes. All you need to do is comply with the medications given to you by your doctor.

Also, Flagyl and clindamycin can be used to treat trich infection. If you already have PID, your doctor may treat you for a longer time with a combination of different drugs. Very rarely, PID can cause an abdominal abscess which can be treated with surgery.


How to prevent fishy odor in your discharge?

  • Abstinence. This is the best way to prevent STIs in women. If you abstain, then you will prevent any sexually transmitted disease. While Trich and PID can be sexually transmitted, bacterial vaginosis is not a sexually transmitted infection. However, lesbians and uncircumcised male partners can transmit BV to you.
  • Consistent use of condoms
  • Avoid Vaginal douching
  • Avoid use of tight synthetic underwear
  • Don’t use soap or detergent to wash your vagina
  • Avoid vaginal spray or perfumes
  • Treat fishy odor early to prevent complications
  • Inform your sexual partners to get tested and treated
  • Tell your doctor if you notice any abnormal discharge


What happens if I don’t treat my smelling discharge?

Early treatment of your smelly discharge will prevent complication. This is because while treatment can stop the infection it will not reverse any damage done. Possible complications are

  • PID. This is due to vaginal infections that ascend through the cervix to infect the uterus and fallopian tubes. PID symptoms include low abdomen pain, fever, and fishy smelling vaginal discharge. Early treatment of PID will reduce any chance of complications including ectopic pregnancy and difficulty in getting pregnant. Also, PID is a cause of threatened miscarriage in women and premature delivery in pregnant women.
  • Ectopic or tubal pregnancy. This occurs because BV and trichomonas infection can damage the fallopian tube. This will result in your baby (fertilized ovum) growing outside the womb
  • Sub-fertility
  • Threatened miscarriage
  • Preterm delivery
  • Low birth weight babies in pregnant women
  • Sepsis and pelvic abscess.


Frequently asked questions about fishy vaginal smell?

You asked, and we answered your fish smell questions. Do you have more questions or suggestions? Then feel free to share.

Can you have a fishy smell with a yeast infection?

Fishy vaginal smell is mostly due to BC infection or trich infection. However, some women with yeast infection may complain of strange smell or no smell at all. You can learn more about yeast infection discharge here.

How can I get rid of a smelling discharge?

If you are like other women with smelly discharge, they ask themselves how to get rid of the odor down there. But its simple. You need to improve your hygiene, Stop vaginal douching, avoid intercourse, consistently use condom and treat all abnormal vaginal discharge.

If you’re not sure about the color of your discharge or smell, then let your doctor know about it.

Any home remedies for fishy odor?

Yes. Use of yogurt either externally or internally has been shown to improve fishy smell in women.

What is fishy odor discharge treatment?

If you develop fishy discharge then you should inform your doctor. It is likely because of an infection and can be treated. Bacterial vaginosis and Trich can be treated with Flagyl. However, PID will need longer treatment for about a week.

What causes fishy odor with no discharge?

Bacterial vaginosis is the commonest cause of abnormal fishy vaginal smell in women. If your vagina has a fishy odor but no discharge then it’s likely you have BV infection.

What causes fish smelling urine?

Fish smelling urine can be due to BV or inflammation of the bladder (Cystitis). You should let your doctor know for diagnosis and treatment.


Now it’s your turn. Do you have fishy smelling discharge with odor down there? Share your experiences and questions.

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