Vaginal Discharge and Odor

Smelly or Fishy Discharge is Not Normal

As women, we grow to learn what is normal and healthy for our bodies. The same is true when it comes to our natural feminine odor. Our noses can be the best detectives in identifying whether everything is ok, or whether there may be a problem. A healthy vagina may have a subtle but not unpleasant odor, but when the bacteria is out of balance due to an infection, our noses are likely to detect it right away. In fact, any fishy or smelly odor is not normal, and is a good indicator that you may need to talk with your healthcare professional. Let’s look at the two types of feminine odors, potential causes, related symptoms, and what you can do if you experience a foul-smelling discharge.


It Could Be…

Other Symptoms

What You Can Do

Fishy and strongest after sex or after washing with soap

Bacterial vaginosis

White, gray or yellowish vaginal discharge, itching or burning, and a slight redness and swelling of the vagina or vulva

This is not normal – Talk to your healthcare professional



Watery, yellowish or greenish bubbly discharge, pain and itching when urinating, with symptoms most apparent after your period

This is not normal – Talk to your healthcare professional


Recognizing Normal and Abnormal Discharge

Normal vaginal discharge is usually clear or milky and may have a subtle scent that is not unpleasant or foul smelling. Changes that may signal a problem include an increase in the amount of discharge, a change in the color, smell or texture of the discharge. You may also experience other symptoms with a change in discharge, such as irritation, itchiness or burning in or around your vagina. The combination of these factors can help reveal what may be going on in your body. A vaginal discharge is considered abnormal if it is:

  • Heavier than usual
  • Thicker than usual
  • Pus-like
  • White and clumpy (like cottage cheese)
  • Grayish, greenish, yellowish, or blood-tinged
  • Foul- or fishy-smelling
  • Accompanied by itching, burning, a rash, or soreness

Only you know your body. If you have vaginal discharge that doesn’t seem normal for you (with or without other symptoms), talk to your healthcare professional.

Do you have a yeast infection?

Do you have a yeast infection?

Answer a few questions and find out what your symptoms mean.

Check Your Symptoms

See what your vaginal discharge and other symptoms may be telling you.

Opinions, content and any information expressed on or linked with this website, are intended to be general in nature and do not constitute medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek medical advice from your professional healthcare provider.


  1. Vaginal discharge. Family Doctor web site. Accessed October, 2018.
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