10 Reasons Why Your Discharge Smells Bad but not Fishy

Your discharge can say a lot about your health. For example, did you know that the color, consistency, and smell of your vaginal discharge can clue you in on whether everything is A-okay down there? That’s why it’s important to know what’s normal for you and to take note of any changes.

Vaginal discharge is a mix of bacteria, yeast, cervical mucus, and vaginal secretions. The amount, color, and odor of your discharge can indicate whether you have an infection or other underlying health condition.

While many different things can cause changes in your vaginal discharge, here are ten reasons why it might start to smell bad but not fishy:

1. You’re not drinking enough water

When you’re dehydrated, your body compensates by producing less vaginal lubrication, and your discharge may become thicker and more concentrated.

This can cause it to start smelling bad. Drinking plenty of water will help keep things flowing smoothly down there.

2. You’re eating too much sugar

Eating a lot of sugary foods can throw off the delicate balance of yeast in your vagina and lead to an infection called candidiasis, or thrush.

This overgrowth of yeast causes symptoms like itching, burning, and a thick white discharge that smells like bread dough. Cutting back on the sweets should help get things back under control.

3. You need to pee more often

If you find yourself needing to pee more frequently but not producing much urine when you go, it could be a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI). Along with an increased urge to urinate, you may also experience strong-smelling urine or cloudy urine that smells bad but is not fishy.

See your doctor if you think you might have a UTI so they can prescribe antibiotics to clear the infection.

4. You have bacterial vaginosis (BV)

Bacterial vaginosis is a common infection that happens when the normal bacteria in your vagina get out of balance and is replaced by too much of one particular type of bacteria called Gardnerella vaginalis.

This overgrowth causes symptoms like grayish-white vaginal discharge with a fishy odor, burning during urination, itching, and swelling around the vulva. BV is usually treated with antibiotics taken by mouth or inserted into the vagina as a cream or gel.

5. You have trichomoniasis (trich)

Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the single-celled parasite Trichomonas vaginalis.

This parasite is usually spread through sexual contact with someone who has it, and symptoms include yellow-green vaginal discharge that may be foamy and have a strong fishy odor, as well as itching, burning during urination and pain during sex.

Trich is treated with antibiotics taken by mouth or as a vaginal gel or cream. If you think you might have this STI, it’s important to see your doctor so you can get treated and avoid passing it on to others through sexual contact.

6. Your sweat glands are working overtime

Sweating is another way your body gets rid of toxins, but when sweat mixes with the bacteria on your skin, it can produce an unpleasant body odor that might also make your vaginal discharge smell bad but not fishy.

If sweating is becoming a problem for you, try using an antiperspirant or deodorant, wearing loose-fitting, absorbent clothing, and washing thoroughly every day. Hopefully, these simple measures will help control the problem.

7. You just had sex without using any form of protection

Semen has a distinct smell that some women find unpleasant. If you had sex without using condoms or another form of birth control, this could be the reason why your vaginal discharge smells bad but not fishy.

In addition to smelling bad, unprotected sex puts you at risk for STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV/AIDS, and HPV. So if you’re not using protection during sex, be sure to get tested for STIs regularly. 

8. Your contraceptive methods aren’t working well together

Hormonal contraceptives like birth control pills, shots, implants, patches, rings and intrauterine devices (IUDs) all work by releasing small amounts of synthetic hormones into your body to prevent pregnancy.

These hormones can sometimes throw off the natural pH balance in your vagina, which then allows bad-smelling bacteria to grow. If this happens, changing your contraceptive method may help fix the problem. 9

9. You’re going through menopause

During menopause, declining levels of estrogen cause changes in your vagina’s pH balance, natural lubrication, and overall structure, which can all lead to bad-smelling discharge.

Other menopause-related symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and sleep problems can also add to feelings of being unwell and affect vaginal health. If menopause is the cause of your bad-smelling discharge, there are treatments available that can help relieve some of these symptoms and improve vaginal health.

10 . You have an underlying health condition

Several different health conditions can lead to changes in vaginal discharge, which then causes it to start smelling bad but not fishy, including diabetes, celiac disease (gluten intolerance), and liver disease.

If you think an underlying health condition may be causing changes in your discharge, see your doctor so they can diagnose and treat the problem accordingly.

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