Vaginal discharge

Why Does my Discharge Smell Bad - All Possible Reasons

Max. D Gray
By Max. D Gray. Updated: June 27, 2017
Why Does my Discharge Smell Bad - All Possible Reasons

Throughout the menstrual cycle vaginal discharge changes in order to prepare the body for a possible pregnancy and, in the event that this does not occur, prepare the body for menstruation. As a result it is normal to observe that at certain times of the month the discharge is thicker or more abundant than in other moments; however, when there is an an anomaly it will be time to act and consult our gynecologist. Vaginal discharge can smell bad due to changes in your diet, hormonal changes, bacterial vaginosis or other problems. Keep on reading this oneHOWTO article in order to identify the cause of this bad smell.

  1. What is a normal discharge like?
  2. Bad odor in discharge due to vaginal infections
  3. Bad odour in the discharge: STDs
  4. Hormonal changes
  5. Changes in diet
  6. Medicine intake
  7. Hygiene
  8. What to do if my discharge smells bad

What is a normal discharge like?

The function of discharge is to make the vagina properly lubricated during sex and to serve as protection the vagina from external organisms that may try to penetrate the vaginal canal and cause infections and discomfort.

Normal discharge presents no odor and has a light color. Thickness levels may vary depending on the time of the month and the hormonal levels of each woman. However when the discharge looks yellow, green or brown or has a bad smell it is an indication that something is not right.

Bad odor in discharge due to vaginal infections

One of the most frequent reasons for which discharge may have a bad odor has to do with vaginal infections of a bacterial or viral type. It is a common condition that can affect both sexually active women and those who are not, causing various symptoms including a bad smell in the discharge.

Vaginal infections may develop due to the presence or increase of a bacteria such as bacterial vaginosis, the appearance of fungus such as candida or yeast infection or due to sexual contact with a person who has a genital infection. It is important that if you suspect you are suffering from a sexual infection you see your gynecologist as, depending on the type of bacteria or fungus you have, treatment should be applied in order to completely remove the infection. Let's take a look at the rest of the symptoms you'll notice in each case:

Bacterial vaginosis

Apart from the bad smell, which will smell like fish, you will also feel the following:

  • Itching and pain in the vaginal area, especially when urinating
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Increased and grey-white colored discharge

Yeast infection

If you have candida or a yeast infection, apart from the bad smell, you will also notice the following:

  • Increased and clumpy discharge
  • Itching in vaginal area
  • Inflammation in vulva

In this case, take a look at how to cure vaginal yeast infection.

Why Does my Discharge Smell Bad - All Possible Reasons - Bad odor in discharge due to vaginal infections

Bad odour in the discharge: STDs

Another common reasons why you notice a bad smell in your discharge is due to the presence of a sexually transmitted disease or STD.

There are many types of common STDs that affect the appearance and smell of discharge, this is the case of conditions like chlamydia, trichomoniasis or gonorrhea. To determine if you suffer from an STD you will need to visit a gynecologist who following a diagnosis will set out a proper course of treatment.

To find out if your discharge smells bad due to an STD, find out if you have the following symptoms:


  • Pain during sex
  • Fever
  • Pain in the abdominal area
  • Heavy discharge
  • Itching


It is very difficult for a person to detect trichomoniasis by themselves, as most people will not feel any symptoms. However, the following can appear.

  • Redness in genital area
  • Green, yellow or white and thin discharge
  • Discomfort during urination


  • Green or yellow discharge
  • Swollen throat
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Swollen genitals
  • Itching eyes
  • Pelvic pain

Remember that the only way to prevent STDs is by using condoms.

Hormonal changes

If you don't feel any of the symptoms mentioned above, then your vaginal odor may be caused by a non-bacterial or viral reason.

If you have recently been through some kind of hormonal imbalance such as pregnancy or menopause, this may be causing the smell due to low levels of pH. If you have been under hormonal therapy of any kind lately, this will also explain the bad odor. You still need to be weary if this is the case, as you may be at higher risk of bacterial infection.

Why Does my Discharge Smell Bad - All Possible Reasons - Hormonal changes

Changes in diet

Have you recently eaten lots of asparagus, garlic or have gone out for a curry? This may explain the smell around your intimate area. However, this odor will be present in urine and may also affect other areas of the body which will also alter your odor. Take a look at the best ways to keep your vagina clean and smelling good, where you'll find a list of foods that will help your vagina stay fresh and perfect.

Medicine intake

If you have just overcome a bacterial infection or currently have one, you should know that the intake of antibiotics can also make your discharge smell strange. If you are allergic and are taking antihistamine treatment, this may also be the case, as well as many natural supplements.

Why Does my Discharge Smell Bad - All Possible Reasons - Medicine intake


Sometimes an unpleasant smell in the genital area may be due to hygiene reasons or choice of clothes, not the discharge itself. If you commonly wear synthetic underwear instead of natural fabrics, this may also cause an unusual smell.

Excess sweating it the area if clothes are too tight or due to exercise can also cause a bad odor, though it will be more of a musky smell; so make sure you wash the area straight after exercise or excessive sweating to avoid smell.

If the smell is extremely strong and none of these explain why, could it be possible that you have forgotten a tampon inside?

What to do if my discharge smells bad

The best thing to do in these cases is to visit a gynecologist as soon as possible so he/she can confirm what the underlying problem is. Do not try to get rid of the bad smell in your discharge by thinking it will go away with soap or other products (especially not douches).

If you want a quick remedy, which will only be helpful if the underlying cause is a pH imbalance, is to take probiotics and to clean the external area of your vagina with specific pH neutral soap.

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Why Does my Discharge Smell Bad - All Possible Reasons, we recommend you visit our Family health category.


  • A bleach-like smell may be caused by the use of certain lubricant during sexual intercourse. You should not worry about this type of smell if it does not persist.
Write a comment
What did you think of this article?
1 of 4
Why Does my Discharge Smell Bad - All Possible Reasons